John Cho pens essay on Asian American discrimination during COVID-19 pandemic

John Cho (right) and his wife Kerri Higuchi arrive for the 92nd annual Academy Awards on February 9. Cho has released an essay about the discrimination Asian Americans are facing. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI

April 23 (UPI) — John Cho has penned an essay about how Asian Americans are being discriminated against due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The actor wrote the essay due to the number of anti-Asian hate crimes that have sprung up across the United States since the pandemic started. Cases have included an Asian woman in Brooklyn having acid thrown at her while she was taking out the trash.

Cho, who was born in Seoul, South Korea, wrote about what it was like to grow up Asian in America and how citizens should stand up for their fellow Americans.

“I called my parents a few nights ago to tell them to be cautious when stepping out of the house, because they might be targets of verbal or even physical abuse. It felt so strange. Our roles had flipped,” Cho began his piece, which was published in the Los Angeles Times.

Cho said that growing up the assumption was that once he became American enough, he would be safe. His parents had him and his brother watch television so that they could perhaps act and speak more like Americans.

“When I became an actor (maybe as a result of all that TV), and really started to work, I felt glimmers of my parents’ hope coming to fruition — doors were open, strangers were kinder. In some ways, I began to lead a life devoid of race. But I’ve learned that a moment always comes along to remind you that your race defines you above all else,” Cho continued.

The 47-year-old said his “Harold & Kumar” co-star Kal Penn’s treatment at the airport was a wake up call to him about discrimination and how Asian stereotypes, which can appear to be complimentary, make anti-Asian sentiment seem less serious than it actually is.

“Asian Americans are experiencing such a moment right now. The pandemic is reminding us that our belonging is conditional. One moment we are Americans, the next we are all foreigners, who ‘brought’ the virus here,” Cho said.

Cho ended the essay by asking others not to diminish the severity of the hate crimes and to speak up if they see discrimination happening.

“You can’t stand up for some and not for others. And like the virus, unchecked aggression has the potential to spread wildly. Please don’t minimize the hate or assume it’s somewhere far away. It’s happening close to you. If you see it on the street, say something. If you hear it at work, say something. If you sense it in your family, say something. Stand up for your fellow Americans,” Cho said.

Jeannie Mai, a co-host on “The Real,” recently was interviewed in Harper’s Bazaar about standing up to the hate in America, Asian Americans being discriminated against and the racism she has experienced firsthand throughout her life.

“When it comes to the coronavirus, we are going to get through this and past it,” she said. “Please use this time to be mindful about the conversations in your household, or in your house. Check your aunt if she says something racist. Stand up for Black and Brown people. When someone says something about other Asians, check it. Stop it in your home. Racism is taught. Period.”


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