A 23 year-old Chinese-Peruvian woman named Tracey Tong is being hailed a subway shero after a video circulating online shows her ardently defending a Muslim couple from bigoted harassment.
In the video, an older woman – who later identifies herself as of Puerto Rican descent – verbally attacks a Muslim man. “Why are you here?” she asks. “Why are you in this country if you’re not with us?”
When another subway rider, speaking in accented English, asks her to stop bothering the couple, the Puerto Rican woman turns her vitriol toward this rider as well. “You don’t understand, you’re not even from here,” she screams. “I am. I was born here in America.”
It’s at this point that Tong, a Queens native, jumps in to stand up for the Muslim riders, switching languages from English to Spanish to try and get her point across. Explaining that she was born in the US but her mother was not, Tracey reminds her fellow Latina that most of us in this country can trace our roots elsewhere. “We need to stick together!” she urges the older Puerto Rican woman, in a plea for solidarity.
As the conversation unfolds, Tracey refuses to back down in her defense of the couple, and in her demand that they be treated with respect – noting that she will stand up for them in any language necessary. “I’m asking you to please respect her,” she insists. “In Spanish, in English, in Chinese, in French – whatever language you want me to say it, I will say it.”
The video is both a stark reminder of the work we need to do against colorism and Islamophobia in the Latino community, and an example of how to hold one another accountable with grace and strength.
“I actually didn’t know anyone was recording the situation, to be honest,” Tong said in an interview Remezcla about the supportive reaction the video has gotten online. “But since it’s gone viral, I really hope that it helps everyone get that little bit of extra courage they are needing when they have to face something so unfortunate like this, and to fight for what is right.”
This article was updated with additional reporting on 3/15/2017.