Asians Take the Stage!

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Kimi Matibag, Journalist

3…2…1…Happy New Year! As the world welcomes in 2022, most people hope to start the new year with positivity and the desire to be kinder to others. Unfortunately for Korean-American NBC news anchor Michelle Li, the new page turn of the calendar greeted her with an ignorant racist who had a lot to say. 


On the fresh day of January 1, 2022, Li shared with her audience her New Year’s meal, saying, “I ate dumplings, too. That’s what a lot of Korean people do.” What was meant to be just a harmless and insightful statement ended up being offensive to one of NBC’s viewers. Why? Because Li was supposedly being “very Asian.” 


On Li’s instagram story, the news anchor shared an ignorant voicemail she received from a racist viewer of her news segment, with captions provided. The viewer wasn’t shy expressing their distaste, telling Li, “I kind of take offense to that, because what if one of your white anchors said white people eat this on New Year’s Day? I don’t think it was appropriate that she said that and she’s being very Asian.”


The messenger continued on to say that if a white person shared what white people eat on New Year’s, they’d get fired. They didn’t stop there either, proceeding to tell Li that she can “keep her Korean to herself.”


The encounter sparked national outrage on various social media platforms upon going viral. Users went into an uproar in support of Michelle and in criticism of the deliverer of the voicemail, sharing what traditional and cultural foods they eat during their own New Year’s celebrations and encouraging others to be proud of where they come from and the foods they eat.  


Michelle Wu, the Mayor of Boston, pitched in to the movement, retweeting Li’s post and posting herself, “We had dumplings for New Year’s too! Proud to be #VeryAsian”.


Another twitter user offered Li their praise, tweeting, “We need to include more discussions that include diverse traditions because youth do ‘see you.’”.


Since then, the hashtag has continued to blow up on Twitter as well as migrate to other social media platforms such as Instagram. Asian-Americans from all over the nation as well as other POC, and white allies are coming together to celebrate the beauty of diversity and cultural traditions and foods, as well as a T-shirt business with the phrase “#VeryAsian” on the front in the works. Li shared that she now sees the racist voicemail as a “gift” because she’s “seen the good in people in a way [she’s] never seen before.” 

“It inspires me to be better and to learn more as well,” said Li, referring to the flooding support she’s received online.


The news anchor also used her experience to bring light to her fellow POC’s struggles, saying, “I think what happened to me was ugly, but more importantly, we have to remember Black and Brown Americans get assaulted or worse just for existing. I can take the heat of an anonymous phone call if it exposes racism and hate.”


Michelle Li continues to use her platform and image to fight racial injustices in America. As Li said, “I don’t think that one person gets to define what American means.” 


Sources: NBC News, The Washington Post, Twitter