Jeannie Mai 'filled with so much anger' over rise of attacks on Asian Americans
Jeannie Mai never thought that the Bay Area in California, where she grew up, was racist. The Real host just thought it was some bad apples.
She recalls that when her aunts and uncles left Vietnam to join her family, racist words were sprayed on her car and on the side of her family's home. But overall the neighborhood was peaceful.
"It felt like we all existed together," said 42-year-old Mai of her predominantly Spanish-black neighborhood. "There were maybe a few people who didn't understand our culture and why we were there."
Looking back today, and in the US - including the Bay Area - Asian-American attacks have increased.
Chair of the Asia-Pacific-American Caucus in Congress, Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif. and other lawmakers at a virtual press conference last week said the attacks were part of a surge in anti-Asian American bias and xenophobia amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"What started as dirty looks and verbal assaults at the beginning of the pandemic escalated to physical assault and violence against innocent Asian Americans," Chu said. "Just as many Asian Americans have been preparing for the Lunar New Year in recent weeks, we have seen an increase in anti-Asian violence. "
Chu cited several attacks against Asian Americans, including the murder of 84-year-old Thai American Vicha Ratanapakdee and the recent surge in violence against seniors in Oakland, California's Chinatown.
"I'm sick in the stomach and full of anger and pain, especially when we are already aware of racist attacks and our systemic racism, which occurs worldwide and especially in our country for our black brothers and sisters," said Mai. "What have we not learned from 2020? And why are we now attacking our weakest who are already trying every day to survive COVID?"
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Mai uses her platform - through her talk show, social media presence and media interviews - to speak out against these attacks. The TV personality has 2.4 million followers on Instagram, 632,000 subscribers to her YouTube channel "Hello Hunnay with Jeannie Mai" and almost 260,000 followers on Twitter.
People might follow her for her outfits or YouTube content, but they'll also get a lot of tough news.
"That should be for everyone," says Mai.
Also raise awareness among other celebrities.
Earlier this month, actors Daniel Dae Kim and Daniel Wu offered a $ 25,000 reward for information that, if attacked in Oakland, ultimately led to an arrest.
Mai is proud of her "Asian brothers and sisters" who have made their voices heard.
She stressed that racism not only affects the Asian community, but that Asians should be involved in discussions about how to curb racist behavior.
"For everyone, not just the Asian community, racism and hate are pandemics that we must fight to eradicate," she says. "But it starts with listening to our color communities, planning and organizing to support, talk about the problems and actively work on the solution. You can't stand for it (Black Lives Matter) and then sit and sit over Asian attacks . "
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She doesn't think white Americans are educated enough about Asian history or culture - but neither does she think they are educated enough about black history or culture
"I don't think our school system is designed to teach us what we really need to know," she says.
However, she believes that racism can be unlearned. "I think racism is taught," she says. "And your parents may not sit down and tell you specifically, 'Don't trust these Asians. Don't be friends with black people.' No, I think it's in every grain of your upbringing. "
Mai's parents immigrated to the US from Vietnam and escaped communism to move to a safer place.
"I've always been taught to just keep quiet and not be the one causing problems," she says.
She wants her community to know that they must have a voice and protect each other even when they don't speak each other's languages. In addition, they should also stand up for all of their neighbors.
Mai is excited to see more Asian Americans on TV in series such as "Bling Empire" on Netflix and "House of Ho" on HBO Max. But she also wants to see programs that break away from the plot points that fueled the megahit film "Crazy Rich Asians".
"Hollywood has this way of taking a stereotype and then marketing it to the ground," she says. "I would just hope to see a diverse display of what Asian Americans can look like because not all of them are crazy or rich."
Contributors: Nicholas Wu and N'dea Yancey-Bragg
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This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: "The Real" host Jeannie Mai on Asian-American Attacks That End Racism
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