ViacomCBS Special Addresses Racism Against AAPI Community and Calls for Change

ken Jeong

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI), and with the tragic rise in hate crimes against this community over the past year of the pandemic, it is more important than ever for media, television, and Hollywood to find ways to not only honor and celebrate their contributions, but to educate audiences about the discrimination and challenges that many of them undergo. To help with these efforts, ViacomCBS joined forces this month with the Asian American Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation to raise awareness about acts of racism against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and to rally support for this community.

Just last week, the network produced the special "See Us Unite for Change" which was televised on MTV, Comedy Central, VH1, BET, and Nickelodeon to spread the critical message of inclusivity and the need to create a movement that condemns the acts of discrimination and violence against this demographic. The event was part of the larger cultural campaign, "See Us Unite," led by the Asian American Foundation. 

"We are outraged and deeply saddened by the escalation of hate crimes against AAPI communities and stand with them in the fight against xenophobia and bigotry," said Chris McCarthy, President, MTV Entertainment Group. "Hate against one of us is hate against all of us and by working together on a global scale, we can help end this senseless violence."

Hosted by Ken Jeong, the special featured music and comedy performances, short films, and speakers including policymakers, activists, and celebrities that spoke to on-the-ground efforts already underway and how viewers can make a difference by contributing to anti-racism causes. Hollywood figures Daniel Dae Kim and Steven Yeung also participated in the event. 

The special also celebrated the artistic contributions of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community by spotlighting Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda, the first Asian American rapper who had a number one ranked album, as well as Bruce Lee's daughter Shannon Lee who shared the story of her father's meager beginnings in the U.S. and how he built a successful career and life through hard work and grit. Jeong also relayed his sadness at the absence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Hollywood as he was growing up, leaving him with few icons to look up to who "looked like" him. 

"What can all Americans do to unite and stop the hate," asked Jeong during the special. Though AAPI Month is wrapping up, it's more important than ever that Americans continue to ask one another that very question, to continue the momentum that events like "See Us Unite for Change" have inspired, and to continue to lift the voices of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders every day of the year. As Jeong said during his presentation when he dedicated the special to children of Asian American and Pacific Islander descent, "We see you, this special is for you."