The viewer also complained that Li received special treatment; she felt that white anchors who mentioned foods they liked to eat during the holidays would have been fired instead.
Li’s comment came after reading a story about classic foods Americans eat on New Year’s Day. She said that, as ‘a lot of Korean people do’, she ate dumpling soup. The comment was meant to make the segment inclusive.
“The first time I read that (story at 5 p.m.), I thought, ‘Are those American traditions? Because those seem very southern,” Li said in an interview with Food TODAY“And, you know, I just don’t remember those traditions.”
Li told Food TODAY that while she initially had no intention of sharing the voicemail, she thought about it for a while and decided it needed to be heard.
“I’d like to say something back,” Li tweeted on Jan. 1.
The clip quickly went viral with many viewers reclaiming the comment intended to offend Li by turning it into a hashtag, #Very Asian, and sharing stories about what they do to show their identity.
Li went on to explain why she shared what she ate an article for KSDK News:
The reason I said that is because I am an Asian American and of Korean descent. I grew up in Missouri and was raised by white parents. I reconnected with my Korean family in 1998 and since then I have been incorporating Korean culture into my life.
So, like many American families, we do a mix of traditions, if at all. While looking at my own social media feeds, I saw many of my friends eating a mix of foods and playing games: Korean dumpling soup, Chinese noodles, kale, and so on. And since I have a mixed race son, I think it is important to expose him to Korean culture in our daily life.
When I read that story, I thought, let me add a little line, because who controls American culture these days? I am American. My friends are American. And even growing up in Missouri, I didn’t grow up eating kale, cornbread, or pork on New Year’s Eve. My sister-in-law actually said she grew up eating pickled herring. We all have different and shared experiences.
My point is, I thought it was important for me to mention a little phrase as a jest, but I didn’t mind.
Li also noted that the viewers’ comments come amid record levels of violence against Asian Americans in the US
According to Stop AAPI hate, a coalition of organizations dedicated to tackling anti-Asian discrimination, at least 10,370 incidents of anti-Asian bias were reported from March 19, 2020 to September 30. This data, along with others, confirms an increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans. Last month, FBI data showed that the number of hate crimes increased by 76% in 2020.
“This climate has been really scary in many ways,” Li said. “I’m still very careful about where I go and who I am and I hate that — that I had to change my behavior based on the actions of others.”
But while some were “offended” by her attempt to be inclusive and American – because America is full of different cultures – others were proud and grateful for her mention.
Not to mention, Li also had the support of her station.
“KSDK fully supports our outstanding award-winning presenter/reporter Michelle Li. A viewer advised Michelle to “keep her Korean to herself” when Michelle spoke on an ad-libreed newscast about the Korean tradition of eating dumpling soup for good luck on New Year’s Day. At KSDK, we embrace diversity in the people we hire, the stories we tell and our local community. We will continue to support Michelle and celebrate diversity and inclusion.”
From local viewers to celebrities, people came together to support Li and share their own stories on social media. A viewer’s hatred helped spark a movement.
Speaking to NBC Asian America, Li said she was very shocked at how quickly she received a response from individuals after posting the video.
“It turned into something really beautiful, where instead of this discouraging feeling I had the night before, it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, people are sharing pictures of their families and their happy New Year’s meals, and they’re using this hashtag to say something. , hashtag #VeryAsian, to show support and solidarity.’”
“It just felt like this racist, ugly phone call became a real gift,” she added.
Li told Food TODAY that she is very excited to see where the hashtag #Very Asian goes and plans to call back the woman who left her a voicemail to invite her to get dumplings together.
“Maybe we could call it a segment, ‘Dumplings with Michelle’ or something,” she laughed.
She even changed both her Twitter and Instagram bios to read “VERY ASIAN.”
Frankly, I’m here for it. I am super Asian and had chicken with rice on New Years Day – yes, with both the RED and WHITE sauce. But I wish I had had dumplings.
Americans eat all kinds of food. What did you eat for New Years? Share your food photos and favorite recipes! I would like to try them.