A TV viewer told anchor Michelle Li to “keep her Korean to herself.”
The Emmy-winning broadcast journalist who once worked at KING 5 in Seattle did a short segment in early January on KSDK-TV in St. Louis, Missouri—about things people eat for New Year’s Day.
She mentioned that she, and others who are of Korean descent, often eat tteokguk, or soup with sliced rice cakes, on New Year’s. Li said that she adds dumplings to hers.
Li’s story prompted a woman to call in to the station and leave a message saying that Li was “being very Asian’” and that she should “keep her Korean to herself.”
The woman also said that a white broadcaster would be fired for saying what they ate on New Year’s, which was ironic since most of Li’s short segment focused on what most Americans eat on Jan. 1.
In response, Li posted a video to Twitter of her silently listening to the woman’s message, with a caption that read, “I’d love to say something back.”
Li’s tweet went viral, prompting the (hash)VeryAsian hashtag and drawing national news. Li has since changed her Twitter handle to (hash)VeryAsian Michelle.
Her initial reaction to the message was shock. But it didn’t take long, Li said, for her feelings to start getting “really heavy. Like, going back to my childhood, all of these things that people have said to me.”
Ultimately, Li said, the racist message was “a gift.” After people started giving her positive feedback online, she realized, “Who can say that the world really stood up for you?”
Li said she called the woman who left the message, and that the woman ultimately apologized.
Li and a friend have since created clothing with the “Very Asian” slogan, which they’re selling to benefit the Asian American Journalists Association.
What better time than now—Lunar New Year—to celebrate your VeryAsian-ness! Let’s turn this into a collective and positive moment of AAPI pride!
If you’d like to show your support to Li and/or just fly your VeryAsian flag, check out the T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, and other merchandise at very-asian.com.
Proceeds will go to the Very Asian Foundation and Stop AAPI Hate—which was created after AAPIs began to be verbally and physically abused by people who wrongly tied their race to the spread of COVID-19.
Show why you are proud to be #VeryAsian, and have yourself a fantastic Lunar New Year!