A California community college professor who was filmed last week telling an Asian-American couple to "go back to your country" is on leave while the school decides what to do about the incident, her employer said Tuesday.
The video of the woman, identified by the public as Golden West College professor Tarin Olson, went viral after Tony Kao shared it on Facebook Thursday, and now the school finds itself in damage-control mode.
On Monday, Golden West college president Wes Bryan tweeted this from the school's Twitter account: "One person's comments do not define us."
Kao wrote on Facebook last week that he "encountered a bigot and a racist today in our neighborhood in Long Beach.
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“During our normal afternoon walk with my wife and daughter in our neighborhood, a Caucasian female walked (past) us completely unprovoked and said to us very nonchalantly, 'Go Back To Your Country!' and continued walking! Whhhaaaat!!!” Kao wrote.
“A few weeks back we believed we walked pass the same lady and also heard her mumble something to that effect but ignored it and thought we misheard but this time as she walked away, I yelled to her, 'WHAT YOU SAY?' Not only did she walk away confirming what she had said, she walked back our way to head home and the video footage explains the rest."
The video begins in mid-conversation as Olson began walking away from the couple.
"I want you to tell everybody why you told us to go back to our country," Kao tells her as she walks away.
"You need to go back to your home country," Olson said as she kept walking.
"And what does that mean?" Kao asked her, telling her that he and his wife were born and raised in the United States.
CBS Los Angeles talked to Olson at her home on Sunday after the video went viral. She refused to speak on-camera but told the TV station that her students know she is not a racist.
“I feel my perspective will be twisted if discussing the skewed video, which cut out part of the incident," she said in a statement. "If you would like to have a full normal interview about the displacement of European-Americans then I gladly am available to enlighten the public."
On the Golden West College website, Olson is listed as a professor and career counselor. The school is in Huntington Beach.
A spokeswoman for the Coast Community College District told The Daily Pilot newspaper it is reviewing what to do next..
“It has recently come to our attention that there was a video posted on Facebook of a GWC faculty member making comments that the College does not condone or support," the school wrote on its Facebook page, where hundreds of people have left angry comments.
"Golden West College believes in an inclusive and welcoming environment for all students.”
The school has not identified Olson as the woman in the video and said that because this is a personnel matter, public information about what happens from here on out might be limited.
"We're very aware the community has deep concerns, and we're not going to let this die," spokeswoman Letitia Clark told the Daily Pilot. "We're looking at past interactions with students and staff to see if it relates to the comments made on the video."
Even Long Beach mayor, Robert Garcia, has weighed in on the situation.
“I mean, this country is a country of immigrants and of diversity, and this city is a very diverse, beautiful place I think people love and feel very comfortable in,” Garcia told CBS Los Angeles. “So, I never want any families to feel like they’re not welcome here; we’re welcoming of everybody."
Several Long Beach residents told the CBS station they were appalled at what happened. One man suggested vitriol is flowing from "the top."
“It’s what’s happening out there,” Ray Sebastian told CBS. “I think it starts at the top, as far as who’s at the top. So I think it’s part of today’s landscape. I mean, it’s sad, but it’s true.”
In another Facebook post on Sunday, Kao thanked people for their support and said he wanted to clarify why he shared the video in the first place.
"First, I wanted to express our sadness of experiencing racism first-hand with our baby who was exposed to this at such a young age in public and broad daylight," he wrote.
"Second, we wanted to express our surprise that this type of racism can exist in Long Beach of all places in this age and time and to bring awareness it can happen anywhere.
"And finally, to encourage those that also face similar experiences to speak up and speak out. We have NO intention of seeking out or besmirching the offender’s personal life or career. It is our hope the offender is aware and apologetic for what she has said to us, but all we can do is hope.
"Although my post was about something negative, the message we want to convey is POSITIVE and that is to be respectful to one another no matter of what race, creed, or color. Please do not use my post to foster more feeling of anger or hatred because frankly there’s already enough of those feelings in this world."
In an email to the Daily Pilot on Monday, Olson wrote that she was "not in a good place emotionally after receiving so many disgusting emails ... for something that wasn't even racist and was then skewed by a guy named Tony who filmed me without my permission."