Mike Nguyen is the owner of Noodle Tree, a popular ramen noodle restaurant near the University of Texas at San Antonio. He is also currently the focus of racist attacks.
Texas recently lifted all pandemic restrictions, restaurant limits, mask requirements, etc... despite the state continuing to show disturbing levels of infection and transmission.
Nguyen—who is half Vietnamese and half French—has been outspoken about his disagreement with the way the governor is handling mandates. He is battling lymphoma and has often pointed out that Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott's policies were harmful.
In fact, when the state allowed for dining areas to be opened to customers, Nguyen refused to do so citing data showed it was still incredibly unsafe, particularly given his cancer diagnosis.
Recently, Nguyen was interviewed by CNN where he again voiced his concern over Abbot's choices.
Texas Gov. Abbott’s decision to lift the mask mandate is “selfish,” says Mike Nguyen, the owner of a restaurant in… https://t.co/PwMseh7cXy— CNN Newsroom (@CNN Newsroom) 1615388505.0
During the interview, Nguyen criticized Abbott for not having Texans' wellbeing in mind and lack of accountability.
"The governor doesn't have us Texans' interests at play at this point. I think it's more of a personal interest."
"I think his decision to drop the mask mandate is selfish and cowardly and that there's no reason to do it."
"Dropping the mask mandate will not help the economy and will not help us open. And a lot of us feel that he's putting a lot of people in danger."
"At a time where we need him to be a leader, he's not being a leader. A leader needs to make hard decisions, a leader needs to lead."
"He's basically saying 'You know what, we're gonna leave the decision on y'all cause if something goes wrong it's gonna be on y'all it has nothing to do with me'."
"Even with the freeze; he blamed windmills, he blamed frozen generators, he never took accountability for what happened. He didn't even try to help us."
"He just went on Twitter and said 'half a million people have their power back'."
"Even back when we had that first surge, back in May—he opened up the state way too soon, he saw what happened and was blaming restaurants, gyms and everybody else except for himself."
"So, Greg Abbot doesn't have the Texas people's interests in play. He cares about himself at this point."
The interview then discussed Nguyen's cancer treatments and how they're impacted by how well or poorly his restaurant does.
Nguyen will need to keep the mask rule in place at his restaurant because of his diagnosis, but he is far from the only business owner who will be doing so. CNN panelists also touched on the difficulties in enforcing mask requests against customers who may be violent and lash out.
The segment ended on a somewhat prophetic note with that final topic.
Nguyen quickly touched on his concerns when it came to enforcing masks.
"Confrontation's gonna happen. We see it all the time on the internet when people go to stores and they flip out throwing groceries on the floor cause they have to wear a mask."
"It's sad that we can't just respect what we're going through and other people. We're all in this together at the end of the day, and we have the ability to get past this."
"We're so close to the light at the end of the tunnel, we're just so close to be there."
"My other thing is, with these confrontations, since I'm an Asian American... We've seen attacks on Asian Americans."
"That's a huge concern for me. I have a bulls-eye on my back."
"We see all these instances of that, it's just opportunity and I ... you know... this confrontation opens up that opportunity."
The hosts ended by saying they didn't want to add any more to Nguyen's concerns and wishing him the best of luck in his business.
That best of luck has not panned out so far. Shortly after the interview aired, Noodle Tree was targeted by racist attacks. When the staff showed up to open, they were met with red graffiti covering the windows and outdoor seating area.
Mike Nguyen's shop was covered in phrases like:
- "Kung Flu"
- "No Masks"
- "Ramen Noodle Flu"
- "Hope U Die"
- "Go Back 2 China"
Again, Nguyen is Vietnamese and French, not Chinese.
People were horrified by the blatant racism.
@AmandaHTV Why are people so disgusting, I’d love to donate if this place has a Venmo account. I’m from ny so I can’t eat there— jennifer (@jennifer) 1615777606.0
@AmandaHTV @News4SA Why is it so hard for people to be decent human beings? This is disgusting and I hope they find who did this.— SkitteryBox (@SkitteryBox) 1615752310.0
@AmandaHTV Great job @GregAbbott_TX. I just knew this kind of bs would happen to those of us who value life and hea… https://t.co/R3BQyt6TCg— Amanda TM (@Amanda TM) 1615837585.0
@AmandaHTV And they used trumps exact words https://t.co/49V3JqI4Xb— Hiromi You know Me (@Hiromi You know Me) 1615816190.0
But that horror turned to action pretty quickly, thanks in no small part to social media quickly sharing what happened.
The mayor was alerted, authorities have agreed to treat this as a hate crime and prosecute fully, and solutions were brought to the table.
It only took a few hours before volunteers were on scene cleaning the vandalism and showing love and support for Mike and Noodle Tree.
The community is here helping clean up. Mayor Nirenberg says they are treating this as a hate crime + will prosecut… https://t.co/CLSvJpQNc4— Amanda Henderson (@Amanda Henderson) 1615753236.0
And not only did those volunteers leave the restaurant free of graffiti, they added some love to combat the hate they had all witnessed.
Yesterday Noodle Tree’s windows were covered in anti-Asian hate speech. Today, they are covered in notes of support… https://t.co/vWTlRVzzg4— Amanda Henderson (@Amanda Henderson) 1615839640.0
Mike Nguyen says the whole situation was overwhelming, but the love and support the community immediately showed after the racism is something Mike says left him feeling "overwhelmed in the best way."