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  • Writer's pictureKathy Chin Leong

Kathy Fang: “We will not sit back!”

Updated: May 4, 2021

Chinatown Book SF talks to Kathy Fang, owner of Fang Restaurant on COVID-19 fallout and anti-Asian sentiments that have resulted in violence and hostility.

Chinatown Book SF: For your business and your parent's business, House of Nanking, how has the COVID-19 impacted things? Are you opening soon?

Kathy: House of Nanking has thankfully reopened and has relied heavily on takeout and delivery, outdoor dining and the support of local fans and tourists. While we are still operating at a loss, we are confident that we can push through as there is simply too much history here for us to give up. Having run this place for the last 30+ years, my parents and I are not about to let our legacy go away due to the pandemic. We feel like we are opening for the first time, like back in 1988, when we had to build the business “brick” by “brick” with each customer who came in.

Fang Restaurant has been dramatically affected by the pandemic. The area that we are located in (as of March 2021) is a ghost town. The prospects of having diners come in is close to zero. Take and delivery alone is not enough to carry us through as we are a much bigger operation with bigger bills and expenses. As far as how business will be, only time will tell, but the journey to becoming profitable again is going to be a long one. (Editor’s note: Since this interview, Fang has now reopened with indoor and outdoor dining, and for lunch and dinner from Wednesday to Sunday).

Chinatown Book SF: How have the anti-Asian hate incidents impacted your views of how to do business and thrive in San Francisco?

Kathy: The Anti-Asian Hate incidents haven’t really altered the way we do business. The only change that I sense is the way employees feel when they come to work and leave work. Everyone is frightened and worried when they are out.

Chinatown Book SF: What was your gut reaction to the Atlanta slaying and recent elderly abuse and murders?

Kathy: Anger, outrage, and disbelief. Why on earth would people do something like this? The cruelty in all of this is incomprehensible. Have we gotten to a point where we no longer feel safe here because of our race, because of the way we look? I was born and raised in SF and never have I ever felt unsafe until now. To worry about my parents walking to work, to now telling them they should not be walking anywhere is just crazy and almost surreal.

Chinatown Book SF: Do you, in your mind, classify what happened in Atlanta as a hate crime? Why or why not?

Kathy: Yes, absolutely. They targeted Asian spas, Asian-run businesses filled with Asian employees.

Chinatown Book SF: How are you moving forward in the light of these events, and have you done anything tangible?

Kathy: So far I’ve used social media to spread awareness of these attacks. As much as we as an Asian community are aware of these attacks, many other people aren't. The problem has always been that we don’t make enough noise about these things so it goes unnoticed. Sharing these terrifying attacks and letting people from other races know that things are happening now to our community is a start. I think we are all trying to figure out what to do next. How do we move forward? How do we stop this?

Chinatown Book SF: How can this nation deal with such racism towards Chinese in this day and age?

Kathy: Education. Education plays such a big part in all of this. Most people don’t know the history of racism towards Asians. It’s not taught in school. To most people, the idea of racism towards Asians doesn’t exist. They see us as the model minority, one that isn’t disadvantaged in any way. People just look at stereotypes and follow what media has painted of us as a way to define who we are. How do we educate and show people of other races who we really are, what our struggles are and how we got to where we are now? We need to share more of our stories. But not until recently have we even gotten the opportunity to do so.

Chinatown Book SF: Any personal examples to share?

Kathy: Hollywood played a big barrier to this (telling our stories). I know firsthand how I struggled to get my voice out as a female Asian chef, trying to get my own show and being told repeatedly I was too exotic. These people who knew nothing about me and what I was going to offer. They looked at me and assumed people in America are not ready to watch an Asian chef cook her food. Your food is too different; they just want burgers and BBQ. If we can’t get on a platform to show people who we are, then they can only use what media and politics has now narrated and defined us as.

Chinatown Book SF: What can be done other than education and sharing our stories?

Kathy: We also need leaders to emerge from our Asian Community. We need more Asians in office and politics to help us move the needle in places we can’t get to. We need to make noise like the BLM movement. We need the country to know we are awake now, and we will not sit back and let this continue on. We demand change!

Fang Restaurant is now open Wednesday through Sunday. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

Hours: Lunch 11-2; dinner 5:30-8:30

Location: 660 Howard Street Phone: 415.777.8568

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