Woman who halted racial abuse on subway: I promised myself I would
In a moment caught on viral video, Tracey Tong, 23, stepped in when an older woman in New York asked people why they were ‘in this country’
Tracey Tong described a ‘rush of adrenaline’ that prompted her to intervene against racial abuse. Photograph: Facebook/Courtesy of Tracey Tong
A woman who intervened to stop racial abuse on a New York City subway train said she had previously “promised herself” she would step in if an abusive situation arose.
Video of the incident, which has been widely shared on social media, showed 23-year-old Tracey Tong coming to the aid of a passenger being berated by an older woman.
“Why are you here?” the older woman is seen saying on camera. “Why are you in this country if you’re not with us?”
Tong told the Guardian that the subjects of the abuse were an African American woman wearing a hijab and a man who appeared to be from the Middle East.
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On Thursday, Tong told the Guardian that a “rush of adrenaline” had prompted her to act. It was Tong’s first time riding the subway in six months, she said, after she moved back to Queens, in New York City, from Buffalo, in New York state.
“I had been seeing all these crazy videos online of all these people being so racist, against people’s religion, skin color and all that stuff, and I would always get so mad and furious. I promised myself if I ever witnessed that I would totally freak out,” Tong said.
“And ironically enough, the first day I get on the train it happened. I didn’t even have the time to process it.”
In the video, which has been viewed more than 380,000 times on YouTube, the older woman, who has not been identified but described herself in the video as an American of Puerto Rican descent, is seen shouting at people offscreen.
“You’re not even from here. I am. I was born in America,” the woman says.
Tong, whose father is of Chinese descent and whose mother is Latina, steps in and asks the woman in both English and Spanish to stop berating the pair off camera, eventually succeeding.
“I am born here and I don’t like the way you are treating her,” Tong tells the woman.
“We are all in this together. Whether you like what’s going on in the government or not, fuck it, you got to deal with it. You are a grown woman.”
Tong said she would “absolutely” step in again in the future.
“I just wanted the woman to feel safe on her commute to wherever she was going. I’ve been bullied before and she was having a form of bullying as well.
“This is her religion, this is what she practices. The thought that she could have later in the day looked at herself in the mirror and thought to herself: ‘What’s wrong with me, why me, why was she picking on me?’, it only hurt to know that that’s what potentially happened afterward. And that hurts so bad.”
Tong, who works at the styling service Dia&Co, has been widely praised for her intervention. She said she did not know anyone was filming the exchange until a friend shared the video on Saturday. The older woman remained mostly silent after Tong stepped in, she said, eventually leaving the train without incident.
The NYPD said it had not yet received a complaint regarding the interaction.
“We encourage the victim to contact the police,” a spokesperson told the Guardian, adding that any potential charge would probably be for aggravated harassment.