'Do Better': Celebs Speak Out Against Racist Attacks Toward Asians During Coronavirus Pandemic

'Do Better': Celebs Speak Out Against Racist Attacks Toward Asians During Coronavirus Pandemic

February 18, 2021

Olivia Munn

In February 2021, Munn called out the rise of violence against Asian Americans on Instagram after her friend’s mother was attacked in New York and was hospitalized, requiring “10 stitches in her head.”

“These racist hate crimes against our elders have got to stop. We’re gonna find this guy. Queens, Internet, please… do your s—t. 🙏🏼,” the actress wrote alongside photos of the suspect. The man was later apprehended. 

Munn’s call to action came one week after she shared an impassioned Instagram post asking for “help” in the fight against Asian American hate crimes.

“Over the past few days I’ve found myself at a loss for words at the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes,” began Munn, who has since shared more headlines about hate crimes around the nation. “The racist, verbal and physical assaults have left my community fearful to step outside.” 

She continued, “These hate crimes have spiked since Covid and continue to increase even though we ask for help, even though we ask our fellow Americans to be outraged for us, even though we ask for more mainstream media coverage.”

“To simply exist as a minority in the country is seen as a protest to some. We need help amplifying the outage. We need help to feel safe in our country. We need help to be safe in our country,” she continued, signing off her message, “With Love, Olivia Munn / Proud Asian American.”

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Tzi Ma

At the beginning of the pandemic, Mulan actor Ma was walking toward a Whole Foods in Pasadena, California, when a car slowed down in front of him. 

“I said, ‘Oh, how courteous, a young man, slowing down for me to cross,'” Ma, who was born in Hong Kong, told PEOPLE. “That was not the case. He rode up and stopped in front of me, rolled down his window and looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘You should be quarantined,’ and took off.”

The encounter, Ma said, left him “numb and kind of a little bit dazed.”

The actor said former president Donald Trump — who often referred to COVID-19 as the “China virus” and “Kung Flu” — helped stoke the racism. 

“He just basically kind of turned over all the rocks and [racists are] all crawling out,” said Ma. “It gave them permission, emboldened them just to come out and do whatever. Because, ‘Hey man, the leader of the free world is telling us it’s okay.’ He definitely had a hand in all of this and it’s still continuing.”

Ma — who has since joined #WashTheHate, a social media campaign that was launched last March in response to the uptick in anti-Asian violence — believes the recent attention paid to the assaults and racism is positive, but more work needs to be done.

“Everybody has to have a part of it to stem this,” he said. “We really need to organize. It’s a must. It has to be a unified effort otherwise it won’t work. It will bubble up again.”

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Gemma Chan

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Chan joined Daniel Dae Kim, Daniel Wu and other actors in bringing attention to an assault on an elderly man and several others in Oakland, California, in January. Wu and Kim offered $25,000 for information about the attack; a suspect was arrested in early February.

In her post about the attack, Chan wrote, “This is difficult to watch but this is a plea for help. Hate crimes against Asians and Asian Americans have skyrocketed. The community is in pain from these completely unprovoked attacks but the crimes are too often ignored and underreported. Imagine if this was your father or grandfather? The victim in the video was 91 years old and the perpetrator attacked two other senior citizens that day. Last week, 84 year old Vicha Ratanapakdee was murdered. These are just a few of many attacks – and they are not limited to the US; in the UK hate crimes against East and Southeast Asians have increased 300% during the pandemic.”

She added, “Please share, raise awareness and call for government and the media to recognise these as hate crimes and to take action. The violence will only end when the silence ends.”

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Naomi Osaka

The tennis star made a statement on Twitter to speak out against the rise in anti-Asian attacks and the lack of coverage and discussions on the issue.

“The amount of hate, racism, and blame for COVID towards the Asian community is disgusting,” Osaka tweeted. “The fact that this topic is not very widely covered makes me concerned. I only found videos and information because I was scrolling through my IG feed and by some algorithm it appeared.”

“And while I’m here- saying ‘Ching Chong’ and ‘shrimp fried rice’ when talking about/to [an] Asian person isn’t cool. You aren’t funny, it’s not a joke and you’re beyond pathetic,” she added in a separate tweet.

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John Cho

In an essay for the Los Angeles Times, the Star Trek actor expressed how the rise in anti-Asian attacks only “reminds Asian Americans like me that our belonging is conditional.”

“Asian Americans are experiencing such a moment right now,” wrote Cho. “One moment we are Americans, the next we are all foreigners, who ‘brought’ the virus here.”

“If the coronavirus has taught us anything, it’s that the solution to a widespread problem cannot be patchwork,” he said. “Never has our interconnectedness and our reliance on each other been plainer.”

“You can’t stand up for some and not for others. And like the virus, unchecked aggression has the potential to spread wildly,” Cho warned. “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.”

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Mark Ruffalo

After President Trump called COVID-19 the “Chinese Virus,” the actor took to Twitter to share his thoughts on the matter.

“Dear @realdonaldtrump,” Ruffalo began. “When you blame a virus on an entire race of people, you turn people against them. When you make these unscientific political statements, some of your followers begin to act violently and in exclusionary, xenophobic ways against these people.”

He ended his note, writing, “Do better.”

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Jeannie Mai

In an essay Mai wrote for PEOPLE, the Emmy-award winning co-host of The Real broke down why she “feels like there’s two viruses” plaguing the world right now — COVID-19 and fearful ignorance.

She wrote of reading about the “devastating increase of prejudice, xenophobia, discrimination, violence and racism against Chinese people, people of East Asian and Southeast Asian descent and appearance” from several major news outlets and shared that she’s also been affected by anti-Asian sentiments on social media.

“Viruses don’t discriminate against people of certain racial backgrounds. But clearly, people can,” she wrote. “This strain of coronavirus may be new, but anti-Asian sentiment certainly isn’t. We should know that racism morosely runs deep within our American fibers. When anti-Asian attitudes remain, it can only take a little event, such as a politician’s rhetoric, calling COVID-19 the ‘Chinese virus’ or ‘kung fu flu,’ or the initiation of hate to bring bullying and harassment back out into the open.”

“Let us stand up for and with each other in these dark times,” she concluded her essay. “Hate will get you sick, even if the virus doesn’t.”

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Leonardo Nam

The Westworld actor also penned an essay for PEOPLE, asking others to “stop racializing this pandemic” so people can “get on with unifying the country to save lives and the economy.”

Westworld is a dark and dystopian world of ‘us versus them.’ And Westworld is a work of fiction, but in these anxious times, some of the show’s themes feel a little too close to reality,” Nam, who plays Felix Lutz on the series, began.

“With the growing number of shelter-in-place orders across the country, it is obvious that we need unity now more than ever,” he continued. “This unification effort must start at the top.”

“Unfortunately, when our President uses divisive language, like the term ‘Chinese Virus,’ or when his aides use terms like ‘Kung Fu Flu’ in an attempt to blame others and deflect criticism regarding the President’s initial response to the outbreak, it promotes an ‘us versus them’ mentality.”

He ended his essay with a nod to his show and left one last note of encouragement and support to the Asian community.

“As my Westworld character’s counterpart Sylvester said about washing your hands with soap, you need ‘bubbles. You don’t make little bubbles, it isn’t doing s–t…’ ” he wrote. “Remember, COVID-19 doesn’t care what you look like, so be kind to one another and we will defeat this together.”

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Karrueche Tran

The star of Claws posted a message to her 9.5 million followers on Instagram, pleading for them to understand why “there are asians afraid to leave their homes” during the pandemic.

“Xenophobia is not ok!!” Tran wrote. “To target and discriminate asians is wrong!! There are asians afraid to leave their homes! There are people who have already been hurt (I know y’all seen the video of the older asian man 😡),” she continued, referencing an upsetting video that went viral of a San Francisco man who was robbed and mocked by a group of people threatening to assault him and making racist jokes.

“The coronavirus is not ‘the Chinese virus’! Let’s stop instilling more fear and hate,” she continued. “The world is struggling enough as it is.”

“Please stop this!!” she added.

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Jake Tapper

“If you’re stupid and racist enough to blame random Asian-American people for the coronavirus pandemic then you need to self-quarantine yourself out of society anyway,” the CNN anchor simply stated on Twitter.

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Lana Condor

The To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before star slammed the president in a post on her Instagram story, accusing him of endangering the Asian American community with his language.

“Be better. To wake up to your chaos is truly a nightmare. Please. Be better,” Condor began her note. “To my followers –  be safe. I love you.”

The Vietnam native then continued, “You have no idea the ramifications your racist words & actions have on the Asian American community. You simply cannot even fathom the danger you are putting our community in. How dare you.”

“You should be ashamed of yourself. You call yourself a leader?” Condor wrote. “You know what leaders do? They LEAD by setting good examples and ACTION. Something we’ve yet to see you do. You need to take notes on Chinese billionaire Jack Ma who is ACTUALLY leading – by donating tests and millions of masks to AMERICA, bc you haven’t.”

“Please. Be better,” she concluded. “So we aren’t afraid to leave our house in fear someone will verbally or physically abuse us because of your xenophobia.”

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Cardi B

“I want to let you guys know… Let’s stop being xenophobic, let’s stop saying f—– up jokes, let’s stop having crazy anger because I’ve been seeing a lot of Asians get beat up,” the rapper said while on Instagram Live (watch the clip via @ricefeed). 

“At this moment in life, for once, let’s all be one race,” she said. “Because at the end of the day, in the eyes of God, we are all one.”

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Ronny Chieng

The Daily Show correspondent sent a message to Sen. John Cornyn, who claimed in a press conference that Chinese culture is to blame for several viruses because it’s a “culture where people eat bats & snakes & dogs & things like that.”

Chieng retweeted a clip from the conference, which was originally posted by The Hill, and wrote, “Hey @JohnCornyn ‘This is Chinese culture and every disease comes from there.’ is factually false and worse is a clear rallying call for idiots to go after people who look Asian.”

He added, “There are Asian kids out here just trying to live you reckless moron.”

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RZA

Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA sent a message on Instagram, asking for his followers to “stick together” as reports of violence against Asians continue to rise.

“Peace and blessing to all the people of our communities,” he began. “We are all being affected in some capacity by this Covid 19 virus. So when I hear that some people are singling out our ‘Asian’ brothers by attacking, discriminating, verbally abusing them, etc. It’s appalling and unacceptable.”

“This conduct reduces us backwards to the racial bigotry that our communities have long fought against,” he continued. “Viruses, Bacteria, or any other harmful microbe does not discriminate their host. This problem is a Human problem, so may we all stick together to combat it united as a Global Community.”

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Tiffany Young

“2020 has been an emotional free fall for us all,” the singer wrote on Instagram. “ive been doing my part to stay at home,” she continued before getting candid about her feelings towards racism against Asians.

“it saddens me to see the racism Asians around the world are faced with, & i hope everyone can remember humanity and love above anything else through drastic times like this,” she wrote. “we are fighting this together. the world needs a hug rn ❤️”

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren

The former presidential candidate tweeted, “I’ve said it once & I’ll say it again loud enough for the @WhiteHouse, @FoxNews, & everyone else to hear: coronavirus does not discriminate.”

“Bigotry against people of Asian descent is unacceptable, un-American, & harmful to our COVID-19 response efforts,” she added.

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Joey King

“This virus is not an excuse for racism,” the actress tweeted. “You do not get to call it a ‘Chinese virus’ or a ‘China virus’ that’s verbal abuse to Chinese people across the globe. It is called Covid-19 or coronavirus.”

“Those are the medical terms for this virus. And that’s all we should be calling it,” she wrote.

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Daniel Dae Kim

The star, who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the pandemic, shared an update on Instagram of how he was feeling since contracting the virus, and also used the time to speak out against anti-Asian racism.

“Please, please stop the prejudice and senseless violence against Asian people,” he said. “Randomly beating elderly, sometimes homeless Asian Americans is cowardly, heartbreaking and it’s inexcusable.”

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Jeremy Lin

The basketball player did not hold back in response to President Trump’s tweet that referred to coronavirus as the “Chinese virus.”

“The United States will be powerfully supporting those industries, like Airlines and others, that are particularly affected by the Chinese Virus. We will be stronger than ever before!” Trump tweeted on March 16, 2020.

Lin retweeted with his own comments, writing, “I wish you would powerfully support the vulnerable people that will suffer due to our mismanagement of this virus, including those that will be affected by the racism you’re empowering.”

“And I dont wanna hear about no German measles/Spanish flu bc everyday Asian-Americans inc ppl I know are threatened and physically attacked,” he continued in a follow-up tweet. “I dont give a crap about the history of names rn. What I do know is this subtle anti-Chinese message only empowers more hate towards asians.”

He added: “I’m not good with the old school Asian model minority stigma where we won’t speak up or stand up for ourselves. In times like now, we truly truly need to stay united. Lets fight this virus TOGETHER!! Wash your hands, practice social distancing, take this seriously, stay safe.”

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Lisa Ling

The journalist made a guest appearance on The View to talk about her reaction to President Trump calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus.”

“I was pretty astounded when he started calling the coronavirus the Chinese virus,” she began. “This, it’s been months since this crisis began, and to me it just seemed like a way to deflect attention to the fact that the was not taking it seriously for months and months.” 

“It seemed like he was deflecting blame,” she added. 

Then, when asked if she knew anyone — friends or family — who’ve experienced racism since Trump’s remarks, she said, “Oh absolutely.”

“I have friends’ kids who’ve been taunted,” she continued. “I have friends who have talked about being harassed in places. If you just Google stories about Asians being harassed since the president started calling it the Chinese virus, there are countless stories. In fact, the national crisis text hotline has had a sizable increase of Asians reporting that they are feeling depressed because they have been bullied and they somehow feel as though they are somehow responsible for this crisis, because the president has characterized it as the Chinese virus.”

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