Lana Condor, Sherry Cola and More Discuss Anti-Asian Racism at ICM Town Hall

The 5-year-old son of Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) came home one day to tell his father a story about an older child that kept calling him “Chinese boy” over and over again. Kim’s son said he kept laughing it off, replying that he is a “New Jersey boy.”

“Oh, he’s so sweet,” Kim said when describing his son. “But I was filled with such sadness, honestly. I think I was witnessing my son’s very first experience with discrimination and bias in his life. I was sad because I know that that’s not going to be his last and only experience.”

Kim told this story at ICM’s Stop Asian Hate Town Hall panel that took place on Friday. He was one of five panelists gathered to tell honest stories about anti-Asian racism as well as discuss ways the entertainment industry has played into this discrimination. Moderated by CBSN evening news anchor Lana Zak, the panel also featured actors Lana Condor and Sherry Cola, Director of Asian American Studies at Indiana U Dr. Ellen Wu and Cecilia Wang from the ACLU.

Condor, best known for portraying Lara Jean in Netflix’s “To All the Boys” trilogy, shared several stories about being discriminated against in Hollywood, including one that she had previously shared of when a casting person once asked her “to be more like Hello Kitty.” Elaborating on the recent hate crimes against Asian Americans, she discussed how she had many close friends who didn’t even realize they were going on. She believes that the solution to resolving the issue is to give the victims a safe space to speak and share.

“[The solution is] not to be mad at them,” Condor said. “It’s to sit down and have a conversation with them and help them see that it’s a safe place to speak and to share.”

Cola, who’s appeared in series such as Freeform’s “Good Trouble” and TNT’s “Claws,” said she and her community are still finding ways to process the recent events that have occurred and how to express how they are feeling. As an immigrant, she said the feeling of “being foreign” never goes away.

“Sometimes I walk into a room and I can tell that a non-Asian is shocked that my English is perfect,” Cola said. “Society has put us in this box, especially Asian women, to be submissive, keep our head down.”

Thursday night, Cola shared a sentiment on Twitter that acknowledged how she’s “always felt foreign” and the recent hate crimes being committed against her community.

Wu is an associate professor of history and director of the Asian Studies program at Indiana University. Her book, “The Color of Success: Asian Americans and the Origins of the Model Minority” weaves together various solutions and presents an unprecedented look at racial reform as well as the contradictions of national belonging amid the civil rights era.

Wang is a deputy legal director at the ACLU and directs the Center for Democracy, which encompasses the ACLU’s work on immigrants’ rights, voting rights, national security, human rights and speech, privacy and technology. With more than two decades of experience in civil rights and criminal defense, Wang has declared many victories in district courts. Coming to the conversation as a civil rights lawyer, she said the perspective she shared with each panelist was that they have a calling as storytellers.

“We are all telling stories,” Wang said. “Through the telling of stories, we are shaping the societies that we live in, and building the society that we want to live in in the future as an aspiration.”

When speaking about the event, ICM Partners agent Ann Murphy said this is a pivotal moment in time for the AAPI community to be heard and that she is proud that ICM answered the call.

“The violence against the Asian American Pacific Islander communities and especially against our elders is inexcusable, heartbreaking and, of course, dangerous,” Murphy said. “ICM wanted to give a platform to get our stories told and educate others to help stem the onslaught of racism against Asians that is unfortunately so prevalent today. Not only have they put together a powerful event, they also have made a financial commitment to the cause.”

Recently, ICM engaged in an employee fund-matching campaign to help stop anti-Asian racism. Employees contributed $20k, which was then triple-matched by the agency, resulting in a total of $80k being donated to organizations working to counteract hate against the AAPI community.

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