John Cho Gets Candid About Asian American Discrimination During COVID Pandemic & How To Stop It

John Cho is worried about his parents’ safety amid the coronavirus pandemic — and he’s not talking about catching the virus.

The 47-year-old actor, who was born in South Korea but raised in the US, penned an essay for the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday about Asian American discrimination during the COVID-19 crisis, noting how he believes the pandemic reminds Asian Americans that their “belonging is conditional.”

He wrote:

“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.” 

The Searching star went on to explain how the origin of the virus has led to “a slew of anti-Asian hate crimes,” continuing: 

“The fact that the coronavirus seems to have originated in China has spawned a slew of anti-Asian hate crimes. Across the country, Asian American parents and children are making versions of the call I made. Friends are sharing first-hand accounts of abuse on text chains and circulating articles on Facebook, always ending with the suddenly ominous ‘stay safe.’”

The actor, who came to America at age 6 and was naturalized in 1990, says his parents always told him to “act like the natives,” hoping that “race would not disadvantage” them.

After he saw success as an actor, Cho experienced moments of minority discrimination. When promoting Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, he saw firsthand how his co-star Kal Penn was unfairly treated at airports following 9/11.

He noted that, similarly, current pandemic has put a target on Asian Americans, writing:

“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.” 

As for how we can help curb the spread of moronic micro-aggressions, Cho stressed:

“If the coronavirus has taught us anything, it’s that the solution to a widespread problem cannot be patchwork. 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… 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.”

Sounds simple enough! Then again, so does the concept of staying at home…

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