Olivia Munn, Awkwafina and More Celebrities Call for Action Amid Rise in Attacks Against Asian Americans

Olivia MunnVariety Studio presented by AT&T, Day 2, Toronto International Film Festival, Canada - 08 Sep 2018
Michelle Quance/Variety/REX/Shut

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, hate crimes against Asian Americans have been on the rise. According to the advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate, there have been up to 2,800 incidents reported since last March. In New York City alone, there was an 867% increase in Asian hate crime victims in 2020.

On Jan. 28, an 84-year-old man from Thailand was attacked during his morning walk and knocked to the ground, which was captured in a surveillance video. Vicha Ratanapakdee was sent to the hospital, where he died two days later. Days later, a 91-year-old Asian American man was shoved to the sidewalk in Oakland’s Chinatown. A 64-year-old Vietnamese American woman was assaulted and robbed in San Jose, Calif., and just last week, a 61-year-old Filipino American man received almost 100 stiches after being slashed in the face by another passenger on the New York City subway.

Most recently, a man was arrested in Queens on Thursday for assaulting a 52-year-old Asian woman waiting in line outside a bakery. Witnesses reported that the man yelled slurs and threw boxes of spoons at the woman before shoving her to the ground. She blacked out and required 10 stitches on her forehead. Many celebrities have taken up the cause to speak out against violence targeted towards Asian Americans during the pandemic. Olivia Munn, who noted that the victim was the mother of a friend of hers, joined the efforts and posted pictures of the suspect on Twitter before the New York Police Department found him.

In an Instagram post published on Feb. 9, Munn said she has found herself “at a loss for words at the rise of Anti-Asian hate crimes” that have been taking place across the country.

“The racist, verbal and physical assaults have left my community fearful to step outside,” Munn said. “These hate crimes have spiked since Covid and continue to increase even though we ask for help, even though we ask our fellow Americans to be outraged for us, even though we ask for more mainstream media coverage.”

After asking mainstream media news outlets to start covering this issue, Munn thanked CNN for running a story on her helping catch the suspect who assaulted the Asian American woman.

“Being an Asian American person, these stories are not new for us,” she told CNN. “But to have so many people rise up … it really meant so much”

In addition to Munn, many other celebrities have spoken out. “Saturday Night Live” cast member Bowen Yang said he would match donations up to $10,000 to the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, a nonprofit organization that works to defend and advocate for the civil and human rights of the AAPI community. “We can also build our legislative power as we advocate for the civil and human rights of AAPIs, immigrants, and all people of color,” Yang said in an Instagram post.


“Gran Torino” actor Bee Vang published an op-ed in NBC News’ “Think” column on Wednesday criticizing the number of heinous attacks towards Asian Americans that have continued to spike around the country.

“A microscopic virus was replaced with a recognizable target,” Vang said. “And once again, in this pandemic, anti-Asian sentiment has turned us into a faceless, invasive peril to be extruded from this country.”

Earlier this week, Awkwafina published a post on Instagram to spotlight the organizations that have been advocating for social and racial justice, including Stop AAPI Hate, The Asian American Legal Defense Fund and Bryan Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative.

“Lunar New Year was my fave holiday growing up, because I would get them red envelopes to pay for my Pokémon cards and Tommy Girl perfume,” Awkwafina said in her post. “But this year, Lunar New Year took on a different meaning. I am saddened, disturbed and devastated at the recent string of attacks against the Asian American community, and against our elders.”

Actor Daniel Dae Kim, best known for his roles in “Lost” and “Hawaii Five-0,” appeared on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time” Wednesday night to discuss drawing attention toward the issue of hate crimes against Asian Americans.

“Awareness is really just the first step,” Kim told Chris Cuomo. “Now it’s about volunteering, it’s about contacting community organizers who are working in communities like Oakland and the Bay Area and New York City — where so many of these attacks are happening — and donating to these causes.”

Kim later announced on Instagram that he will be meeting with politicians and community organizers this weekend to discuss the next steps in stemming the tide of violence and acts of hate toward Asian Americans.

“Roughly 3,000 incidents later, not to mention at least one murder, we’ve succeeded in beginning to raise awareness for the issue of violence and acts of hate against Asian Americans,” Kim said in a video posted on his Instagram page.


On Feb. 10, “Teen Wolf” actor Arden Cho posted a long message on Instagram regarding the racist attacks on Asian Americans, which she said is “just rarely covered in media, constantly overlooked and now it’s become normalized.”

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