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Eugene Lee Yang of 'Try Guys' releases documentary about anti-Asian hate in America

Eugene Lee Yang of "The Try Guys" released a documentary about the racism and violence Asians and Asian Americans have faced in the United States.
TODAY Illustration / Getty Images
/ Source: TMRW

Eugene Lee Yang of "The Try Guys" has a new project out and it's a far cry from his usual fare.

Yang became an internet celebrity with comedic videos where he and three friends — Keith Habersberger, Ned Fulmer and Zach Kornfeld — do entertaining experiments, like baking without a recipe, taking lie detector tests and getting shocked in the abdomen to simulate pain similar to labor.

His most recent solo project, however, is an hour-long documentary about the racism and violence Asians and Asian Americans have faced in the United States. Yang told TMRW that “We Need to Talk About Anti-Asian Hate” is a project close to his heart, and one he started working on last year as attacks against Asian Americans started to rise.

"I soon realized that there's so few, even in my own life, instances in which I can point to having been taught Asian American history, having been taught the sort of social issues that we specifically have faced in this country," he explained. "There's such a dearth of content and conversation missing in my own experience and also that's missing in the broader world education system."

The full-length, long-form documentary debuted on YouTube Wednesday — one week after a shooting rampage in Georgia left eight dead, mostly women of Asian descent.

The project, which is divided up into 10 chapters, dives into the long history of hate crimes that have targeted Asian Americans, from lynchings in the 1800s to Japanese incarceration during World War II to the murder of Vincent Chin, a Chinese American beaten to death by two white autoworkers in Detroit in 1982.

Yang added that that history often goes unmentioned.

"I think the problem is that the system that is put in place, particularly by those in power, keeps rewriting our story," he explained, saying that the "model minority" myth has historically played into it.

His film also notes the recent uptick of crimes committed against Asian Americans.

NBC News reported that activists have counted nearly 4,000 hate crimes targeting the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community in the past year, with women being the majority of the victims.

As the groundswell of support for movements like #StopAsianHate grows, Yang hopes to see some lasting change.

"So many of us younger Asian Americans especially, are seeing through the artifice of the system that has been put in place that unfortunately many of our parents were so subject to," he said. "They were just trying to survive ... they weren't given the chance to actively fight it, even though I know internally, many of them would have been so ready. And I think for us, we are."

He hopes his documentary will open people's eyes to a conversation we should all be having.

"We're at a point where we are ready to pick up that fight in the most vocal way possible and I think that's why I'm constantly emphasizing this idea about talking, because that's the source of us being able to start recognizing how we can start deconstructing the issues that have plagued our community and then start building up new relationships with other communities of color, and other people in our community who have constantly been marginalized and erased by things like the model minority myth," he said.

Yang noted the growing number of minority people in the United States could be its own political force, citing the recent Georgia runoff election as a prime example of minorities organizing and demanding action.

"We can do this," he said, excitedly. "There are these dying gusts of things like white supremacy happening ... because the strength we have together is so much more real than the validity of the fear that they're trying to instill.

"We can't just talk about it, we have to start shouting about it," he continued. "We have to start talking loudly about it, we have to engage in a way that it is impossible to ignore us ... The ignoring has gone on long enough.

"No, we won't be silent, and we are going to, in fact, be as loud as we possibly can."

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