April 22, 2020, 7:11 AM CDT
By Julian Shen-Berro
A Panda Express employee was driving to work in mid March when a truck began speeding up and honking repeatedly. The employee, who was driving a company-branded car, said the truck's driver then raised his middle finger and said, "Go back to your country," before swerving into the employee's lane and repeatedly braking.
The employee of the fast casual chain, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation, was shocked that the brand had triggered so much hatred and anger.
"It was hurtful, frustrating and shocking all at the same time," the employee told NBC Asian America. "What struck me was that I consider myself an American."
The employee, an area coach of operations for the company who has been with Panda Express for 18 years, is Chinese American and was born and raised in Louisiana.
"Even though I was one of the few Asian kids in my community growing up, I never felt this much like an outsider," the employee said. "I thought for a second, 'Am I not American enough for you?' This is the only country I have ever known."
Reports of animosity and hostility toward Asian Americans have continued to surface amid the pandemic. Nonprofit group Stop AAPI Hate has received more than 1,100 cases of bias incidents toward Asian Americans since mid March.