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O.C. college professor accused of racism in street encounter caught on viral video

Still image from a video made by a Long Beach couple in which a Golden West College professor tells them “to go back to your country.”
(Times Community News)

Coast Community College District officials said Monday they are reviewing how to proceed after a professor at Golden West College in Huntington Beach was identified in a video telling a Long Beach couple to “go back to your home country.”

“We’re very aware the community has deep concerns, and we’re not going to let this die,” said district spokeswoman Letitia Clark. “We’re looking at past interactions with students and staff to see if it relates to the comments made on the video.”

The video was posted Thursday on Facebook by Tony Kao, who wrote that he and his wife and daughter “encountered a bigot and a racist today in our neighborhood in Long Beach” while taking a walk.

The clip went viral over the weekend and commenters identified the woman involved in the clash as Tarin Olson, a professor and counselor at Golden West. As of Monday, the video had more than 440,000 views.

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The 29-second video, which starts mid-conversation, briefly shows the woman’s face before she begins walking away from the couple once she realizes she’s being recorded.

“I want you to tell everybody why you told us to go back to our country,” Kao says in the video.

“You need to go back to your country,” the woman replies as she keeps walking.

“And what does that mean?” Kao responds, telling her that he and his wife were born and raised in the United States.

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“Have your wife turn your phone off and I’ll talk to you,” the woman says.

Kao wrote that the woman’s comments were “completely unprovoked.”

On Monday, Olson said in an email to Times Community News 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.”

Olson said that in a part of the video that was not posted online Kao asked her why she “hated him so much.” She responded she didn’t hate him, she said.

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Kao could not be reached for comment Monday.

On Sunday, Olson told KCBS-TV 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 to the station. “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.”

Olson has a score of 4.3 out of 5 on the website RateMyProfessor.com, where college students review and rate their instructors. She has been employed with Golden West College since 1991, according to Clark.

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Golden West officials issued a statement Saturday on Facebook and Twitter:

“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. Golden West College believes in an inclusive and welcoming environment for all students.”

Clark said Monday that all faculty members are expected to adhere to a code of conduct that includes a set of ethical principles. Among them is a requirement that employees “avoid conduct which is in violation of the public trust or which creates a justifiable impression among the community that such trust is being violated,” according to a district statement Monday evening.

Because the incident occurred off campus, the district is looking at how its internal policies would apply, Clark said.

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Clark said Olson is not expected to be on campus this week. Additional details will be limited as the review continues because this is a personnel matter, she said.

In a Facebook post Sunday, Kao thanked people for offering positive messages to his family but asked them to not use his earlier post as a reason to spread hatred.

“We have no intention of seeking out or besmirching the offender’s personal life or career,” Kao wrote. “It is our hope the offender is aware and apologetic for what she has said to us, but all we can do is hope.”


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