People gather to support anchor criticized for ‘being very Asian’

People gather to support anchor criticized for ‘being very Asian’

We’ve seen people call news stations before to complain about news anchors for incredible reasons, 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 host for NBC St. Louis. New Year’s Day, in a segment on traditional New Year’s dishes, she shared: “I ate dumpling soup. That’s what many Koreans do.”

Nicely, right? A bold cultural tradition to learn about if someone was not already familiar with it.

Or, if you’re the sad woman who called the station to complain, an “offensive” statement Li should have kept to himself. Yes really.


Li shared a recording of the woman’s one-minute call in which she said she was “offended” that Li shared her tradition. “I do not think it was appropriate that she said that and she is very Asian … she can keep her Korean to herself.”


The woman’s insistence that a white person could not say something similar about a cultural tradition, of course, makes no sense. If an anchor had Irish ancestry and said their family ate corned beef and cabbage because it’s a traditional New Year’s meal in Ireland, would they be fired? Uh no. How this woman confused a specific cultural tradition with someone making a generalization about white people is confusing, and her complaints that an Asian American “is very Asian” are even more so.

The responses were prompt 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 like a steppe fire, resulting in “Very Asian” merch for a good cause.


Together with another anchor, Gia Vang, Li made a website with shirts and hats with “Very Asian” on them, some of them with Li’s handwriting. For a limited time, people can buy these “very Asian” wearables, and all proceeds go to the Asian American Journalists Association, an organization that supports Asian American journalists, works to promote diversity in newsrooms, and strives to ensure fair and accurate coverage of communities of color.

They even have merch for #VeryAsian kids:


If anyone wants to complain about a woman who does her job and is herself just because she is of Asian descent, at least something good can come out of it. Michelle Li should not have been exposed to that woman’s racism, but it’s encouraging to see how she and those who support her take that lemon and make lemonade out of it.

To donate directly to the Asian American Journalists Association, go here.

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