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Daniel Dae Kim stresses racial unity after Atlanta shootings: 'It's a human issue'

The actor-producer says outspoken allyship and cross-cultural support is “crucial" for Asian Americans.
/ Source: TODAY

Tuesday’s shootings at three Atlanta-area spas left eight people dead, including six Asian women. It comes on the heels of increased reports of discrimination and other acts of violence against Asian Americans.

Activists have been speaking out in the wake of the tragedy, including actor-producer Daniel Dae Kim, who spoke with NBC News investigative correspondent Vicky Nguyen about the urgent need for allies across all cultures to stand up and support a community under attack.

“I was just shocked,” the former “Lost” star, 52, said of hearing the news of the Tuesday’s shootings. “I stopped what I was doing, and my first thought was, ‘Not again. How can it be happening again?’ There's a number of us who have been very vocal ... and we've done everything we can to get the word out, and yet we don't find these attacks abating. We find them accelerating, and this is really discouraging.”

These acts have been on the rise since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and will require people of all races working together to stem the tide, Kim said.

“Ultimately, that is the core of this entire issue. It's not an Asian American issue. It's a human issue.”

Kim also believes it’s vital to recognize this idea, regardless of whether law enforcement finds that the suspect in the shootings, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, who is facing murder charges, was motivated by racism. A spokesperson for Cherokee County Sheriff's Office, Capt. Jay Baker, said Wednesday that Long told investigators the attacks were not racially motivated. Baker later came under fire for describing Tuesday as "a really bad day for (Long), and this is what he did," which many considered insensitive to the victims.

“Whether it's explicitly called a hate incident is irrelevant,” Kim said. “Six of the eight people murdered were Asian American, seven of eight were women. This man targeted places where Asian Americans were working.”

Between March 2020 and February 2021, 3,795 anti-Asian incidents were reported in all 50 states, according to a recent report from Stop AAPI Hate. These include verbal harassment and physical assaults, and women reported more than double as many incidents as men.

Kim believes this moment is a rallying point.

“If you have a platform, use it,” he urged. “Because right now, you know, we as Asian Americans have to get out of our own echo chamber. We cannot be preaching to one another because we already know the tune, we already know the sermon. So, if you are a person who is in the in the African American community, who believes in unity, who believes in overcoming the historical strife that that has existed between the Asian and African American communities like I do, then I ask you to use your voice. ... I know how hard the African American experience has been, so it's hard to ask for allyship.”

He noted that while “every minority group has gone through this at one point in American history,” when we stand together as diverse communities, side by side, it makes a difference.

“The African American community, the Latinx community, the white community and the Asian community ... it's a cliché, but I really do believe we are stronger together,” Kim said.

Change in the future will be because of those who say today, “We won’t be silent anymore,” he added.

“That is really a part of the issue — that for so long, the attitude of Asian Americans has always been just be patient, take it, don't speak up. We are the first generation that, en masse, is speaking up and saying we will not be silent anymore.”