AUSTIN, Texas — The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a major blow to the global economy but it’s also had social consequences.
New data from the Pew Research Center show that about 31 percent of Asian Americans say they’ve been victims of racial slurs because of their race or ethnicity since the outbreak began.
But some in Austin say these issues go back even before the pandemic started.
Dat Lien, 41, manager at Hong Kong Supermarket on the city's north side, has roots in the capital city.
“My dad opened this store I think back in ’92," he said.
This part of town, along Ohlen Road and Research Boulevard, has been historically home to a diverse range of families and businesses.
“The Asian community is concentrated a little bit more in this area up north, North Austin,” said Lien.
This nook in the city is diverse and multi-generational. It only takes looking through the aisles of Hong Kong Supermarket, which boasts products and customers from different backgrounds, to see the scope of its diversity.
It is outside of the confines of this safe space, this supermarket, where the vitriol exists. It's apparent in tweets and under people’s breath: comments, looks, judgments.
“I hear about it here and there but we pretty much stay home, and we’re here at work, and that alone—when you’re staying away from people you don’t get the exposure,” said Lien.
This is nothing new, though. Lien says growing up - even in Austin - meant dealing with personal pains.
“It’s stuff like going to the store with my mom as a kid and having the store employees help everyone else except for her,” he said.
Those microaggressions, coupled with direct attacks on Lien for his ethnicity as a young man, shaped his understanding of how to navigate the world. For him, things eventually got better.
“When you live here you kind of understand the vibe of Austin. It’s really diverse. There are a lot of backgrounds here,” he said.
As with most things in the city, things aren’t yet perfect. There’s still room for growth and it boils down to a willingness to learn more about our neighbors.
“Things becoming more accessible and more mainstream and more people being connected helps - to be able to go online and learn about new things and educate themselves. I think that’s important,” he said.