La Jolla resident Jane Woo said she, her husband and their 1-year-old daughter were racially profiled last Thursday as they were walking down Avenida de la Playa.
As the young family headed to the beach, a woman who was walking her dog stopped them.
“She started making a beeline toward my husband, and whispers in his ear and says, ‘Why do Muslims behead white people and not Chinese people?’ " Woo told NBC 7. "My husband was like, ‘OK, just ignore her.’ And I think that’s what set her off because she started asking repeatedly and didn’t let us move through, and she didn’t have a mask on, either."
Woo said the woman followed her and her family across the street, and, Woo said, she started recording video shortly after.
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“We were just kind of like stunned and laughing because it was so ridiculous,” Woo said.
The woman in the video can be heard saying, “You think being beheaded is funny? You think murder based on race and ethnicity is funny?”
Woo’s husband then replies, “No, I think you’re coming up to me very closely.”
To which the woman responds, “I think that’s called a crime on humanity!”
Woo said she believes the woman was referring to the recent attack in Nice, France, but couldn’t be certain. Woo said she’s not sure why her family was targeted among the others walking in the same area.
“She made a direct target toward my husband, who also has black hair and looks very distinctly Asian, and to assume that all Muslims, that in itself is also hateful rhetoric, right?" Woo said. "It was just very ignorant.”
Woo said this is the second time she’s been racially profiled in the past two weeks in San Diego County, but this time she was with her family and felt like she was in the safety of her own community.
“It broke my heart, essentially," Woo said. "And I think -- even standing here now -- I do feel like triggers, like, Is someone going to come up behind me? Is someone going to start randomly accosting me for no reason? And that’s not the America I want to live in."
Woo said her great-grandparents were the first in her family to emigrate to the U.S. from South Korea, adding that her parents emigrated to the U.S. when they were in their 20s.
“You know, the immigrant story of just starting off with nothing and really just building a life, and that’s the beauty of America," Woo said. "That’s what makes this place a hope-filled place, and I feel like we’ve lost a sense of that."
Woo said she feels worried about what will happen if the country remains divided after the election on Tuesday.
“There’s going to be a lot of fear and there’s going to be a lot of anger," Woo said. "Everyone is hurting right now. The pandemic alone is already difficult, and I know that that’s going to boil up and show in various ways."
Woo had a message for the woman: “I want you to know that what you did really hurt me and my family. I’ll never forget it. I’ll never forget the way that you disrespected us by coming toward us completely unprovoked, the way you yelled at me and my child, my 1-year-old daughter. I’ll never forget that. That memory is seared into my memory forever, but I hope you know that I’m not here to make your life more uncomfortable.… I’m simply here to live a life in a country that has provided me and my family so much and to give back to it.”
Woo said she reported the incident to the Asian Americans Advancing Justice organization, which has received 3,000 similar complaints since March.