As the U.S. continues to grapple with the effects of the global pandemic, Asian restaurants are disproportionately suffering a loss of business as a result of racism and xenophobia. According to Restaurant Business, approximately half of the country’s Chinese restaurants shut down in April — a stark contrast to the 10 percent of pizza concepts and 15 percent of mixed-menu, quick-service establishments that closed during that same period.
As Eater further notes, Chinese restaurants have been hit particularly hard in New York, which has been considered the epicenter of the nation’s outbreak. In addition to combatting fears over their food, many restaurants have dealt with supply chain shortages and staffing problems.
In an effort to empower Asian restaurants during this time, actor Harry Shum Jr., comedian Jenny Yang and other celebrities have come together to launch the #TakeOutHate campaign. The initiative encourages the public to order from Asian restaurants and share photos of their meals on social media with the hashtag #TakeOutHate.
In a recent video released on WhyUseMSG.com, Shum and Yang, along with celebrity chef Gail Simmons and comedian Margaret Cho, urge viewers to fight anti-Asian discrimination by buying takeout from Asian businesses.
“Restaurants across the country are struggling, but Chinese restaurants? They’re closing at double the rate of others, as if we need to hear any more f***ed up stats right now,” they say in the video. “The Asian American community is being singled out. Asian restaurants are being defaced coast to coast.”
In an interview with In The Know, Shum, of “Glee” and “Crazy Rich Asians” fame, said the campaign is particularly crucial during a time when members of the Asian American community are experiencing increasing cases of hate crimes. NextShark, for example, has now documented over 1,700 reported incidents, 47 percent of which have taken place in public spaces.
“It’s appalling knowing family members and friends that have gotten harassed or in fear of being harassed,” the actor said. “I just think a lot of people play into their fears.”
For Shum, a Costa Rican American of Chinese descent whose favorite eateries include Hoy-Ka Thai Restaurant in Los Angeles and Dragon Beaux in San Francisco, Asian food — especially arroz congee — holds special significance. Because of that, the #TakeOutHate campaign is also a personal effort to protect what has long been dear to him.
“Food is on top of the list of bringing people together,” he explained. “Whether you’re sitting around the dinner table or you’re having a meal with a good friend, there’s this language, kind of unspoken, where you’re bonding. When you’re eating a meal even by yourself, especially with Asian [food], there’s this familiarity and nostalgia and comfort.”
Yang, who fondly remembers her mother’s Taiwanese cooking, added that the campaign is not only an attempt to protect Asian restaurants but the larger Asian community as well.
“Our identity is often equated with Chinese takeout or Asian food, you know?” she told In The Know. “To me, supporting restaurant workers, supporting Asian restaurants not only preserves the cuisine that we love so much, but it also shows a level of support for Asian American communities, Asian diaspora communities during a time where, frankly, anti-Asian racism has been amplified.”
Beyond participating in the #TakeOutHate campaign, Yang said that Asian Americans and allies can build stronger solidarity against anti-Asian hate by speaking up, bringing attention to racist incidents on social media and showing support through actions and dollars.
“I used to joke that I wish we could bottle that passion that Asian Americans have for food and the willingness to take action around food and mobilize that for other things that are political or that can chance policy,” she said.
If you enjoyed this story, you might want to consider other ways you can help Chinatown businesses.
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