Amanda Nguyen’s viral video raises awareness of anti-Asian racism


Amanda Nguyen has been speaking out on civil rights issues for the better part of a decade, but she didn’t expect a recent Instagram video to go viral and spark a national conversation about anti-Asian racism in the US.

On February 5, Nguyen posted a video on Instagram asking national media to better cover the recent wave of anti-Asian violence targeting elderly residents from the San Francisco Bay area to New York City. York. She had tried in vain to find reports of incidents, including those involving 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee, who died of injuries after being pushed onto the sidewalk, and Noel Quintana, 61, who was stabbed in the face for one meter. confrontation in New York.

“I decided, ‘You know what? If traditional media is blocking us, I’m going to turn to social media and have a call to action for mainstream media to elevate Asian stories.” Nguyen tells CNBC Make It.

The message took off. The video racked up millions of views and response posts on Instagram, Twitter and TikTok. He has spoken about the issue in media such as NBC, ABC and CNN; and on February 8, the senior White House correspondent for CBS News Weijia Jiang asked White House press secretary Jen Psaki if President Joe Biden had seen videos, like Nguyen’s, about the attacks.

Last month, the millennial activist helped share the work of Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition that documents and addresses anti-Asian discrimination during the pandemic and its efforts to support Asian American communities.

The Harvard graduate has worked in the activism space since 2013, when she became a rape survivor during her time in college. Following her experience with what she felt was a broken criminal justice system, she helped draft the first Bill of Rights for Survivors of Sexual Assault, which established consistent rules and procedures at the federal level. to prosecute crimes of sexual assault. Since then, 21 states have adopted similar legislation, and Nguyen is working with lawmakers to pass laws in all 50 states.

Nguyen became the founder and CEO of Rise, a national nonprofit civil rights organization, which has helped pass 33 laws and created civil rights protections for more than 60 million survivors of sexual assault through the approval of bills state by state.

She has been featured on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list twice, was featured on Time’s 100 Next list in 2019, and was named a Nobel Peace Prize nominee for her activism in 2019.

Nguyen, 29, recently spoke to CNBC Make It about her latest advocacy work around racial justice for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders during the pandemic and beyond.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Did you expect your message about anti-Asian racism to go viral?

Not absolutely not. In fact, I thought I’d lose followers, because every time I posted about race, I did. And I said to myself, ‘You know what? I don’t care, because people need to know. ‘

People just don’t know. And I think a lot of this is due to ignorance. The problem here is invisibility. So the solution is visibility.

What kind of response did you get from the video?

We are in a time of reckoning right now. It has been so heartwarming and heartbreaking to see the wave of people speaking; literally thousands of people text me every day with stories like: ‘My father was murdered, can you improve the story?’ Or, ‘My grandmother was assaulted, can you improve the story?’

I also received messages like, ‘For the first time in my life, I feel like I can talk about the pain that I have experienced or the racism that I have experienced living in this yellow skin.’

Reading that has been so amazing and powerful.

While the video was certainly a first domino, we wouldn’t be here without literally millions of people feeling like, ‘You know what? It’s okay for them to see you and tell our truth. ‘

Anti-Asian discrimination in the US dates back to the 19th century. How does this moment feel different?

Social media is a powerful tool for raising awareness. How do you expect awareness to turn into action outside of these platforms?

The AAPI organization has a long history. Whose work has informed your approach to activism at this time?

How do you plan to continue this type of work?

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