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Why I spoke up in the face of hate speech in Ballard

caption: Confronted with hate speech in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, Amy Kastelin said 'that's unacceptable.'
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Confronted with hate speech in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, Amy Kastelin said 'that's unacceptable.'
KUOW photo/Gil Aegerter

Amy Kastelin was at the U.S. Bank in Ballard this week when another customer yelled at a teller.

“Go back to where you came from,” the customer told the bank worker.

The Southern Poverty Law Center says it's seen a jump in incidents like this in the wake of the presidential election. The FBI recently reported there was a spike in hate crime in 2015.

And there have been reports of hate crimes and lower-level harassment in Washington state and the Seattle area, too.

Like at the bank in Ballard.

Top read: A man shouts racial slurs in a Seattle Starbucks. The silence is deafening

Kastelin said she heard a man ask a teller to print some documents for him. When the teller, who was a person of color, said politely that he wasn’t authorized to do that, the man lost his temper, saying: “That's bullshit. Go back to where you came from.”

Kastelin said she was "scared that he would do something to me – come after me or yell at me,” but she knew she had to do something. So, in a loud voice, she just said, “That's unacceptable!”

She took a risk, “because there's been something shifting in our community and in our nation, and I just couldn't let that slide. I didn't want him to feel that he had any license to treat other people that way.”

After that, she said, the bank manager took the customer aside and the man left soon afterward. Kastelin left too, feeling shaken.

She later came back to bring the bank teller a cup of coffee. “I think he was glad to have it acknowledged.”

KUOW contacted U.S. Bank about the incident, but it hadn't responded as of Thursday evening.

Would Kastelin do it again?

"I will absolutely speak up again," she said. "I feel like spreading kindness and compassion is more important now than ever.

"I may weigh the situation depending on where I am, and who is around — whether it's dark or light out — but whenever possible I would err on the side of speaking up.”

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