Vassar
Vassar on the Front Lines

Voices from a Pandemic

Natalie Keng ’90

Natalie Keng, Founder and Owner of Chinese Southern Belle, LLC, is a multicultural marketing consultant, writer and entrepreneur in Atlanta.


Submitted May 5, 2020

For the first time in a long time, I heard a racial slur directed towards me because of my ethnicity and COVID-19: “Chink go home, take your Chinese virus with you.”

For the first time in a long time, I heard a racial slur directed towards me because of my ethnicity and COVID-19: “Chink go home, take your Chinese virus with you.”

The impact was swift and dramatic, turned my world upside down: all my food and culture tours, cooking classes, team-building events, demos, food marketing shows and farmers market booths were cancelled. Plus our food service orders and customers who bought our award-winning local cooking sauces — restaurants, hotels, schools — stopped instantly after the lockdown orders.

The anti-Asian, anti-Chinese backlash (“Wuhan Plague” and “Chinese Virus”) and xenophobia hit me personally and nationally. I thought it was in the past (Yellow Peril 1860s, Japanese Internment Camps 1940s, Chinese Exclusion Act 1882-1952).

In the “greatest democracy” on earth, it’s heartbreaking to hear the increased racist rhetoric (“culling the herd”), anti-Asian sentiment, and the fact that Blacks and Latinos are dying at such a disproportionate high rate with lack of testing and supply shortages in minority neighborhoods, exacerbating inequities in our healthcare system. Personally, my dad passed away last week. Professionally, trying to keep my entrepreneurial dream alive.

What has been both inspiring and challenging are the front line health care workers and “essential services” wage workers, many lower wage, people of color, risking their lives without adequate resources or support. I feel very grateful to them.

What has been both inspiring and challenging are the front line health care workers and “essential services” wage workers, many lower wage, people of color, risking their lives without adequate resources or support. I feel very grateful to them.

I was asked to serve on the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force (Community Outreach). We’re the catch-all committee, and we cannot fix all the gaps but I’m inspired by the collaboration, especially across color/race/income lines and especially acts of kindness and donations.

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