Plymouth Township couple fears vandalism tied to teenagers' hateful language about Asians

Posted at 8:08 PM, May 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-21 20:08:10-04

PLYMOUTH TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WXYZ) — Mark and Christina Gustin are eager to welcome their first child next month and raise her in the Plymouth Township neighborhood they've come to love.

But one day last week, as Mark was mowing his grass, he heard children playing and then something he couldn't believe.

'Hey, you (expletive) Chinese. Yeah, you over there!' I looked because they can't be talking to me," he said.

But the teens were talking to Mark.

"'Yeah, you! Go back to China. (Expletive) Chinese,'" Mark said, recalling the words that left him in disbelief that children could say such hateful things.

"I'm adopted. I'm adopted from Korea. I grew up in and was raised by a white family, and I'd never thought of the color of my skin any different than my parents. So, I'd never been targeted before," he said.

"To be totally transparent, I wasn't that involved in everything that's going on in the world today," said Mark, referring to the rise in Asian hate in America and around the world.

"I was one of those people, 'Oh, it doesn't happen to me so it doesn't concern me,' and it was a real wake up call," Mark said.

Mark walked across the street to talk to the parents of one of the teens, who are also people of color, and he watched the parents quickly chastise their son.

Mark hoped they would talk to their son and the others about why their words were hurtful.

Then Wednesday night, a week after that encounter, someone threw a rock and broke the front window of Mark and Christina's home.

They contacted police and did not even think that it could have been the teenagers from last week, until the responding officers, including one who was Asian, said something like this isn't usually a coincidence.

A Plymouth Township Police lieutenant told 7 Action News that they do suspect the two incidents are connected but they're still investigating.

"At the end of the day, it's a window. No one was physically injured. It's just a window," Mark said.

"The only thing that I hope for is that the kids can learn from the experience and can talk to someone," he said, hoping this can end with a teachable moment for the children that could, perhaps, involve some community service. "I don't see any reason for these kids to be charged with anything. I think it's more important to learn the correct behavior on how to treat someone."

Action News spoke to Dr. Riana Elyse Anderson, a psychologist and assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health about parents talking to their children about race and understanding.

"Although the world is challenging right now, the good news is we're seeing so much media, so much content, that you can pull that into your daily conversations," Dr. Anderson said.

"When you're taking a walk. When you're watching TV. It's always something that you can say. 'Tell me a bit about what you noticed there? How did you feel when you heard that? It didn't feel good when someone said this to you, so why would you think it's okay to say that?' Anderson gave as examples.

"Using those types of daily communications can be really helpful," she said.

As for Mark and Christina's broken window? Caring neighbors have collected money to help them replace it, but the couple said that they're able to afford a replacement.

They have decided to donate the money raised toward the work of stopping Asian hate.