Korean American News Anchor Michelle Li Launches The Very Asian Foundation With Help From Ellen DeGeneres

She and the caller of the infamous voicemail have also reconciled.

Korean American journalist and news anchor Michelle Li for NBC affiliate KSDK of St. Louis made headlines on New Year’s when a caller complained about her mentioning traditional foods for the holiday.

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 appropriate that she said that and she’s being very Asian, and I don’t know… She can keep her Korean to herself.

— Viewer


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A post shared by Michelle Li (@michellelitv)

That negative interaction sparked a positive movement. After Li posted her reaction to the call on social media, she’s been met with a tremendous amount of love and support.

Since then, people have shared their own stories and traditions. Netizens have shared posts, hashtagging ‘#VeryAsian.” This created a movement.

To see people I admire tweet their opinions or personal stories was surreal… Some of them reached out personally, and some of them even gave advice on a way forward to continue the momentum. When it started going viral, it was a little terrifying… You start thinking, ‘How many times did I put my kid out there? Am I going to get in trouble with my boss?’ You start to realize how much control you don’t have in that situation, and you have to just hope for the best — which I am so lucky because I think the outcome was better than I could have ever imagined.

— Michelle Li to NextShark

It’s been weeks after the event, but it hasn’t ended. In fact, it’s only getting started. The Missouri-based news anchor Michelle Li has officially launched The Very Asian Foundation. This organization aims to amplify the AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) community.

While this recent incident of a racist call on New Year’s was the first to go viral for Li, it’s certainly not the first. She’s been working in the industry for over twenty years.

I’ve been called Connie Chung, Tricia Takanawa, Michelle Kwan, etc., and two of those recently… But I’ve also been called Asian slurs, which I always think is hilarious because if you’re calling me a gook, you are actually just calling me ‘soup’ or ‘country,’ since that’s what the Korean word ‘guk’ means. If you’re calling me another Asian slur, it shows your ignorance about who I am.

— Michelle Li

She recalled a time that a viewer called in to complain about Li covering a Memorial Day event. This upset caller assumed she was Japanese…

She told my producer, ‘Get that damn Jap off the air! How dare you disrespect our country…’

— Michelle Li

Li knows she’s not alone. She’s not the first Asian news anchor or journalist to be targeted due to their race, but she wishes that she’d be the last.

People have thrown money at me and asked me to ‘love them long time…’ Once, someone threw a box of rice at me. Even as a kid, there were boys who drove up and down our school with confederate flags, and a boy once told me his dad didn’t want us to date because we could end up together and have mixed kids.

— Michelle Li

White parents raised Michelli Li as a Korean adoptee in Missouri. She reconnected with her Korean family and culture in 1998. So, she’s experienced tribulations from both sides.

I’ve had Korean people tell me it was a shame I was adopted, my Korean family is made of terrible people, and I am a broken person. All of these racist, ignorant incidents started very young, as it tends to do, and it simply compounds over the years. Little girls get hypersexualized, and little boys get emasculated before they understand what is being said, and it’s trauma that carries into adulthood.

— Michelle Li

After experiencing so much hardship herself, Li proactively makes a change to help others. So, on Wednesday, she guested on the hit American daytime TV show The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Michelle Li (left) and Ellen DeGeneres (right) | TheEllenShow/YouTube

There she spoke to host Ellen about the viral video. She also explained how it ultimately inspired the start of the “Very Asian Movement.”

We have a board, and we’ve had a lot of wonderful leaders and influencers in St. Louis and across the country who’ve given countless hours to help [set] this up… We also have grassroots efforts going here in St. Louis, Seattle and Minneapolis right now. We know we will evolve, but at the very least we will form something that will make an impact in communities.

— Michelle Li

Now, The Very Asian Foundation has begun. To kick things off, nonprofit Tisbest partnered with Ellen to gift Li a $15,000 USD check.

| Very Asian

You can now visit the new foundation’s website. It speaks on “amplifying diverse AAPI voices.” To support, you can purchase merchandise that will help fund other pro-Asian movements and organizations such as Stop AAPI Hate and the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA). It’s 100% a worthy cause.

| Very Asian

The past few weeks have certainly been a “rollercoaster of emotions,” as Li described. She explained to NextShark“I was hurt thinking about the many times I’ve endured similar acts of racism and hatred. I felt subhuman in a way. It was a rollercoaster of emotions, to say the least, but I think that’s what happens when someone processes something hateful.”

I was just so shocked right after hearing the call because it seemed so ludicrous. But a few hours later, it felt heavy and sad. I started internalizing so much of what she said and how she said it. I got angry that she took the time to find our station number and make the effort to leave a voicemail as if to speak to a manager.

— Michelle Li

| Very Asian

Despite everything, Li and the caller have reconciled. The news anchor revealed that they spoke just as she had hoped. Previously, she said that she wanted to meet up and speak.

Someone tweeted me something like, ‘Well, what would you say to her?’ I can’t find the tweet because so many have come and gone since then. But I responded with something like, ‘I would say thank you. Thank you for giving me the motivation to be #extraAsian.’ We are all just people trying to exist. 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.

— Michelle Li

She updated Ellen and NextShark, revealing that the woman called again. This time, they spoke, and ultimately, the lady apologized.

It’s a very complicated conversation, but ultimately, she apologized and I accepted… We had a long talk, and we said we’d meet each other when it’s COVID-safe for a chat. …I don’t want to see her canceled. In fact, I do not know her name. I just know her voice. She ultimately gave me an incredible gift, and the most important thing is that we are both safe. There are people who get hurt or killed everyday because of racist behavior. That didn’t happen here. We are all growing. No one is perfect. And we can move on without her.

— Michelle Li

Michelle Li | KSDK

What started as a hurtful and negative experience inspired love and change for the world through example. It’s sparked a movement and foundation.

I think as simple as it sounds, we need to find a way to reach self-acceptance and ultimately self-love. And we can do that by accepting the fact that we play many roles and represent many identities. Everyone has multiple identities. No one is just one thing.

— Michelle Li

It’s time for everyone to take pride in their identity and practice self-love and acceptance.

I have fought with being too white, too Asian, too big, too small, too loud, too submissive, too mom-ish… or not American enough, not Asian enough, not this, not that. At some point, I’m just me. And when I can love all of me, I can be better to all the people around me.

— Michelle Li

Read more below:

Korean American News Anchor Receives Hate From Viewer Just For Mentioning New Year’s Traditions During Segment

Source: NextShark and Very Asian

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