Kim, 27, was waiting to speak with a teller at a TD branch, located at Queen St. W. and Spadina Ave., when she says she heard a man standing behind her making “weird noises” in her direction.
“I looked straight at him and he said ‘hey chinky, chinky can you grant me a wish, chink?’” said Kim. “I ignored it at first, kind of brushed it off, didn’t really know what to do and then he kept hounding me essentially, being like ‘can you grant me a wish chink?’”
Kim, who is ethnically Korean, said she told the man to stop, but he responded by saying “we can do anything to you guys” and “we own you.”
The man was white, in his late 20s or early 30s, she said, and his clothing “looked tattered.” He wore a bandana, a baggy shirt and jeans, which hung low, and held a hat in his hand.
She said there were fewer than a dozen people in the branch who might’ve heard the slurs, including four people waiting in line.
“Nobody really did anything, nobody acknowledged it. I was staring at people, they were staring at me,” she said. “They just kind of looked at me with pity.”
Once Kim was at the front of the line she explained what happened to the teller, who didn’t seem to understand the slur, she said. When she finished banking, she approached another staff member to ask about the branch’s security, and pointed out the man who had called her a “chink.”
Kim said the staff member apologized and explained the man was known to the bank, but there was nothing they could do because he was a client.
“I’m like, ‘I understand that but I’m also a client,’” she said. “I literally at that point felt like a second-class citizen.”
Toronto woman says fellow bank customer made anti-Asian slurs | Metro Toronto (external - login to view)
The racial slurs from the man randomly targeting Stephanie Kim were nasty, but she said the onlookers’ silence — including from the bank staff at TD — hurt even more.
It shouldn’t be that way, according to Tracy Porteous, executive director of Ending Violence BC (external - login to view), which runs the anti-harassment workplace-training program Be More Than a Bystander. It focuses on sexual abuse and harassment, but the same rules apply, Porteous said.
Porteous said TD, and other corporations, should “show leadership” and invest in training employees to be active, not passive, bystanders.
“We are not born confident. We don’t know what to do. We freeze. We don’t want to become the target,” she said. “At workplaces you have a captive audience. You can decide: I’m going to contribute to social change by providing my employees with life skills.”
Kim said she has received two follow-up calls from TD, including one from a Vice-President who said the human resources department would be taking action, but didn’t offer specifics. The VP also assured her the alleged harasser is no longer banking with the company.
TD declined to confirm this, citing privacy.
Though it was upsetting, Kim said she’s happy her experience created a conversation about public racism.
“It’s not like I’ve never been called ‘chink’ before,” she said. “I really just want the bank to know, and bystanders to know, that silence is not the answer.”
Advocates say TD Bank can prevent future racist incidents | Metro Toronto (external - login to view)