St. Louis TV Anchor recovers #VeryAsian in viral video


  • In a viral video posted by Michelle Li, the KSDK reporter captioned the audio of a racist caller complaining about her “very Asian” New Year’s cooking traditions.

A racist appellant’s complaint against KSDK reporter Michelle Li – for committing the alleged offense of “being very Asian” – has become something more than just a viral video worthy of the internet’s outrage: indeed, a day and millions of views later, a video of the Caller’s Intolerance launched a wave of support for Asian Americans under a hashtag version of the original insult.

Uploaded by Li on January 1, the video shows the award-winning reporter reacting to a voicemail message from someone claiming to be offended by Li’s on-air coverage of the New Year’s meals – which included Li noting, “J ate meatball soup. That’s what a lot of Koreans do.

Li’s innocuous remark upset a viewer: Hours after the segment aired, Li listened to the voicemail message explaining that the inclusion of dumplings had “offended” the appellant, because, as the appellant argued, , a white anchor would not be allowed to make a similar observation about New Years’ food traditions.

“I don’t think it was appropriate for her to say that,” the caller said of Li’s comment on the dumpling. “She’s very Asian and, I don’t know, she can keep her Korean to herself. Sorry. It was boring, because if a white person said they would get fired.”

Li posted the video on Saturday night, writing in a caption, “I’d like to say something back.” On the video, as the audio of the call plays, Li sips a cup and lets his expression speak for him.

While Li was silent in the video, the message was clear – and as thousands of people retweeted and shared the clip, many added words of support and descriptions of their own New Year’s cooking traditions. Then Li added a two-word description to her Twitter bio: “VERY ASIAN.”

Soon, the same message appeared in the responses and shares of the original video, which soon came to include a wave of solidarity from journalists of Asian descent across the country.

Chenue Her, an anchor with Iowa ABC-affiliate, tweeted the hashtag with a photo of him cooking up a range of New Years dishes, writing: “Me being #VeryAsian with my big Hmong family this holiday: spring rolls, boiled vegetables and pork belly, Hmong pepper and so, so much white rice.”

The hashtag also caught the attention of Weijia Jiang, White House senior correspondent for CBS News, who tweeted that she is “proud to be #VeryAsian” alongside Li.

“On New Year’s Day, the Chinese eat noodles to celebrate longevity, dumplings for prosperity, and whole fish as a hope for abundance, to name a few,” Jiang tweeted. “It is a joy to discover the traditions of other cultures.”

Celebrities have also defended Li. Actress Margaret Cho shared Li’s initial tweet, with Cho adding, “I’ll say it, give me her #VeryAsian number.” Star Trek actor and icon Georges takei repackaged the video in his own tweet, writing: “This is … something. I love all the #VeryAsian support online. 💕 This is how you respond to such ignorance.”

Amid the flood of support, Li and others noted that the caller is just one example of racism experienced by more than people of Asian descent.

In this case, however, the caller’s racism is also indicative of ignorance: the caller’s attempt to argue that a hypothetical white news anchor would be “fired” in the same situation indicates that he did not. may not have even watched Li’s segment on New Years Foods. As shown by the approximately 30 second segment itself, Li’s remark about the dumplings comes at the end, only after she’s already gone through a list of greens, black-eyed peas, cornbread, and pork. It was a time when Li reported from his own station. Following diversified by adding his experience.

Yet for people like the appellant the idea that culture contains more than whites is seen as a provocation. One of Li’s colleagues at KSDK, Abby Llorico, tweeted Li’s video and noted, “The hate is real and we have much bigger issues to raise, but it’s proof: so many people just don’t want to hear it. ”

The racist caller may not have wanted to hear about other cultures and traditions, but his complaint against Li turned out the other way around. As for Li, in a Monday interview with the Washington post, she said, “I think what happened to me was ugly”, but continued, “I now see this call as a gift because I have seen the good in people in a way that I did not. have never seen before. It inspires me to be better and learn more too. ”

The positive effects of a racist caller continue to show on social media, where #VeryAsian was all the rage on Monday. Using the insulting words, people shared their favorite New Year’s traditions, special connections to their culture’s cuisine and tips for catching the best dumplings in Saint-Louis.

In one of the hundreds of responses, a Twitter user asked Li a question: What would she say to the caller if given the opportunity?

Li replied, “Thanks for motivating me to be #extra-Asian.”

Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at
@D_Towski. Email the author at

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