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.

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.

Joy

50-years ago they trade a grilled cheese for a painting. Now it's worth a small fortune.

Irene and Tony Demas regularly traded food at their restaurant in exchange for crafts. It paid off big time.

Photo by Gio Bartlett on Unsplash

Painting traded for grilled cheese worth thousands.

The grilled cheese at Irene and Tony Demas’ restaurant was truly something special. The combination of freshly baked artisan bread and 5-year-old cheddar was enough to make anyone’s mouth water, but no one was nearly as devoted to the item as the restaurant’s regular, John Kinnear.

Kinnear loved the London, Ontario restaurant's grilled cheese so much that he ordered it every single day, though he wouldn’t always pay for it in cash. The Demases were well known for bartering their food in exchange for odds and ends from local craftspeople and merchants.

“Everyone supported everyone back then,” Irene told the Guardian, saying that the couple would often trade free soup and a sandwich for fresh flowers. Two different kinds of nourishment, you might say.

And so, in the 1970s the Demases made a deal with Kinnear that he could pay them for his grilled cheese sandwiches with artwork. Being a painter himself and part of an art community, Kinnear would never run out of that currency.

Little did Kinnear—or anyone—know, eventually he would give the Demases a painting worth an entire lifetime's supply of grilled cheeses. And then some.

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