SALT LAKE CITY -- Jordan Clarkson saw the hateful racial slur spray-painted all over a well-known Filipino food truck in Utah on social media and was overcome with raw emotion.
An anti-Asian slur and an offensive image of a face with slanted eyes was sprayed on the side of the World Famous Yum Yum Food Truck last weekend, and it didn't take long for the images to reach Clarkson's phone. The Utah Jazz guard and NBA Sixth Man of the Year this season knew he had to do something.
"If you want me to be real honest, my first reaction was, 'This is bulls---!'" Clarkson told ESPN on Thursday. "I was just like, we can't be f---ing doing this. Those were the exact words that came out of my mouth to my boys, my family and everybody that was around me. So they were like, let's do something [about it].
"There's just no room for that," Clarkson added, "especially right now. It's been tough, tough years on this earth, this country, this world. There's a lot of stuff going on. I feel like us together, and everybody finding a peace, will make things a lot more comforting in this world. We ain't got no room for the hate no more. That's got to go out of the window real quick."
For Clarkson, who is Filipino American, the vandalism of the Filipino food truck hit home on many levels. It is just the latest example of the hate and violence that many Asians have experienced, especially over the past year during the coronavirus pandemic.
The 29-year-old Clarkson was one of many, including local politicians and businesses, who wanted to help restore the food truck. Clarkson paid for interior cleaning and detailing and joined with vehicle wrap company Identity Graphx, which designed a new exterior for the truck that will be unveiled Saturday at the Philippine Independence Day celebration in Salt Lake City. Clarkson also offered the food truck owners significant financial support to get the truck up and running again.
The Jazz invited co-owner Ben Pierce and his family to Game 2 of the team's second-round playoff series against the Clippers on Thursday night. The team presented the Pierce family with a signed Clarkson jersey on the big screen during a timeout in the third quarter. Fans at sold-out Vivint Arena gave a loud applause when told of what happened to the food truck and what Clarkson had done to help.
"I didn't even want this to really get out," Clarkson said. "My team was like, do you want to go public with this or not? And I was kind of like no in the sense of, I want to do this out of straight love and support. But for them, they came to me and said you got to show the people that you are there for them and let them know that you are supporting them, and that is what I am doing. I am here to support, show love and just try to make a change. That's it."
Clarkson said his father detailed cars for a living and had a trailer in their front yard where he worked. Seeing the food truck vandalized reminded Clarkson of how hard his father worked to provide for his family and how such an act of hate and racism would have done serious damage to his father's business.
"There's just no room for that, especially right now. It's been tough, tough years on this earth, this country, this world. There's a lot of stuff going on. I feel like us together, and everybody finding a peace, will make things a lot more comforting in this world. We ain't got no room for the hate no more. That's got to go out of the window real quick."Jordan Clarkson
And the hateful slurs hurt the Jazz point guard deeply. Many Asians are living in fear in the United States amid a surge in hate crimes. From March 2020 to March 2021, there were more than 6,600 anti-Asian hate incidents documented by Stop AAPI Hate. Asian-targeted hate crimes in the biggest U.S. cities spiked 145% in 2020 compared to 2019, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino. There have been verbal and physical attacks, with some ending fatally, such as the March 16 shootings that killed six Asian women in the Atlanta area.
"It is a big thing that we are trying to really change and really be a part of, especially here in Utah," Clarkson said of trying to create awareness and combat racism and racial inequality. "It is kind of a worldwide thing that is going on that you see is a movement with everything. Black Lives Matter, Stop Asian Hate, all of these things are being put into really the eye of everybody now because everybody has social media, everybody has phones. I feel like a lot of this has been going on for a long time."
Clarkson said he is finding his voice and becoming more active and involved.
"It has been powerful, and for me, it's been a lot," Clarkson said. "But you know, I am learning and doing a lot of things as well to try to catch up on a lot of this stuff. Being young in the league, you are kind of not really paying attention to a lot of this stuff. As you get older, you really kind of embrace this role of who you are. It really hits home in those times."
Clarkson said that new Jazz ownership, led by Ryan Smith and including Dwyane Wade, has tried to use its influence to promote diversity and inclusivity and speak out against hate.
"They have really done a good job already of really trying to change this culture in Utah and really trying to just make a change period," Clarkson said. "Like all the hate and stuff, if you come to our arena, you'll see the message that's put on the board before games [asking fans to curb hateful behavior].
"You saw what our organization did with Ja Morant's family," he added, referring to the team's response after Morant's parents were the targets of racist and vulgar comments during Game 2 of a playoff series last month. "What we are trying to do is commit to change. Since we are the leaders around here in this community, this state and this city, I feel like it is our duty to do that. I feel like if people see us doing that, they'll follow."