As Asian Americans Face Racist Attacks, a PBS Series Celebrates their Unsung HistoryBreaking News
tags: racism, documentary, Asian American History, COVID19
Like many immigrant children, Daniel Dae Kim didn’t learn of the hard-won American Dream that brought his parents to the United States until later in life. He was a teenager when they finally told him their story, one that resembled those chronicled in PBS’ five-part docuseries “Asian Americans,” a landmark program spanning 150 years that couldn’t arrive at a more timely moment.
They described how, when he was 1 year old, they’d come to the U.S. from South Korea with just $200. Eventually, the family put down roots in Pennsylvania. “From that they built a whole life for themselves and raised three happy, healthy children, one of whom who is fortunate enough to speak to you right now,” said Kim, known for his roles on “Lost” and “Hawaii 5-0.”
Tamlyn Tomita was a junior high student in the San Fernando Valley when she learned that America had incarcerated 120,000 persons of Japanese descent, including U.S.-born Japanese American citizens, during World War II. The “Joy Luck Club” actress would later launch her career with “The Karate Kid Part II” and help tell stories of internment on screen. On that day she went home and asked her father, an LAPD officer: Did this happen to you?
“He said, ‘Yes,’ ” Tomita remembered. “I said, ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’”
As long as Asians have been in the United States they’ve helped shape its history but have often been left out of the lessons taught in schools. At home, family histories often go unspoken by older generations who strove through xenophobia, racist legislation, migratory waves, societal shifts, wars and their aftermaths in the pursuit of happiness.
“Asian Americans,” premiering Monday, aims to rewrite that history in vibrant detail. Narrated by Kim and Tomita, it highlights milestones in the history of the country’s fastest-growing demographic — a sprawling group in itself, comprising diverse origin countries, languages and histories — with the help of Asian American scholars, historians and artists like Hari Kondabolu, Viet Thanh Nguyen and Randall Park as well as the descendants of subjects who fought to be seen as more than foreigners in the country they called home.