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Culture

A woman complained about a news anchor sharing a Korean tradition. The responses are everything.

Asian Americans, racism

A caller complained about St. Louis news anchor Michelle Li "being very Asian."

We've seen people call into news stations to complain about news anchors for unbelievable reasons before, from complaints about clothing choices to judgments about body size. Now we can add being "very Asian" to the list. Yes, seriously.

Michelle Li is an award-winning Asian American reporter and news anchor for NBC St. Louis. On New Year's Day, in a segment about traditional new year food dishes, she shared, “I ate dumpling soup. That’s what a lot of Korean people do.”

Neat, right? A cool cultural tradition to learn about if someone wasn't already familiar with it.

Or, if you're the sad woman who called into the station to complain, an "offensive" statement Li should have kept to herself. Yes, really.


Li shared a recording of the woman's one-minute call, in which she said she was "offended" by Li sharing her tradition. "I don't think it was appropriate that she said that, and she's being very Asian…she can keep her Korean to herself."

The woman's insistence that a white person couldn't say something similar about a cultural tradition makes no sense, of course. If an anchor had Irish ancestry and said that their family ate corned beef and cabbage because that's a traditional new year's meal in Ireland, would they be fired? Um, no. How this woman confused a specific cultural tradition with someone making a generalization about white people is baffling, and her complaining about an Asian American "being very Asian" is even more so.

The responses were swift and supportive.

Some support came in the form of sarcasm.

Some came in the form of common sense.

And some came in the form of the #VeryAsian hashtag.

In fact, the phrase caught on like wildfire, resulting in "Very Asian" merch for a good cause.

Along with another anchor, Gia Vang, Li created a website with shirts and hats with "Very Asian" on them, some of them in Li's handwriting. For a limited time, people can buy these "Very Asian" wearables, with all proceeds going to the Asian American Journalists Association, an organization that supports Asian American journalists, works to advance diversity in newsrooms and strives to ensure fair and accurate coverage of communities of color.

They even have merch for #VeryAsian kids:

If someone is going to complain about a woman doing her job and being herself simply because she is of Asian descent, at least some good can come out of it. Michelle Li should not have been subjected to that woman's racism, but it's heartening to see how she and those who support her take that lemon and make lemonade from it.

To donate directly to the Asian American Journalists Association, go here.

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