A Korean American news anchor in Missouri received an outpouring of support after a viewer complained about her for talking about dumpling soup on New Year’s Day.
Michelle Li, who works at KDSK-TV, an NBC affiliate based in St. Louis, was reporting on food Americans typically eat during New Year celebrations when she mentioned the ethnic dish.
“Greens actually symbolize wealth, we can guess why,” said Li, with a list shown on-screen. “Black-eyed peas represent coins, luck or the promise of prosperity. Cornbread is for gold, and eating it brings the hope of extra spending money in the new year. And then pork signifies prosperity and progress, because — get this — pigs root ahead as they eat, as opposed to backward, like chickens or those turkeys.”
Li ended the segment with the spontaneous reference to her heritage. “I ate dumpling soup, because that’s what a lot of Korean people do,” she said.
It’s subtle but people do notice! Something small but representation matters…we are not all eating cornbread, my friends… though it is delicious. https://t.co/RiSiP7JGLp pic.twitter.com/AFBLIgOhX6
— Michelle (@MichelleLiTV) January 2, 2022
Li received grateful comments and messages from people who felt represented by her remarks. However, one viewer stood out for taking the time to call to criticize her actions, saying that she was being “very Asian” and that she can “keep her Korean to herself.”
“Hi, this evening your Asian [thinker] mentioned something about being Asian, and Asian people eat dumplings on New Year’s Day. I kind of take offense to that because what if one of your white anchors said, ‘Well, white people eat this on New Year’s Day.’ I don’t think it was very appropriate that she said that,” the unidentified viewer said.
They continued, “She was being very Asian. I don’t know. She can keep her Korean to herself. Alright, sorry. It was annoying, because if a white person would say that, they would get fired. So, say something about what white people eat. Alright, thank you.”
Shortly after, Li filmed herself listening to the voicemail message. “I’d love to say something back,” she captioned the video posted on Twitter, which has now been viewed 3.2 million times.
I’d love to say something back. pic.twitter.com/zrXgiwQbR9
— Michelle (@MichelleLiTV) January 2, 2022
Li received a wave of supportive messages from celebrities, politicians, influencers, fellow journalists and social media users. As of Sunday night, the hashtag #VeryAsian was all over Twitter, with users showing photos of their own dumplings and declaring how proud they are of their Asian ancestries.
Proud to be #VeryAsian with @MichelleLiTV https://t.co/mqkjU68b6c
— Ken Jeong (@kenjeong) January 2, 2022
I’ll say it, give me her number #VeryAsian https://t.co/mwGywInx5x
— Margaret Cho (@margaretcho) January 2, 2022
I was being #VeryAsian with my boys by making dumplings on the New Year’s Day! https://t.co/YJOjiQaV0F pic.twitter.com/6yORVLta5S
— Andy Kim (@AndyKimNJ) January 3, 2022
🙋🏻♀️We had dumplings for New Year’s too! Proud to be #VeryAsian 🥟✨ https://t.co/10fzhu5hOM
— Michelle Wu 吳弭 (@wutrain) January 2, 2022
I was inspired by @MichelleLiTV and her #VeryAsian movement to put together a 고모 video on TikTok while finishing off the very last of my mandoo filling. 🇰🇷 https://t.co/pd9XWXb2rK
— The Korean Vegan, Esq. (@thekoreanvegan) January 3, 2022
The reason we are so divided is because people refuse to open their minds and worldviews. It’s a good thing to learn about cultures, experiences, and perspectives other than your own. Thank you for sharing @MichelleLiTV. Proud to be #VeryAsian https://t.co/T2feB4jC34
— Dave Lu 呂曉龍 (@davelu) January 3, 2022
As a #VeryAsian journalist and mentor, I like taking young journalists out for #VeryAsian dumplings at Hello Dumpling in East Dallas. Oh, yeah, some of the young journalists are also #VeryAsian. @KalleyHuang @julianna_morano @praveenavsoma @zaynasyed_ https://t.co/c119LKRyqD pic.twitter.com/v21cOLavdr
— Tom Huang (@tomthuang) January 2, 2022
I don’t just eat dumplings on NYE, I make them from scratch. I’m #VeryAsian and I’m proud. So, suck it up Karen. pic.twitter.com/kWSIq0avCr
— Woody (@Woodrow_PG) January 3, 2022
Li later wrote an article about the incident. In it, she described being raised by white parents and eventually reconnecting with her Korean roots.
Li stressed that while #VeryAsian has caught traction, she does not want to begrudge someone for having an opinion, even if she thinks it’s “racist, bigoted and wrong.”
“We are all just people trying to exist,” Li wrote. “If I had the chance to actually speak to this woman, I would love to have a heartfelt conversation with her — maybe we could do it over a bowl of dumplings. In St. Louis, there are a lot of great options.”
Featured Image via KSDK News (left) Michelle Li (@michellelitv) (right)