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Guy Called Out For Warning New Asian Coworker About Microwaving ‘Ethnic’ Food At Work

Asian woman using microwave
GOLFX/Getty Images

Redditor foodconundrum committed a major error at work recently.

The incident has now involved HR and other coworkers.

The severity of the issue drove the Original Poster (OP) to subReddit “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA).

He asked:

“AITA for looking out for my new coworker by telling her that her food might be upsetting to others?”

“I [32-year-old male, white] am potentially in trouble at work, but I don’t really think I deserve it.”

“My coworker, “Anna” [23-ish-years-old female, Asian], is new at our office and she brings her own lunch on days we don’t have a food truck.”

“On Thursday (yesterday), she brought in a homemade stir fry and used our shared microwave in the break room to do it.”

“I was in the room when she took it out of the microwave, and it smelled heavenly.”

“I asked her about the recipe and she told me it was just a bunch of ingredients and spices thrown together as to not waste any veggies that might go bad soon.”

“When I was telling her how good it smelled, I also mentioned that some other people at the office might think it would be too smelly or ethnic (as in, racist people tend to look down on “ethnic” things).”

“I have read those kind of stories on here about microagressions when it comes to people of color and the food they bring in.”

“And I wanted to warn her that she might not want to bring it in anymore so it doesn’t happen to her. I emphasized that it smelled good to me personally, though.”

“I guess a couple of the other co-workers in the room overheard our conversation.”

“Because after Anna left the room, some of them sort of quietly told me how it was inappropriate for me to have said that.”

“I told them that it’s true, that ethnic food gets ridiculed for smelling too strong and that I disagreed with that sentiment.”

“But I also think she would face less harassment if she didn’t bring in that food anymore.”

“One of my other coworkers then said that ‘I was the only one harassing her’ and making insinuations that her food is problematic.”

“Plus the fact that she hasn’t even been bringing in her own food that often since she just started last week.”

“So there couldn’t have been an opportunity to have had this hypothetical harassment happen to her.”

“I just wanted people, yes, even the a**holes, at the office to make her feel welcomed.”

“I left work that day not thinking anything of it, until the following morning where I hear from a different coworker that Anna talked to our HR department about the conversation and how she was ‘hurt’.”

“I’m a bit frustrated as to why she didn’t talk to me about it first since it was just a misunderstanding and that I’m looking out for her.”

“I did notice that today she was trying to dodge me, which is unusual and a bit heartbreaking. I just want to work things out.”

“I wanted to be a friend to her and help her out since this is one of her first jobs out of undergrad, but this has been blown of out proportion.”

“Now my coworkers think I’m racist, but I really try my best to be an ally, but then again what do I know?”

“So, am I the a**hole for telling her that her food might be a bit too much for other potentially racist people in the office to handle?”

Redditors weighed in by declaring:

    • NTA – Not The A**hole
    • YTA – You’re The A**hole
    • NAH – No A**holes Here
    • ESH – Everyone Sucks Here

Redditors decided:


“You are the mircoagressor”

“And yes, to everyone who said Macroaggressor but a special round of applause for the person who said ‘Microwave-aggressor’” – WaywardPrincess1025

“YTA. Your coworker is a grown woman who’s been Asian her entire life. Do you genuinely think she’s unaware that racism exists?”

“All you did was put her on edge around coworkers who may not even be racist! Congratulations, you’re the one who created the microaggression.” – radioshedd

“Exactly. She’s going to be well-aware, and if she isn’t somehow, maybe your workplace won’t be full of AHs.”

“The OP went out of his way to make her self-conscious and create a problem that doesn’t exist.”

“YTA. Also, OP, you should also be aware that plenty of people who claim to be allies pull stuff like this.”

“‘Kindness’ that is condescending at best or, at worse, a cover for their bigoted opinions by deflecting the blame onto others. I don’t blame her for going to HR.” – FancyPantsDancer

“Anna is Asian, and she brought a stir fry, a dish that is so Westernized, it has its own English name (as opposed to sushi or pad thai).”

“So you felt the need to let her know that potentially racists might target her food based on race. Would you have done the same for a white person eating a stir fry at work?”

  • “Ana is Asian, and you treated her differently because of her race. That’s racism.”
  • “You were on the lookout for her, protecting her against a situation that didn’t arise. Ever heard of the ‘White Saviour Complex’?”
  • “Instead of thinking ‘if the racists arise, I will tell them off,’ you thought ‘She should erase herself, so the racists get no ammunition.’”“That’s not how you help people from the minority group. You don’t ask them to code-switch so the sensitivities of the bigoted can be protected.”
  • “The hell is ‘ethnic’? ‘Not white’?”
  • “Why do you say that she was ‘hurt’ with quotation marks? Who are you to decide that her feelings are not valid?”

“If someone approached you to tell you…”

“‘…Other people might maybe think [you’re a potential mass shooter]/[you can’t dance]/[the spiciest condiment you can handle is mayo]/[you will start mansplaining everything]…”

“…but they’re being racist and/or sexist, I for one think you’re swell! :D’, unprompted, wouldn’t you feel at least a little bit annoyed with their unneeded intervention?”

“YTA. Go apologize.” – ChibiSailorMercury


“So your coworker was peacefully enjoying her lunch, and you goosestepped over there like the microwave police to tell her that Some People would find her food too’ ethnic’….”

“but Not you because you’re one of the good white people 🙄🤦 but then you go ‘no but actually the racists are right. You are asking for racism by bringing Asian food in’”


“Stop being racist to your coworker. She was just trying to eat her leftovers ffs.”

“Get out of your white fragility shield and recognize your own awful hurtful behavior and learn from it and the feedback you’re getting, please” – AcanthisittaKlutzy40

“YTA — you are not protecting her from racists. You yourself are being racist. If you’re trying to convince us/her/yourself that you’re an ally, you might be more than a bit delusional.”

“Also stop trying to hang around your young coworker lmao” – ariannaua

“So you told a new coworker, ‘in order to avoid harassment about your food, you shouldn’t bring in your food!’”

“Do you realize that you just harassed her?”

“YTA” – mdthomas


“You came off like this: ‘SOME people might say that your food is smelly. Not me, though. But SOME PEOPLE.’”

“And then you proceeded to call her food Ethnic. You might as well have worn a shirt that said SOME PEOPLE on it with an arrow pointing to your face.”

“Doesn’t sound like you were ill-intentioned, but sometimes you just have to give a compliment and let it be.” – Cloud_King_15

“YTA If your white coworker brought in egg salad and tuna fish sandwiches, would you tell them that might smell offensive to your Asian coworker?” – laurelblossom

“YTA. You acted like the very people you wanted to warn her about. Telling someone that their food is too ethnic is a microaggression.”

“You basically told her to assimilate and leave her culture at home on, what, her first week at a new job? Way to make her feel welcome.”

“The fact that your coworkers told you off should have been enough to make you apologize to Anna, rather than carrying on with your day thinking all was well.”

“Of course she went to HR. You were being racist about her food under the guise of what ‘other people’ might say.”

“Why would she assume that it was a misunderstanding and talk to you first?” – Most-Particular-8392

The OP went on to add to his original post.

“Some people have said to edit this post to add this: yes, I get it, I’m the a**hole. What I said was really stupid.”

“If it means anything to you guys, I remember entering the workforce as a young man shadowing a**holes, and I didn’t know how to express how sh*tty I was treated since I thought it was normal to be treated a certain way or overhear certain things.”

“I just thought she was a sweet girl who didn’t deserve to see the nasty side of corporate life so quick, but I guess I ended up being like the guys that made my earlier career so god awful.”

“Anyway I want to apologize to her in the most HR-friendly way this Tuesday. Hopefully, she doesn’t quit, but I also don’t want to be the one that gets fired. Fingers crossed.”

“Thank you for opening my eyes, and I hope to do my due diligence to be a real ally.”

At least he figured it out eventually…

Written by B. Miller

B. is a creative multihyphenate who enjoys the power and versatility of the written word. She enjoys hiking, great food and drinks, traveling, and vulnerable conversation. Raised below the Mason Dixon, thriving above it. (she/her)