A SAG-AFTRA panel of Asian-American actors and broadcasters expressed hope in the present day that the current rise in hate crimes towards Asian Americans will proceed to unify their communities and the nation towards centuries-old discrimination and bigotry. SAG-AFTRA nationwide vp Clyde Kusatsu identified simply how a lot attitudes have modified since he was a younger man, and the way rather more progress nonetheless must be made for fairness to be achieved.
You can watch the total hourlong panel dialogue, co-sponsored by the Asian American Journalists Association, above.
Kusatsu, talking on Wednesday on the union’s #StopAsianHate panel, recalled that as a younger theater main at Northwestern University within the late Nineteen Sixties, he was requested by a professor why he wished to be an actor, given that there have been so few roles for Asian Americans. “There weren’t many on the screen and on TV who looked like me in those days, except for stereotypes,” he mentioned. “In my freshman year, I had a professor who stopped me in the hall and asked me why I wanted to be an actor, because there’s only The Teahouse of the August Moon and The King and I, and how could I possibly think of making a living? I was shocked and humiliated, but sometimes things happens for a purpose. It made me determined to be 10-times better than a white actor if that’s what it took to get me there.”
SAG-AFTRA Leaders Urge Members To Lead The Fight To Combat Wave Of Hate Against Asian Americans
Undeterred, he turned a working member of the theater division, enjoying character roles, and realized that “the audiences, if you were good, were accepting of you, no matter where you came from or your background.” After graduating, he moved to L.A. and joined the East West Players, a troupe whose objective, he mentioned, “was to show the industry that Asian actors could do more than the laundryman and houseboy.” That would launch a movie and TV profession spanning almost 50 years and over 300 movie and TV roles.
“Growing up in Hawaii, I was very much aware of the prejudice, and it wasn’t fair and it wasn’t right,” he mentioned. “But I learned one thing: if you are going to protest and advocate for change, you better have examples of how to do it. And that’s the powerful role of SAG-AFTRA: to build a vision of how to challenge and correct the bias, and to unite people under the union banner. And I see unity now, and that is the silver lining of this all. Before, it was anti-Japanese, or anti-Chinese or anti-Vietnamese. But this time, everyone has the face of the hate and prejudice against AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islanders), and we are rallying around AAPI. So I proudly identify with that and the fellowship of shared purpose.”
The panel, which was moderated by WAVE 3 News anchor and reporter Maira Ansari, is a part of the union’s Stop the Hate Week exploring points affecting Black, Latino, Asian American, Native American, Middle Eastern/North African, LGBTQ, trans, disabled, and senior performers – and their depictions on display screen.
“I know that many of us still cannot shake the images of the horrific violence that the Asian American community endured just a few weeks ago in Atlanta,” mentioned SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris, who hosted in the present day’s panel. “Gun violence is an incredibly tragic reality of life in our country. But this particularly gruesome act that took the lives of eight people, six of whom were Asian women, was clearly built on the hate and racism that permeates our country. Our Asian sisters and brothers have confronted racism and hate for decades, but that hate and racism has been especially inflamed in the past few years and given extra fuel by political leaders who targeted and singled out the Asian community on the back of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
She didn’t point out former President Trump by identify, however many blame him for contributing to the rise of hate crimes towards Asian Americans by referring to the coronavirus because the “Kung Flu” and consistently blaming China for unleashing the virus onto the world. SAG-AFTRA was within the means of kicking Trump out of the union for inciting the January 6 rebel on the U.S. Capitol, however he resigned in February earlier than he might be expelled.
Carteris mentioned that SAG-AFTRA members who’re a part of the Asian American Pacific Islander group expertise this hatred “on multiple levels, as broadcasters who have been covering the Atlanta murders and the broader Asian American bullying and violence. And often times, when they do their jobs, they too become targets. For Asian American Pacific Islander actors, discrimination is not a new phenomenon. Together, broadcasters and performers, and our entire SAG-AFTRA community, are taking up the urgent discussion, and hopefully solutions, on how communities and the media can help stop the hate.”
Ren Hanami, nationwide chair of the SAG-AFTRA Asian Pacific American Media Committee, mentioned that she is “grateful that our union has chosen this important time to elevate the emergence of the need to act, not just talk, about equity, diversity and inclusion…At this moment, our community has been deeply affected by the events taking place in society, with the recent horrific murders in Atlanta and the broader documented rise in violence against Asian Americans, which our community has been well-aware of, and is a direct result of the continued fanning of hatred by political figures, that has only underscored the need for our work.”
Juju Chang, co-anchor of ABC News’ Nightline, talked in regards to the challenges she’s confronted protecting mass capturing, together with the March 16 murders at three Asian spas in Atlanta. “I have spent a lot of time compartmentalizing when I’m out covering stories,” she mentioned. I used to be eager about all of the mass shootings that I’ve coated, from the Vegas capturing, the Orlando capturing, the Newtown capturing; however after I after I was in Atlanta after the shootings at three Asian-themed spas, I couldn’t assist however see myself mirrored within the victims. And after I interviewed Randy Park, one of many sons of victims, I noticed my son in his eyes. So it brings up an collected grief and trauma that I’ve been working via very slowly, as a result of I feel it’s essential to unpack the entire issues that we’re uncovered to and course of and replicate on. But I’ve additionally been uplifted by so lots of my buddies and allies and colleagues who’ve despatched me messages of care and concern, and after I see folks like [fellow panelists] Olivia [Munn[ and Brian [Tee] and others arise and communicate on behalf of our group’s behalf, I additionally really feel uplifted.”
Actress Olivia Munn (The Newsroom, The Predator) mentioned that regardless of the rise in hate, “there has been this really great feeling of unification in our community…We have really unified to support each other and to amplify and try to make a change. That has been a really great feeling. And even though it’s a very scary time right now and there’s still so much violence that’s happening right now against our community, I do feel that there’s a lot of hope that we’re going in the right direction.”
“It sometimes feels like it’s two steps forward and then 10 steps back,” mentioned Dion Lim, an anchor and reporter at KGO-TV San Francisco. “But this is a chance now – people are paying attention. The world is watching and listening, so that gives me comfort to keep going.”
Like NBC News correspondent Vicky Nguyen, who visibly held again tears on air within the wake of the Atlanta shootings, Lim mentioned that she too has “broken down a number of times on TV, but I’ve come to a point where it’s okay, because no one has ever said ‘It’s not okay for you to feel this way.’ And I think that breaking down this stigma is so helpful because I was ashamed for a long time to show any emotion because we have been taught not to – to just report the news. But I think if you don’t, then something’s wrong – you’re almost not human. It’s perfectly acceptable these days.” Indeed, one of the crucial memorable moments in information broadcasting historical past got here when the nice Walter Cronkite choked up on air whereas asserting that President Kennedy had died from an murderer’s bullet in November 1963.
Actor Brian Tee (Chicago Med, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift), mentioned that he too is hopeful that some good will come from all of the hate and violence. “For myself, I do feel a sense of hope. I do feel this sense of community really, truly coming together like I never have in my entire career. Unfortunately, it took this much to make it all kind of come together. So there is that sense of hope that we can unify and create progress that is genuine and that is real for the next generations that come behind us.”