The perpetual foreigner syndrome is something we as Asian Americans are unfortunately all too familiar with and something we have to brush off as cases of stupidity and ignorance. Sometimes, it can seriously get in the way, especially if you’re trying to run a business. This was the case in Alabama where the owner of a large southwest Alabama car dealership was derided as “Taliban Toyota” by a competitor.
Iranian-born Shawn Esfahani, owner of Eastern Shore Toyota in Daphne, AL claimed that employees of Bob Tyler Toyota were falsely portraying him as an Islamist militant to customers. One employee told a couple that Esfahani was “‘helping fund the insurgents there and is also laundering money for them.'” Another salesman told the same couple that Esfahani “‘is funneling money back to his family and other terrorists. I have a brother over there and what you’re doing is helping kill my brother.'” Esfahani sought $28 million in compensatory and punitive damages but in the end, was awarded $2.5 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages.
When I see cases like this, it makes me happy to know that the American justice system works to a degree (even when it fails spectacularly in others but let’s not get into that for today) but it is yet a vivid reminder that we as Asian Americans (whether we hail from the East, Southeast, South, or the West) still have a long way to go before we can truly be seen as Americans that belong in this country.