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‘Very Asian’ anchor claps back after TV viewer’s complaint over dumpling soup remark

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 1/3/2022 Theresa Braine
Journalist Michelle Li posted the segment on New Years Day food tradtions. The segment was the complaint of a viewer who left a message stating "she can keep her Korean to herself." © Provided by New York Daily News Journalist Michelle Li posted the segment on New Years Day food tradtions. The segment was the complaint of a viewer who left a message stating "she can keep her Korean to herself."

A TV anchor’s off-the-cuff mention of dumpling soup sparked one viewer’s fury ― and an outpouring of others grateful for a mention of their favorite traditional foods.

In reciting what Americans eat for New Year’s, KDSK-TV anchor Michelle Li rattled off the names of food or dishes, leaving out their ethnic connection.

“Greens actually symbolize wealth – you can guess why – black-eyed peas represent coins, luck or the promise of prosperity,” she said on her broadcast, naming the foods people may eat on the first day of the new year. “Cornbread is for gold, and eating it brings the hope of extra spending money in the new year. And then pork signifies prosperity and progress, because – get this – pigs root ahead as they eat, as opposed to backward, like chickens, or those turkeys.”

She ended with an off-the-cuff mention of her own heritage.

“I ate dumpling soup, because that’s what a lot of Korean people do,” Li said.

She wrote later she was both surprised and gratified to get thank-yous from people who felt represented at hearing the mention of an Asian Jan. 1 tradition.

But one viewer called to complain Li hadn’t specifically mentioned white people.

“She can keep her Korean to herself,” the caller said on a voice mail message.

“Hi, this evening your Asian anchor mentioned something about being Asian, and Asian people eat dumplings on New Year’s Day,” the unidentified woman intoned. “And 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 very appropriate that she said that, and she was being very Asian. I don’t know. She can keep her Korean to herself. Alright, sorry. It was annoying. Because, if a white person would say that, they would get fired (chuckles). So, say something about what white people eat. Alright, thank you.”

The message was, as Li herself noted in a writeup of the response to the 30-second clip, “roughly a minute long — twice as long as the story itself, and about 10 times as many sentences.”

Li posted a video of herself listening to the voicemail message, with the comment, “I’d love to say something back.” The Twitter post has gotten more than 2 million views.

“Here’s what I notice as a journalist,” she wrote alongside the Instagram version. “When we say, ‘Americans eat this or that on New Year’s Day,’... what does that mean? Is there a default ‘American’? This is very subtle, but IYKYK...” (if you know, you know).

People rallied around Li, many naming their own favorite foods, and one making it a hashtag, #veryasian – a line now attached to her Facebook page description.

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