A woman who was attacked in the Boston subway is speaking out after a group of teens were recorded harassing her with racist language and attempting to block her from leaving the train.
Vivian Dang, 25, told NBC News that she was on the red line at around 10 p.m. last Thursday when the unidentified teens followed her into a train car. A video she took of the incident shows them hurling racial slurs, mocking her in an accent and physically cornering her.
“Can I get some dumplings?” one of the teens can be heard saying with a fake accent. “Can I get some ramen with the egg?”
Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Transit Police confirmed to NBC News that the investigation is active and declined to comment any further on the incident. But the morning after the attack, police said on social media that they were looking for the teens, who had not only taunted, harassed and threatened passengers, but had also smashed a train window before fleeing.
Video of the incident has since gone viral on TikTok, prompting discussions over public transit safety.
While the train was crowded, Dang said that three women helped her throughout the ordeal. Two of them had encouraged her to sit next to them, while another spoke up for her.
“We did have a moment when I was thanking them for sticking up for me and one of them even gave me a pepper spray because she had extra,” Dang said. “We just had a casual conversation about how she always has these things prepared.”
One of the women also assured her of the severity of the situation and brought the police over to Dang, she said, helping her report the incident.
Since, Dang said she’s been reflecting on their support, emphasizing that she thinks it’s no coincidence that women came to her defense. She said she thinks there’s been a showing of solidarity among women over the public safety threats and harassment that they deal with.
“We’re kind of looking out for each other. It’s always the women,” Dang said. “You see women pretending they know each other on the street just to have them avoid a stranger approaching them or something. It’s very the norm to really just stick up for one another as a woman.”
“I’m hoping that this is an eye opener for people taking public transport and just being more cautious of the people around you,” Dang said. “And I hope that this sparks more conversation into the racism that’s been occurring, every day … not everybody gets to record their incident.”
The 25-year-old said that when the teens entered the train, they immediately began to threaten passengers.
“I was in the first cart with them. They were already saying stuff like, ‘This is a mass robbery. Everyone get on the ground,’” Dang said. “One of them sat right next to me, speaking really loudly at me, but I was just ignoring it.”
When the teens attempted to yank the shoes off a male passenger, Dang said she moved to another train car. But the group trailed her.
“One of the first things they said to me already was that I was being racist for ‘staying away from Black people,’” Dang said. “Then they started spewing things at me.”
What followed, Dang said, was a barrage of anti-Asian insults, some of which didn’t make it into her recording.
“I didn’t catch this on the clip, but they just went off in one part with so many comments about dogs and cats, saying, “Oh, this is why my dog is missing,’” Dang said, referencing the racist stereotype around Asian cuisine. When one woman spoke up in defense of Dang, the teens began to mock her accent, the video shows.
For the most part, Dang said she stayed calm and quiet, attempting to appear unfazed by their remarks, until the teens tried to trap her in the car.
“They were starting to say stuff like, ‘Don’t let her leave.’” said Dang, who was concerned they would follow her home. “That was when I was starting to get really scared.”
The group ended up getting off the train before Dang did.
Dang said that receiving racist remarks isn’t new to her, and that during the height of the Covid pandemic verbal attacks became more common on public transit. To truly address the problem, Dang said that media, politicians and those with a platform need to be more cognizant that their words and the blame that was shifted toward the Asian community has led to real-life consequences.
“Lack of education, lack of resources of being able to control the things that people are hearing, and saying — that’s ultimately the reason why we still deal with these things every day,” Dang said.