Fake restaurant listing perpetuates racism toward Asian communities

Abby Vander and Noah Pasley

Students at Colorado State University may be affiliated with a fake restaurant listing on Google Maps, Instagram and Yelp with an address in the City of Fort Collins that uses racist language to describe people of Asian descent.

The listing, Ch*ng Ch*ng House, had been on Google Maps for over a month before its removal and has a corresponding Instagram page. The restaurant listed its address on Google Maps as 1120 City Park Avenue, which leads to an apartment complex. At the Fort Collins address, the apartment has a neon “Open” sign sitting in the window as well an apparent makeshift bench and railing on the patio.

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The exterior of the apartment listed on the Ch*ng Ch*ng House “restaurant’s” Google listing and Instagram page displays an LED “open” sign in the front window. The Google listing’s reviews featured racist stereotypes and the Instagram is followed primarily by Colorado State University students within the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering. (Matt Tackett | The Collegian)

Mike Hooker, CSU director of media relations and Denver outreach, said that the listing goes against CSU’s Principles of Community and that, while the University doesn’t have control over the sites where the listing was posted, it has been reported to Google, Instagram and Yelp. The post was also reported to the University Bias Assessment Team.

“A University representative reached out to the self-identified owner of the site and invited them into further conversation about the harm caused by the online content but that invitation was declined,” Hooker said.

Ricardo Contreras learned about the reviews after his friend Mia, who asked to omit her last name for safety reasons, came across them while searching for a restaurant online. They both reported the listing to Google and Instagram, then Contreras notified The Collegian.

“Regardless of its intent, it is spreading the detestable idea that an (already marginalized) segment of our population is different, strange, laughable and dismissible,” Contreras wrote in an email. “Of course this is deeply insulting, but it is also detrimental to the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of anyone who is explicitly or implicitly associated with these images. It makes life harder, less profitable and more dangerous.”

According to NPR, Ch*ng Ch*ng is a racial slur that dates back to the 1800s. It was used in children’s nursery rhymes to reflect the xenophobia against Chinese immigrants who moved to the United States for work. 

One would think that, by now, it would be pretty clear that this isn’t OK. Maybe it is, and they did it regardless. Who knows what the students’ intentions were, but their impact is real and painful,” -Mia, community member

This term was tied to the sentiments of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which prevented Chinese laborers from entering the United States, later even preventing Chinese people from returning to the country if they left. 

The Chinese Exclusion Act wasn’t effectively removed until 1943, when 105 Chinese people were allowed to enter the country annually through the Magnuson Act. Anti-Asian sentiments continued in the United States throughout World War II with the creation of Japanese internment camps, and these biases are still present today.

Screenshot of Instagram profile of the fake restaurant
The fake restaurant listing’s Instagram page. (Abby Vander Graaff | The Collegian)

Many recent acts of racism against Asian people focus on the fact that the coronavirus pandemic allegedly began in a wet market in Wuhan, China, inaccurately using this fact to make the argument that all Asian people are unsanitary or diseased. 

“We know that violence against Asian Americans spiked when elected officials blamed the coronavirus on China and used language like ‘kung-flu,’ etc., effectively painting targets on us,” Mia wrote. “Not long after the coronavirus news came out and it was being referred to in that way, I became extremely anxious about my mother going out around town. She is Korean, but what does that matter to people who just see her as ‘Other’?” 

The restaurant lists items such as “Mouse Tail Salad” and “marinated ostrich foreheads” and labels one item as “served freshly out of Wuhan,” perpetuating these stereotypes.

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JoAnn Cornell, director of the Asian Pacific American Cultural Center, said that the account propagates anti-Asian sentiment. She added that APACC condemns the presence and increased following of the account.

Screenshot of reviews on Google Maps
Reviews of a fake restaurant posted to Google Maps (photo courtesy of Ricardo Contreras).

“Even if such an establishment has the intention of situational humor, this deeply offensive creation publicizes racial vilification and continues to deter us from our mission of racial equity and inclusiveness,” Cornell said. “We cannot stay silent any longer. APACC denounces this fake establishment and supports the University efforts to ask that this account be removed.”

The Instagram account had 39 followers as of Monday, and the listing had 16 reviews on Google Maps as of last week, although the reviews have since been deleted. Many of those following the Instagram account were also responsible for the reviews on Google. Some of the Instagram followers are connected to businesses in the Fort Collins/Loveland area, including Spoons Fort Collins, Siomai King Online, Change of a Dress Alterations in Fort Collins, Davinci Teeth Whitening in Loveland and Campus Cash Coupons.

Screenshot of a fake restaurant listed on Google Maps
Listing of a fake restaurant posted to Google Maps (photo courtesy of Ricardo Contreras).

At least 13 CSU students and one staff member follow the Instagram account. Students associated with the Instagram account and the reviews on Google are predominantly connected to the engineering department. The other students are connected to biological science, microbiology, human development and family studies, business administration and political science.

The administrator of the Instagram account and followers of the account have not responded to The Collegian’s request for comment. 

“They put some time into it,” Mia wrote. “One would think that, by now, it would be pretty clear that this isn’t OK. Maybe it is, and they did it regardless. Who knows what the students’ intentions were, but their impact is real and painful.”

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Editor’s Note: Matt Tackett and Lauryn Bolz contributed to the reporting for this article. Abby Vander Graaff and Noah Pasley cowrote this article.

Noah Pasley and Abby Vander Graaff can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @PasleyNoah and @abbym_vg.