Viral video sparks #VeryAsian solidarity movement

"I said I ate dumpling soup because that's what a lot of Korean people do," said Michelle Li.

Nydia Han Image
Friday, February 4, 2022
#VeryAsian viral video sparks solidarity movement
On the first day of 2022, Michelle Li shared a tradition with her viewers in St. Louis. Then, a couple of hours later she got a voicemail.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Many Korean American families, including mine, mark both the Lunar New Year and January 1 by making dumplings and rice cake soup.

"I said I ate dumpling soup because that's what a lot of Korean people do," said Michelle Li.

Li is a fellow Korean-American and news anchor. On the first day of 2022, she shared our tradition with her viewers in St. Louis.

"And then a couple of hours later, I got that voicemail," she said. "It was from a woman who said she was offended because if white people talk about what white people ate, they would get fired."

The caller also said, "I don't think it's appropriate that she said that and she was being Very Asian... She can keep her Korean to herself."

Li said when she first heard the voicemail, "I was shocked... and then it started feeling really heavy, and, and sad, like really sad."

Li tweeted the voicemail and it exploded on social media, inspiring thousands to use the #VeryAsian to share their own heritage and traditions.

With the help of others, Li turned this derogatory, negative comment into a fantastic movement of pride.

"There's like an awakening in our culture, in American culture, to share our American stories," Li said.

And not just Asian American stories.

"People in the transracial adoptee community, in the LGBTQ community, people who are of mixed race," said Li.

Tens of thousands from all backgrounds, cultures, and races had the same powerful response when I spoke out after a driver yelled "This is America" at me a few years ago.

"People are so great about showing their support now and I saw so many hashtags - like my favorite ones were openly black, very Jewish and it made me feel so seen," Li said.

Li has now created The Very Asian Foundation which received a big boost from the Ellen DeGeneres show: a $15,000 check.

"And what I would like to do is continue raising money for organizations like AAJA," Li said.

AAJA stands for the Asian American Journalists Association which both Li and I are members.

"Because they can make actionable change, as you know, not only through its members but like creating a more equitable newsroom and also just calling out things when they're wrong. I mean, fair coverage is so important," Li said.

Li has since talked to the woman who left her that voicemail.

"She was impacted, she was touched, she watched the commentary that we did, or that I did, and then called and said, 'Hey, it's me, and I am so so sorry, that I hurt you,'" Li said.

"We're just not going to solve everything in one conversation. So we did say that we would meet each other one day when it's COVID safe," she said.

Li said she hopes a takeaway from the Very Asian movement is to give each other grace.

"You know, we don't have to cancel each other. We can move on in a positive light and still celebrate ourselves," she said. "I feel like this has been such a great year to have this reflection, but also just really manifest change. And so I'm really excited about it."