Editor's note: We are re-sharing some of the best moments and most important stories of 2020. Although it was a difficult year for nearly all of us, there were also shining moments of light and signs of hope. This was one of them.
A waitress at the Lucia Restaurant in Carmel Valley, California, has received over $70,000 in tips from people hailing her as an "everyday hero." Jennica Cochran jumped to an Asian American family's defense and kicked a man out of the restaurant after he berated the family with a racist rant.
Video of the incident, recorded by family member Jordan Chan, went viral online. Chan told KION that she and her family were celebrating her aunt's birthday on the 4th of July when a man at another table began making racist remarks.
“We were singing happy birthday. We were just taking pictures and goofing around with each other, and then all of a sudden, the man, Michael Lofthouse, starts making really loud racist remarks at us,” Chan said. That's when Chan began recording.
“Trump’s gonna f*** you,” the man can be heard saying in the video. “You f****** need to leave! You f****** Asian piece of s***!”
Shortly after the video begins, Cochran steps in and demands that the man leave the restaurant, saying, “No, you do not talk to our guests like that! Get out of here!”
Rather ironically, the man was later identified as British tech CEO Michael Lofthouse.
“I’ve dealt with racism before but never on that scale,” Chan told KPIX 5. “Never on the level where somebody completely unprovoked felt obligated to voice their hatred for absolutely no reason.”
Cochran explained to ABC7 why she stepped in:
"To hear the emotion coming out of my voice, to see my mannerisms, it was unbelievable it was just something that came over me and I just did what needed to be done," Cochran said. "I did what anybody else should or would do in that situation."
"I felt very protective of them. You don't come in here and say those kinds of things to people. Especially people feel so raw coming out of quarantine. Most of these people this is the first time that they've been out to dinner and then you have someone attacking them it was just no, no, I don't have time for this."
"I'm not a mother, but I felt almost maternal," she added. "Right, like this is my family and I will take care of them and I will do whatever I can to protect these people. To have someone hate you just because of the way that you look, that's beyond me. I don't understand it."
She concluded: "It's not something that I will condone ever again, being silent."
Unsurprisingly, the video quickly went viral on social media. Many of those who saw the video wanted to send a tip to Cochran, who quickly stepped in to defend the family.
So far, three GoFundMe campaigns have raised over $70,000 for the young woman. The largest, which has raised over $68,000 as of the time of writing, was started by Jeremy Stephens.
"As much as it’s satisfying to drag the man who who did this to that family, it’s even more satisfying when we lift up the people who stand up to defend those who are on the receiving end of such racism," the campaign explains. "In this case, that person is this server/yoga instructor Gennica Cochran. She spoke out with a passionate fury against this man, possibly putting her job on the line amidst an economic crisis in order to fight back against just a taste of the racism that is running rampant in our country."
Tips for the waitress quickly began flooding in, with one donor writing: "The audacity of a white British guy to tell anyone in the US that they don’t belong in this country. Girl, the way you leapt to that family’s defense was amazing! You deserve the fattest tip ever.”
Another added: “You did not just defend an Asian family from a racist. You defended the entire Asian community, who has been subject to racism like I have never experienced before. Thank you."
While another concluded: “It is people like you that can help improve the world with such everyday acts of heroism.”
Lofthouse issued a statement on his behavior earlier this week, stating: “My behavior in the video is appalling. This was clearly a moment where I lost control and made incredibly hurtful and divisive comments.
"I would like to deeply apologize to the Chan family. I can only imagine the stress and pain they feel. I was taught to respect people of all race and I will take the time to reflect on my actions and work to better understand the inequality that so many of those around me face every day.”
Democratic California Assemblymember Rep. Evan Low told KPIX 5 that Lofthouse's behavior is not an isolated incident and that Asian American families have been targeted as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“What’s important is to call it for what it is. This is racism,” said Low. “And there’s a type of hate crime that’s too often associated with this. And there’s a fine line between that and free speech.”
Asian Law Alliance CEO Richard Konda added: “It was really disturbing that this would happen. Unfortunately, our President has made it a hobby of using terms like ‘Kung Flu’ or ‘Chinese Virus’ or ‘Wuhan Virus.'”