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.
Hi Twitter support. One of your\u2026um very asian\u2026 twitterers tweeted about eating dumplings. I\u2019m offended. I mean what if a white person just decided to share their dietary opinions? They would probably be blocked or harassed. Right @RadioFreeTom?— Ben Caspi (@Ben Caspi) 1641144820
Some came in the form of common sense.
And some came in the form of the #VeryAsian hashtag.
As a #VeryAsian journalist and mentor, I like taking young journalists out for #VeryAsian dumplings at Hello Dumpling in East Dallas. Oh, yeah, some of the young journalists are also #VeryAsian. @KalleyHuang @julianna_morano @praveenavsoma @zaynasyed_ https://twitter.com/MichelleLiTV/status/1477493641732149248\u00a0\u2026pic.twitter.com/v21cOLavdr— Tom Huang (@Tom Huang) 1641141423
In fact, the phrase caught on like wildfire, resulting in "Very Asian" merch for a good cause.
The response to #VeryAsian has been AMAZING...\n\nA lot of you asked for ways to support. Well, @Gia_Vang + I heard you: http://veryasian.us\u00a0\n\nYou can buy a wearable but be quick - up for a limited time. All proceeds go to @aaja after costs to support #AAPI journalists. 1/2pic.twitter.com/xyJ2mPKTyG— Michelle (@Michelle) 1641319265
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:
You asked, @Gia_Vang listened. Now little kid clothes for the lil dumpling in your life.\n\nAgain, limited sale... all proceeds go to @aaja after costs!pic.twitter.com/YV0D324xbI— Michelle (@Michelle) 1641326647
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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