St. CNN reported that the Missouri news anchor was deeply wounded when a viewer criticized her for being “too Asian” but within hours, Asian Americans across the country were standing by her side.
Last week, an unidentified woman called CNN’s KSDK rose up in St. Louis, Missouri to complain that Michelle Lee, a broadcaster and reporter for the station, mentioned her choice of New Year’s meal during a segment on food traditions for the holiday.
At the end of the clip, the 42-year-old presenter said that she ate dumpling soup and explained that this is “what a lot of Koreans do.”
Her comments prompted the viewer to call the station and leave a message for a minute calling me racist.
“Hey, this evening your Asian announcer mentioned something about being Asian, and Asians eat dumplings on New Year’s Day. And I’m offended about that because what if one of your white announcers said, ‘Okay, eat these eggs on New Year’s Day,’ said the caller in the voice message” day of the year.” I don’t think it was very appropriate to say that, and she was very Asian. I do not know. She can keep her Korean to herself.”
The caller added, “Well, sorry. It was annoying. Because if a white person said that, they would be fired (chuckles). So, say something about what eggs eat. Well, thank you,” the caller added.
The announcer told CNN that the voicemail was initially heard by a co-worker of Lee who was “impressed” by it and quickly shared it with Lee. When she heard me, she was shocked and in excruciating pain, cried and went to bed feeling down, she said Monday during the newscast on her station.
“That night my husband really gave me a big and long hug because he knows 42 years in this body has absorbed 42 years of racism and discrimination and sometimes actual violence and the belief that some people are losing their lives just because a racist is upset,” he told me on Monday.
Lee was raised by white parents in Missouri and has spent many years reconnecting with Korean culture and trying to bring this part of her heritage into her family’s life. For her, the voicemail was a reminder of the challenges she faced on her personal journey.
“It sucks. You’re just trying to do the hard work it takes to figure out who you are, to feel good about yourself, to do all these things, and then when someone cuts you like that, it puts you in a hole in the head that sometimes leads to old wounds” .
That night, Lee said she posted a video on social media listening to the viewer’s voicemail because she wanted to urge others to do better. Within hours, many Asian Americans responded by sharing their New Year’s food traditions and stating they were proud to be #VeryAsian.
One of them was Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, who tweeted that she had dumplings for the New Year, too.
In a statement, Lynn’s employer said he fully supports her and will continue to celebrate diversity and inclusion.
“At the KSDK, we embrace diversity in the people we hire, the stories we tell, and our local community,” the TV station’s statement said.
While the voicemail was “wrong and ugly,” she tells me the support she’s received from people across the United States has been overwhelming and something she considers a gift.
This made her realize that there was still a lot to be done to increase inclusivity for Asian Americans and other communities and see “there is only a strong desire that people want to be seen and valued”. In the next few weeks, Li and fellow journalist Jia Fang will sell “Very Asian” T-shirts, hats and other clothing in support of the Asian American Journalists Association.
Lee tells me that the idea behind voicemail is not representative of the majority of St. Louis or even the state. “A terrible voicemail has produced a million times more than that,” she said. “I definitely think more people are kind and kind.”
But she says the feeling she got after listening to the voicemail is “slight” compared to the racism and anti-Asian violence that many people of Asian descent experience in the United States.
“There are people who have lost their lives or are seriously injured because of racism,” he told me. “What happened to me is very insignificant, but I appreciate it because it turned out to be a blessing. A lot of people responded, and we get a lot of positivity from it.”