Bowen Yang’s Call To Action Against Anti-Asian Hate Crimes Echoes The Pain Of A Community Under Attack
On March 27, SNL’s Bowen Yang joined “Weekend Update” to deliver a powerful message on the rise in anti-Asian violence. Initially providing some comic relief to the situation, Yang’s tone shifted as he asked the audience to “fuel up.”
“I don’t even want to be doing this ‘Update’ piece,” Yang admitted and in hindsight, he shouldn’t have to.
Yang’s piece began with playful banter between him and ‘Update’ host Colin Jost who referred to him as the “Asian cast member.” While intentionally harmless, the joke alludes to the tokenism of BIPOC voices in pop culture. But Yang’s delivery remains poignant and timely, so listen up.
Diversity on Saturday Night Live is slim. In 2019 Yang became the first Chinese-American cast member and the fourth-ever cast member of Asian descent in SNL’s history. Quickly becoming a fan favorite on the show, other controversies nearly overshadowed his spotlight.
Two years ago SNL announced that they had hired Shane Gillis, but a video of him using anti-Asian slurs began to circulate. Though he issued an apology, Gillis was off the show.
While Yang did not mention this, the dire need to address performative activism and bystander culture are pertinent.
As coronavirus cases began to surge last spring, an epidemic of race-based hate crimes followed suit.
Addressing the recent surge in violent attacks, Yang said “things for Asians have been bleak for the past two weeks; and all the weeks before that.”
According to Stop AAPI Hate’s National Report, verbal harassment, shunning and physical assault were the most common forms of discrimination against Asian Americans.
In addition, 68 percent of hate crimes were reported by Asian women.
On March 17, eight people—including six Asian women—were killed in a mass shooting in Atlanta, Georgia. The refusal to call the shooting “racially motivated” enraged the public as the rise in brutal attacks intensified.
A day after the Atlanta attack, 76-year-old Xiao Zhen Xie was attacked in San Francisco. She became a viral story on social media after fighting back against her assailant and sending him to the hospital. On March 29, two more anti-Asian hate crimes were reported in New York.
A 65-year-old Filipino woman was verbally and physically attacked on her way to church in Midtown. An Asian man was assaulted and choked on a Manhattan-bound (J) train. The examples of hate crimes on people of Asian descent in the U.S. are limitless and paint a broader picture of the violence terrorizing the community.
As online resources have circulated, Yang wittily critiqued minimal social media solidarity.
When Jost asked if the satirical resources were helpful Yang said, “What can I say to help how insanely bad things are?”
“If someone’s personality is punched an Asian grandma, it’s not a dialogue,” he went on. “I have an Asian grandma; you want to punch her. There ain’t no common ground, mama.”
To those who believe menial forms of support like ordering from a Chinese restaurant or tipping your nail technician are enough, Yang said “Do more!”
Following Xie’s attack, Yang mentioned that her GoFundMe page raised $900,000 which she gave back to her community. “That’s where we are as Asians, now come meet us there,” he said.
As a comedian, Yang said that he’s not just looking for solutions online, but around him.
When reporting potential danger in New York, the saying is “if you see something, say something.” The lack of bystander intervention towards anti-Asian hate crimes is detrimental.
In the case of the 65-year-old woman, whose attacker was charged with a hate crime, the lack of intervention by three bystanders sparked criticism. All workers at a luxury condo where the incident was captured, the three bystanders have since been suspended for their lack of action.
However, witnessing a violent attack may not prompt immediate action out of fear. Luckily resources like Hollaback! are providing free virtual bystander training workshops on safe intervention.
Teaching the five D’s: distract, delegate, document, delay and direct—allies can safely learn to de-escalate incidents. This is just the start to doing more.
Being a proactive ally also includes holding people accountable, educating yourself on the history of anti-Asian sentiments, and donating to civil rights organizations.
To stay engaged listen to Bowen Yang who said, “It’s the year of the metal ox, which basically means a car. So everyone get in, buckle up, it’s no pee breaks. We ride at dawn, grandmas!”
Notice any corrections needed? Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org