KENTUCKY — Recently a well-known chef and activist in the city of Lexington spoke with students at the University of Kentucky about racism toward people of Asian ethnicity.
During this In Focus Kentucky segment, anchor and reporter Ashleigh Mills shares Dan Wu's perspective on this topic.
Dan Wu's "Yellow Peril to Model Minority" talk was part of the university's Office of China Initiatives (OCI) Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month celebration.
Wu said the Atlanta spas shooting in March, when Asian women were killed, really shook him. He called on people to help end racism, saying justice should not be thought of as a "scarcity" in the United States.
Wu is the founder of Atomic Ramen, which is served up to students as part of the university's dining scene. He's a UK art studio alumnus.
Wu moved to Lexington with his parents from China in 1982.
"Nameless. Faceless. Voiceless. Perpetually foreign," is how Wu described his younger self. "Also, good in school, quiet, successful, nonthreatening," he listed common Asian American stereotypes.
"The racism and discrimination that we face is diminished if not ignored," Wu said before an audience of others who identify as Asian or Asian American, AAPI. Stereotypes and microaggressions, he said, are like "death by a thousand paper cuts."
On March 16, a gunman shot and killed eight people at Atlanta-area spas. Six of them were women of Asian descent, according to Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office.
"In light of the police killings and the hate crimes against Black men and women committed in 2020 and all the years before, it simply felt not important enough to complain about," Wu said about racism and hate against the AAPI community. "I mean, what is our suffering compared to that? What are microaggressions and isolated incidents — isolated attacks — compared to systemic racism and violence and murder faced by Black Americans every single day?" he referred to his previous outlook on speaking up.
"It took the horrific, racist, misogynistic murders in Atlanta to kind of shake me from that notion, to remind me that this is not the oppression Olympics," Wu continued. "That, more justice for Black folks isn't less justice for Asians. And the scarcity mindset is a tool of white supremacy and systemic racism. We, as marginalized communities, are conditioned to live with this scarcity ... a scarcity of justice where there just simply doesn't seem to be enough of it to go around."
Wu took several questions from the audience and educators. When asked what students can do to take down Asian hate, Wu answered: "for non-Asian folks, to act in ally-ship honestly. It's just standing up for us. When you hear things, when people say things to you — jokes, comments that are denigrating, really to any marginalized community — they're talking to you because they think you're one of them and that 'I can say this to you right? It's cool.' It's not cool. Make it not cool. Make it awkward, you know what I mean. Trade your discomfort in that situation for our pain."
"Talk to your friends. Talk to your relatives, as hard and as awkward as those conversations are," Wu continued. "Make it known, those ideas, those words and those actions are not OK."
The group Stop AAPI Hate says that between March 2020 to February 2021, there were nearly 3,800 crimes against AAPI community members reported.