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Eugene Lee Yang of The Try Guys Made a Documentary About Anti-Asian Hate

A video titled “We Need to Talk About Anti-Asian Hate” feels somewhat out of place alongside “Try Guys Test Popular TikTok Hacks” and “Try Guys RETRY Cooking Bagels Without A Recipe.” Created by Try Guy member Eugene Lee Yang, the 70-minute video is departure from the usual fare on the channel. But in the wake of violence against Asians occurring across the country, most recently the Atlanta spa shootings, Yang felt compelled to act.

“The strength of the platform that I am privileged to have is that I reach a massive group of diverse people,” Yang told VICE. “I want people to know that I also learned from what I was creating.” To acknowledge the gravity of this moment, Yang sourced a wide range of experts in his network to share their perspectives on anti-Asian sentiment in the U.S. Using the Try Guys audience of over 7.5 million subscribers, the documentary has been viewed over 560,000 times, and raised nearly $60,000 for the AAPI Community Fund.

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The video covers a wide range of topics, from the origins of “Yellow Peril,” the “Model Minority” myth, the killing of Vincent Chin, the historical relationship of the Black and Asian communities, to media, and the links from hate speech to hate crimes.

Yang doesn’t offer any quick solutions for the sickness embedded within this country, but provides much-needed historical context to best understand how anti-Asian sentiment has been sown for generations, and re-ignited alongside the COVID-19 pandemic. The documentary features interviews ranging from New Jersey Congressman Andy Kim, Oakland City Council member Carroll Fife, CNN journalist Lisa Ling, designer Phillip Lim, and many more perspectives from across the country.

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It took roughly one month to produce and covers a wide range of topics that touch on the Asian American experience. Yang credits his writing partner, Zoe Malik, who is also a news producer at Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, with assembling the fundamental historical elements, including facts and events that he was not previously aware of. The typical American education experience might’ve spent one day on Japanese internment camps, if at all, Yang said. With that in mind, he wanted to provide some foundational context to the documentary.

Yang also identifies some of the thornier parts of the Asian-American conversation, such as the vast differences in politics by generation, as well as the differences in political affiliations by specific Asian nationality. These differences aren’t put forth to blame or shame any one group, but instead reaffirm some common refrains in the Asian-American community: that this gigantic group of people is not a monolith, and each person’s lived experience is different. He asks his audience to start a conversation, even after these crimes are no longer in the news, especially within their own families.

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When asked what he hopes his viewers will do next, Yang points to the end of the documentary, when Reverend angel Kyodo williams, who said, “We have to allow ourselves to be changed by the solutions as we create them.”

Yang said he felt a responsibility to use the existing Try Guys audience on YouTube to start a conversation. “We have this access that is essentially forming and fueling ideologies, whether they be harmful or whether they be progressive.”

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