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Celebrities Continue Fight For Change Amid Rise In Attacks Against Asian Americans

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In the past year, nearly 4,000 Asian hate crime incidents were reported nationwide. CBS2's Cindy Hsu reports.

Video Transcript

- --past year we've seen an alarming rise in attacks against Asian-Americans.

- And as more people offer support for this very diverse community, we are hearing from two high profile celebrities who have been fighting, for decades, for change, and also, more understanding. CBS 2's Cindy Hsu has their stories.

CINDY HSU: In the last year nearly 4,000 Asian hate incidents have been reported nationwide, but there's a long history of anti-Asian violence in the US. I spoke to Tony award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang, who was stabbed in the neck in Brooklyn five years ago walking home from the grocery store.

DAVID HENRY HWANG: It turned out that the attacker had severed my vertebral artery. I'd lost about a third of my blood. But I was out of the hospital in 3 or four days, so I was, you know, a lot more fortunate than many attack victims.

CINDY HSU: The attacker was never caught. Do you believe this was a hate crime?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: Um, I do, and I think I've come to feel more comfortable with saying that over the years. At the time that it happened, the NYPD didn't classify it as a hate crime.

CINDY HSU: The attack was the genesis of Hwang's latest musical, "Soft Power," which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, as were two other works, "Yellowface" and "M. Butterfly." He has spent 40 years writing plays, largely about Asian-American stories. He believes political rhetoric unleash the violence we're seeing now.

DAVID HENRY HWANG: A lot of this was exacerbated by the former president who used terms like "China virus" and "Kung Flu."

CINDY HSU: Actor George Takei, who played Mr. Sulu on Star Trek, felt the target on his back at five years old, right after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941. He was born and raised in California, but was rounded up with more than 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry, then thrown into internment camps.

GEORGE TAKEI: Soldiers came up, stomped up the front porch, with their fists, banged on the door. And literally, at gunpoint, with bayonets on them, they ordered us out of our home.

CINDY HSU: Takei says the experience turned him into an activist. He starred in the Broadway musical, "Allegiance," inspired by Takei's personal stories while in the internment camp. He recently published the graphic novel, "They Called Us Enemy," which received an American Book Award last year. But he points to the iconic series Star Trek, which started in 1966, as a show we could learn from now, especially looking back at the themes of inclusion and acceptance it celebrated more than 50 years ago.

GEORGE TAKEI: The acronym was IDIC, I-D-I-C, Infinite Diversity In Infinite Combinations.

CINDY HSU: --something we need more of today. Cindy Hsu, CBS 2 News.