Nydia Han, an investigative reporter and a Sunday morning co-anchor with 6ABC Action News in Philadelphia, prefaced a recent virtual DEI Speaks! event at Salus University with staggering statistics, calling out the dramatic rise in anti-Asian hate crimes in the U.S., when she said, “I really think that we are a community in crisis right now.”
“Every week we are covering stories about hate against a number of different groups. We have done stories about antisemitic graffiti painted all over the Delaware Valley,” she said. “Certainly, we have done so many stories about racism against our Black community, our Latino community and of course, against our Asian community. I'd like to start out today by focusing on anti-Asian hate because it's something that we've been talking about a lot and that has really ramped up during COVID.”
Han reported research recently published by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, revealing anti-Asian hate crime increased by 339 percent last year compared to the year before. In Philadelphia, anti-Asian hate crimes more than quadrupled, jumping from eight to 28 incidents from 2019 to 2020 according to Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition that tracks and responds to hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Since many of these hateful acts go unreported due to fear from victims, however, Han also acknowledged the real number is difficult to determine.
During the one-hour presentation, the Emmy-award winning journalist shared excerpts from her work #ThisIsAmerica (issues of race, discrimination, and bias). The documentary is a digital series about race and who we are as Americans created after Han’s personal experience with racism. She recounted the devastating event that prompted her to post a Facebook video in response to a driver who almost hit her, yelling at Han, “This is America,” on a Philadelphia street.
“And it is my diversity, my color, my culture, and all of the things that come with it and help me contribute to my country,” she said in her now viral video reply. “And so, I'm taking ownership of those words you hurled out of your window to me on Friday, ‘This is America.’”
She placed emphasis on, “This is America,” spinning the statement from a racial remark rooted in ignorance to a positive message of hope people nationwide needed to hear. It was a moment of truth for Han and she never expected it to gain so much attention on social media.
“What makes me happy about this is it did spark discussion and it did fuel debate and it gave people a place to have this really important conversation,” Han said. “So, this is not really about my incident, my video, this is about these people who commented. Many engaged with each other directly.”
Comments and conversations spurred from her video continued to evolve. Many people expressed words of support and shared their own personal stories of racial trauma. But such narratives can also invite varying perspectives and Han welcomed all views in her documentary and the discussions that followed, even views opposing her own, recalling how one interaction with a white person who challenged her outlook really captured the purpose of her journey with #ThisIsAmerica.
“He went on his own journey of learning and reflecting,” she said. “And he joined a fantasy football league in which he was the only member who was not a person of color. He said he took time to get to know the other men and he said he learned a lot. Now, he’s even a regular guest on his friend's Black radio program. And so, his life has changed a lot.”
Another message Han wants to inspire through her work, perhaps most importantly, is one of support and unity.
“When people ask, ‘What can I do?’ I say don't just speak up for your own group,” she said. “I don't just speak up for Asian Americans, but I try really hard to make sure that I show up for everyone, because I think if we're going to ask people to help us, we've got to reach out and pull each other up with us.”