ASIAN AMERICANS IN THE TIME OF COVID-19

Encore: April 30, 2021

HARI KONDABOLU ON RISE OF ANTI-ASIAN HATE

SAYS CURRENT CLIMATE SIMILAR TO ANTI-MUSLIM BIAS AFTER 9/11

UPCOMING PBS SERIES “ASIAN AMERICANS” EXPLORES HISTORICAL ROOTS OF XENOPHOBIA AND RACISM

Comedian, documentarian, and activist Hari Kondabolu (“The Problem with Apu”) joins MetroFocus to talk about the troubling rise in anti-Asian hate crimes amid the coronavirus pandemic, and about how that hate is linked to historical biases against the Asian community.  Kondabolu will participate in a digital town hall hosted by The Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), along with Washington, D.C. PBS station WETA. The town hall will be presented in connection with the upcoming five-part PBS series “ASIAN AMERICANS” (May 11-May 12), which explores the impact Asian Americans have had on the country, and how they continue to influence society and culture.

“Asian Americans” premieres on 5/11 and 5/12 at 8pmET, you can watch the live stream here.

Aired on April 29, 2020. 

TRANSCRIPT

WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS,' I AM RAFAEL PI ROMAN.

WE HAVE SEEN A DRAMATIC RISE OF CORONAVIRUS.

THIS PARTICULAR GROUP OF IMMIGRANTS HAVE BEEN THE TARGETED GROUP.

OUR PBS SERIES OF ASIAN AMERICAN THAT WE'LL AIR ON PBS BEGINNING MAY 11th WILL EXPLORE THE DARK HISTORY.

JOINING US NOW TO TALK ABOUT THE PAST AND THE PRESENT IS PART OF OUR INITIATIVE, A COMEDIAN AND DOCUMENTARY, HARRY.

HELLO, HOW ARE YOU RAFAEL.

VERY GOOD SIR.

YOU WILL BE PARTICIPATING IN THE DOCUMENTARY AND YOU WILL BE PARTICIPATING IN A LIVE-STREAM FACEBOOK EVENT STARTING APRIL 30th.

THAT'S RIGHT.

LISTEN MAN, THANK YOU FOR JOINING US, IT IS A REAL HONOR TO HAVE YOU HERE.

I KNOW ABOUT YOUR DOCUMENT AND YOUR WORK.

LET ME START WITH YOU.

IN THIS DOCUMENTARY SERIES, YOU SAY AT ONE POINT THAT GROWING UP IN QUEENS HAVE TRAINED YOU FOR THE FUTURE.

YES.

WHAT DID YOU MEAN BY THAT?

WHEN PEOPLE TALK ABOUT WHAT THEY ARE AFRAID OF, THE FUTURE OF AMERICA, THEY TALK ABOUT INCREASING DIVERSITY AND PEOPLE SPEAKING DIFFERENT LANGUAGES AND MANY DIFFERENT CULTURES, LOOKING LIKE THE SAME AMERICA THEY GREW UP WITH AND THE THING IS IN AMERICA THEY'RE TALKING ABOUT THE GREAT DIVERSITY AND DIFFERENT CULTURES, THAT'S WHAT QUEENS, NEW YORK IS.

ONE OF THE MOST DIVERSE PLACES IN THE WORLD.

TO ME I GOT A TASTE OF THE WHOLE WORLD IN MY BACKYARD AND I FEEL THAT'S AN INCREDIBLE PRIVILEGE AND ALL THESE PEOPLE AROUND.

TO ME IS THE NORM.

IT ABSOLUTELY IS INCREDIBLE.

GROWING UP THERE I FEEL WHERE THIS NATION IS GOING SINCE IT IS GLOBALIZING THE WAY IT IS.

I FEEL MORE PREPARED FOR THAT THAN A LOT OF PEOPLE MAY BE.

ALL RIGHT, IN THE DOCUMENTARY YOU ALSO TALKED A LOT ABOUT 9/11 AND HOW THE EVENT CHANGED THE TRAJECTORY OF YOUR LIFE.

I FELT THAT I WAS SHELTERED IN QUEENS, NEW YORK.

IT DEALT WITH RACISM.

POST 9/11 YOU HAD PEOPLE BEING DETAINED AND DEPORTED BY OUR GOVERNMENT AND SO MANY OF VICTIMS OF HATE CRIMES AND SOUTH ASIAN ARABS AND MANY DIFFERENT SHADES OF BROWN.

IMMIGRANTS WERE TARGETED AND ALL OF A SUDDEN THIS COUNTRY I THOUGHT WAS MINE AS WELL DIDN'T FEEL SO MUCH LIKE MINE AND MADE ME QUESTION WHAT THE COUNTRY WAS AND MADE ME THINK ABOUT HOW THIS COUNTRY WAS FORMED AND THE LEGACY OF RACISM THAT'S BEEN THERE.

THAT'S ONE THING THE DOCUMENTARY DOES A GREAT JOB OF.

IT GIVES A LARGER CONTEXT FOR TODAY BY REPRESENTING VOICES THAT HAVE NOT BEEN REPRESENTED PREVIOUSLY AND CERTAINLY ME GOING BACK AND STUDYING A TRUER HISTORY WHERE YOU HEAR MANY DIFFERENT VOICES, CERTAINLY INFORMED ME OF WHAT I WAS BEING TAUGHT OF THE REALITY.

YOU BECAME KIND OF AN ACTOR ON THIS.

YOU DECIDED TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT AFTER THAT.

YES, WHEN I GRADUATED FROM COLLEGE, I WAS WITH THE ORGANIZATION CALLED 1 AMONE AME.

THE EXECUTIVE IS THE CONGRESSWOMAN.

SHE WAS AN EARLY MENTOR IN THAT ORGANIZATION.

IT WAS 2005.

IT WAS A FEW YEARS REMOVED FROM 9/11.

YOU CAN SEE THE AMOUNT OF IGNORANT AND ANGER AND GOVERNMENT TARGETING.

IT WAS JUST A FEW LOOSE CANNONS.

IT WAS THE GOVERNMENT OKAYING THIS KIND OF DISCRIMINATION WITH THEIR OWN ACTION AND STATEMENTS.

LET'S GO BACK TO WHAT YOU MENTIONED OF THE DOCUMENTARY THAT YOU ARE APART OF.

IT LOOKS AT THE PAST HISTORY TO SEE HOW IT INFORMS WHERE WE ARE GOING THROUGH NOW.

PARTICULARLY WITH THE ASIAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY AND DURING CORONAVIRUS.

I WONDER WHAT YOU ARE THINKING.

YOU THINK HISTORY HAVE INFORMED US OF OUR CURRENT.

ABSOLUTELY.

THE IDEA OF TARGETING A PARTICULAR GROUP OF PEOPLE AND BLAMING THEM FOR THE CURRENT SITUATION OF THE COUNTRY IS NOT NEW.

POST 9/11, SOUTH ASIANS AND ARABS WERE BLAMED.

THIS IS SOMETHING THE DOCUMENTARY TALKED ABOUT AND DETROIT IN THE LATE '70s OR EARLY '80s.

ALL OF A SUDDEN YOU HAVE ASIAN AMERICANS BEING TARGETED AND A FAMOUS CASE MENTIONED OF CHINESE AMERICANS THAT WAS KILLED BY A COUPLE OF WHITE MEN IN DETROIT AND AS A RESULT OF THAT, THE PEOPLE DID NOT GO TO JAIL, THEY PAID A $3,000 FINE AND THAT WAS KIND OF THE CONTEXT THEY WERE IN.

THAT'S THE SAME CONTEXT SOME WAYS, CERTAINLY THAT LEGACY REMAINS LARGE GROUP OF PEOPLE BEING TARGETED AND PEOPLE BEING UNINFORMED IN THE AMERICAN MAINSTREAM AND NOT SEEING PEOPLE DON'T LOOK AS THEIR NEIGHBORS OR FELLOW AMERICANS.

AGAIN, WE SEE IT REPEATING ITSELF.

THE TWO WHITE MEN WHO KILLED IN DETROIT BACK IN THE EA EARLY '80s.

THEY WERE AUTOWORKERS WHO WERE BLAMING CHIN BECAUSE THEY WERE JAPANESE.

JAPANESE CARS WERE BEING SOLD NOW.

ONE OF THE THINGS THAT'S DISTURBING ABOUT THIS DOCUMENTARY SERIES IS IT SHOWS HOW THROUGHOUT THE HISTORY OF ASIAN AMERICANS IN THIS COUNTRY, THEY HAD BEEN HIT AGAINST OTHER GROUPS FROM THE TIME OF THE HARD PRESS WORKING AMERICANS WERE AT THE FOREFRONT OF THAT FIGHT, RIGHT?

AND IT HAD OTHER EXAMPLES AND 1991, L.A. RIOTS THAT THE BIGGEST CONFLICT WITH QUEENS.

THE RIOTERS OF AMERICANS AND KOREA TOWN.

THE QUESTION IS YOU KNOW WHAT DOES THAT SAY TO ASIAN AMERICANS AND ACTORS WHO WANTED TO CREATE A RAINBOW COALITION TO FIGHT INJUSTICE OF THIS?

I MEAN THERE IS A LOT OF WORK THAT HAS TO BE DONE IN TERMS OF OUTREACH AND A LOT OF WORK THAT NEEDS TO BE DONE BETWEEN COMMUNITIES AND IT IS SO FUNNY TO ME WHEN PEOPLE TALK ABOUT THE FUTURE OF AMERICA BEING MINORITY WHITE, YOU KNOW?

IT HAS THE ASSUMPTION THAT EVERYONE ELSE IS UNITED AND FROM OUR HISTORY WE SHOW THAT'S NOT THE TRUTH.

AND, THERE IS A LOT OF CULTURAL DIVISIONS AND MISTRUST AND I FEEL LIKE ASIAN IMMIGRANTS HAVING THIS NOTATION OF BEING THE MODEL MINORITY, THAT MEANS THERE ARE OTHER MINORITIES THAT ARE DOING IT WRONG.

THERE IS NO HISTORICAL CONTEXT THERE.

THERE IS NO SOCIO-ECONOMIC EXPLANATIONS.

THEY'RE DOING RIGHT OR WRONG AND HITTING THAT GROUP AGAINST EACH OTHER HAS BEEN EFFECTIVE FOR HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS OF YEARS THIS IN COUNTRY.

THE IDEA THAT BLACK PEOPLE NEVER BE EQUAL OR AS TALENTED AS WHITE PEOPLE AS WELL AS THE IDEA THAT ASIAN PEOPLE WILL NEVER BE FULLY AMERICANS AND IT WILL KEEP US BOTH SEEN LESS THAN.

HOW DISTURBING YOU FIND QUITE A NUMBER OF RECENT POLLS SHOW THAT THE VAST MAJORITY OF AMERICANS IN DECLUDING MINORITI WANT TO STOP IMMIGRATION IN THIS COUNTRY.

SOUNDS FAMILIAR, RIGHT?

PEOPLE FIND EXCUSES TO STOP IMMIGRATION AND THAT'S THE WAY IT STAYS FOR QUITE SOME TIME WHETHER IT WAS POST 9/11 OR ANTI-IMMIGRATION, CIVIL LIBERTIES WERE OPPRESSED DURING THAT TIME LIKE THEY WERE LIMITED.

I FEEL LIKE ONCE THIS IS OVER, WE'LL GO BACK TO THE WAY THINGS ARE.

IT IS NEVER THAT EASY.

IT IS HARD FOR PEOPLE TO GIVE UP POWER ONCE THEY GET IT.

YOU KNOW SOMETHING ELSE THAT I WANT TO ASK YOU SEE HOW DISTURBING YOU FOUND IT.

WHEN PRESIDENT TRUMP BLOCKED TRAVEL FROM CHINA TO THE UNITED STATES IN JANUARY AFTER FIRST COUPLE OF CORONAVIRUS CASE WERE DISCOVER INSIDE THE UNITED STATES.

THE DEMOCRATS APPROVED JOE BIDEN AND NANCY PELOSI RACIST.

SINCE THEN JOE BIDEN SAID MAYBE IT WAS A RIGHT MOVE AND TRUMP WAS TOO SOFT.

NANCY PELOSI SAID THE 40,000 PEOPLE ALLOWED IN THE COUNTRY, MOST WERE NATURALIZATION AND GREEN CARDS.

THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN HELD BACK AS WELL.

I WONDER IF YOU FIND IT DISTURBING.

MORE THAN ANYTHING IS THE FRAMEWORK OF THIS IS A CHINESE VIRUS.

THIS IS A VIRUS THAT ALMOST AS IF IT WAS A WEAPON BEING USED BY A FOREIGN PARTY TO HURT THE REST OF THE WORLD.

THAT'S NOT WHAT IT IS.

IT IS NOT HOW DISEASES WORK OR VIRUSES WORK.

VIRUSES DON'T THINK OF CULTURAL BACKGROUND WHEN THEY ENTER THE BODY.

I FEEL LIKE IT IS VERY SAD.

THIS IS ALWAYS THE WAY GOING FOR THE LEAST LOWEST COMMON DENOMINATOR IN ORDER TO UNIFY PEOPLE THROUGH RACISM.

IF THERE IS A 'THEM,' IT IS EASY TO MAKE AN 'US.'

WHAT CRITICAL STEP YOU NEED TO BE TAKEN?

IT TAKES STRONG LEADERSHIP TO RIGHT UP FRONT TO SAY THIS IS SOMETHING THAT'S AFFECTING ALL HUMAN BEINGS THROUGHOUT THE WORLD, MANY DIFFERENT TYPES OF HUMAN BEINGS REGARDLESS OF AGE AND IMMIGRATION STATUS AND GENDER AND COLOR LIKE A VIRUS DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE IN THAT WAY.

IT IS NOT UP TO US NOT TO DISCRIMINATE.

THAT'S BEEN THE STRUGGLE BECAUSE WE DON'T HAVE A PRESIDENT AND LEADERSHIP THAT'S MAKING THOSE FIRM STANCES AND CLEAR STATEMENTS.

WHEN YOU ARE WILLING TO CHANGE CORONAVIRUS TO CHINESE VIRUS TO MAKE A LARGER POLITICAL POINT, TO SCORE SOME POINTS WITH YOUR CONSTITUENTS WITH THE PEOPLE THAT SUPPORTS YOU, CLEARLY WE ARE LACKING STRONG LEADERSHIP.

THAT'S WHAT WE NEED.

WE NEED TO REMIND PEOPLE THESE PEOPLE ARE NOT THE ENEMY.

THIS VIRUS IS ENEMY AND WE ARE ALL IN IT TOGETHER.

I FEEL THERE IS A FAILURE OF LEADERSHIP.

SOMETHING ELSE I FIND IRONIC OF THE PEOPLE WE PRAISE ON A DAILY BASIS, DOCTORS AND HEALTHCARE WORKERS AND DELIVERY PEOPLE AND TRUCKERS, THEY ARE THE IMMIGRANTS THAT THE POLLS ARE SAYING PEEL WOPLE WANT TO K OUT.

IT IS IMPORTANT TO MAKE THE CONNECTION OF A LOT OF THE LOW WAGE WORKERS ARE WORKING ARE AFRICAN-AMERICANS, THEY'RE IMMIGRANTS AND THEY'RE WORKING CLASS WHITE PEOPLE.

THE THE PEOPLE OF THE MOST VULNERABLE ARE THE PEOPLE WITH THE LEAST AMOUNT OF MONEY.

WE DON'T DISCUSS HOW IT CUTS CROSS RACE.

IT DOES.

PEOPLE WHO DON'T HAVE THE ABILITY TO NOT GO TO WORK OR JOBS WHO ARE NECESSARY AND VITAL AND THEY NEED THE MONEY IN ADDITION TO JOBS LIKE DOCTORS OR THINGS LIKE THAT.

WE HAVE TO LOOK AROUND AND SEE LIKE EVERYONE IS CHIPPING INTO FIGHT THIS THING WHETHER IT IS BY STAYING INSIDE OR WORKING JOBS THAT ARE NOW CERTAINLY SEEN AS ESSENTIAL LIKE I THINK SHOWING A COALITION OF PEOPLE FIGHTING THE VIRUS IS CRUCIAL TO REMIND PEOPLE THAT WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER.

DO YOU SIGNS THAT GIVES YOU OPTIMISM OF THE FUTURE WE'LL SEE AFTER CORONAVIRUS WILL BE LIKE THE QUEENS THAT YOU GROUP UP WITH.

YOU HAVE PATRAPPROXIMATELY 40 SECONDS.

I SEE A CERTAIN UNITY ON TELEVISION OR FILMS WHERE WE SEE DIVERSE POPULATION CS COMING TOGETHER.

WE CAN DO THAT IN REALITY AS WELL.

YOU HAVE BEEN SUCCESSFUL IN THAT FRONT AND I AM GLAD YOU ARE FIGHTING THAT FIGHT AND YOU JOINED US TODAY.

HARRY, THANK YOU SO MUCH.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, The Peter G. Peterson and Joan Ganz Cooney Fund, Bernard and Denise Schwartz, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, The Ambrose Monell Foundation, Janet Prindle Seidler, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

The WNET Group | Media Made Possible By All of You

© WNET All Rights Reserved.

825 Eighth Avenue

New York, NY 10019

BBB Logo Charity Navigator Logo