Q&A: Nydia Han
As racism against Asian Americans increases, Nydia Han is speaking out

Almost 4 years ago, 6abc’s Nydia Han went public after she had a racist encounter on the streets of Philadelphia. Her Facebook Live video went viral and led to a 3-part docuseries she produced plus a TEDx talk. In the years that have passed, Han has had repeated reasons to continue speaking out against racism and hate. We spoke with her about Asian Americans’ place here in America, and the fight to have everyone see it.

Nydia Han appeared on Nydia Han appeared on an ABC News special against Asian American hate

Q: Is hate against Asian Americans something new?

Unfortunately, this didn’t just happen. This has been going on since the beginning of the pandemic, and frankly, well before that. Last March, a man in Upper Darby reported to me that he had been physically attacked on the street by somebody who called him the Coronavirus. His collarbone was broken. His jaw was fractured. He was really beaten up. And then in August, we talked to a woman who was pregnant at the time, walking with her daughter in Center City, and a woman sprayed water on her and called her a Chinese expletive. These are just a few examples of the many, many things that have been reported to me since the pandemic began.

Q: You recently called out a Philadelphia SAG Board Member. What happened?

SAG stands for Screen Actors Guild – that’s the labor union for artists, actors, journalists. An elected board member of that organization posted a racist meme on social media. When my Asian American colleagues and I amplified that, the board member resigned. SAG-AFTRA issued a subsequent statement that was much stronger than its first statement. That board member has now been replaced, actually by an Asian American actor. So there are consequences now to this behavior. It’s important that we acknowledge what’s happening and then respond.

Q: You also called out a Philly hoagie shop. What happened there?

They posted a menu item, called it Covid Mac, because it was mac and cheese covered with Chinese garlic sauce. We amplified that also, and the menu item has been removed. These are so-called “casual” incidents of racism, but we need to talk about those too.

Q: Where do you think the hate comes from?

I think this is the direct result of the chronic struggle Asian Americans have to be seen as American as everyone else. There is this notion that we don’t belong in this country, despite the fact that we’ve been here for hundreds of years and, in all kinds of ways, we contribute to the rich fabric of this country.

Q: You often post texts from your dad on Instagram. Do you worry for him?

I do post about my dad a lot. I mean, he is the first love of my life. He is 81 years old. When the pandemic first began, he was actually in South Korea, and he’s now back here in the States. But he has such an interesting life story. He lived in the States for half of his adult life. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in the 1970s. And he is just a great guy. But I do worry about him, especially now, and especially with these attacks being perpetrated against Asian American seniors.

Q: What have been your personal experiences with racism?

As a child, I was called all kinds of slurs, and I was constantly asked where I’m from, the meaning being I couldn’t be from here. I was kind of used to that, but then – I’ve worked for Action News now for almost 20 years, so as a television journalist, I’m sort of used to people knowing me as an Action News member and not being looked at anymore as a forever foreigner. But one day, when I was walking on a street in Center City, a driver yelled at me, “This is America.” It just kind of flashed me back to those incidents as a child of feeling “othered” as we say. I responded to her in a live Facebook video, which now has 2.8 million views, and then I ended up doing a TEDx talk about it. Basically, I am just really asking people to see us for who we are, as fellow Americans.

Q: How can people help?

One of the things I think about a lot is allyship and ways people can support the Asian American community at this time. I talked the other day on Facebook and Instagram about a guy in California, who started a movement to volunteer to walk with Asian Americans. I posted another story about neighbors of an Asian American family who are standing guard outside their house every single night. This is after a string of incidents where people had thrown rocks at the house and yelled horrible, racial slurs at the family in the middle of the night. Intervene and speak up if you see something happening to really any community. That show of kindness, taking the initiative and being proactive is really meaningful and very powerful.

May 2021
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