Comedian Sherry Cola says lack of Asian representation goes ‘hand in hand’ with hate crimes against them

Sherry Cola describes herself as "a proud Chinese immigrant," who moved to America in 1994, when she was just 4 years old. In the years since, Cola, who's now an actress on the Freeform series Good Trouble, has been disappointed with the way television shows and films have depicted people like herself.

The actress and comic was, of course, referring to the escalating violence against Asian Americans since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While federal data for 2020 hate crimes has not yet been released, the group Stop AAPI Hate received more than 3,795 accounts of anti-Asian hate between March 19 of last year and February 28. On the same day the report was released, six Asian women were among the eight people killed in a series of shootings at three Atlanta spas.

The tears just wouldn't stop. Cola turned on her video camera to tell her followers what she thought through an emotional poem.

"We've had so many bottled emotions for years as Asian women," Cola says now, "and people were saying, like, 'Oh, I didn't know how to find the words, but you took 'em right out of my mouth."

Video Transcript

SHERRY COLA: That night of the Atlanta shooting, I remember calling my mom just in tears. I was just devastated because my mom also owns a small Asian business and she also is an immigrant. It could have been her. A lot of Asian kids were thinking this, it could have been my mom.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Hi, I'm Sherry Cola, comedian, actress, and writer. I play Alice on "Good Trouble." I'm definitely a proud Chinese American immigrant. I came to this country in 1994. I was around four. Back then I was definitely very self-conscious about the fact that we came from another country. My name on the roll sheets in class was my Chinese name. You really butcher the pronunciation and my parents gave me my American name, Sherry. Just the name that my dad like saw a waitress have or something and he liked it.

So already, from day one we're kind of masking our identities to conform to America. Embracing that identity is still ongoing to be honest. In the beginning of this pandemic, President Trump was definitely very loosely calling COVID-19 "kung-flu," "China virus." That absolutely was the reason why Asian people were being attacked on the street.

And there were so many times, I mean, over 3,000 attacks in the last year against the Asian community. The Atlanta shooting was kind of like the last straw. My mom had her cape on as a fearless maternal figure and she was like, why are you crying? It's OK. I'm like no, Mom. This is not OK.

It breaks my heart that we're moving in reverse. I remember my mom used to work hard to put me first with $5 in her purse. It hurts that it could have been her in a hearse. I was just so emotional that night, I couldn't stop crying, and I was thinking about this poem. I wrote it on my notes on my phone, it was like 3:00 AM. I was like OK, first thing in the morning I'm just going to put this out. I'm going to post it.

Asian women, we're taught to mind our own business. What kind of country is this? We're getting murdered by white terrorists with assistance from the [BLEEP]-ed up system. These were daughters, wives, mothers, and sisters. We've had so many bottled emotions for years as Asian women. And people were saying like, oh, I didn't know how to find the words, but you took them right out of my mouth.

This is bringing us back to the Exclusion Act. These are just the facts. My community is under attack. Even eight months ago, we were kind of letting it slide in a weird way, right? And now it's like, whoa, what? No. We deserve to be here. We do not deserve to be ridiculed and harassed and assaulted and killed.

I can talk for days about the fact that the lack of representation in Hollywood, or the incorrect representation of the Asian community in Hollywood, goes hand-in-hand with these hate crimes. Because America watches us as the punch lines, the stereotype, the supporting character that has maybe one line-- we'll be lucky if it's in English.

We also have to celebrate the wins. Every role needs to have an intention. It's OK to have an accent as a character because that is real, you know what I mean? But it needs to have intention. The old me used to let the hatred slide but now I'm filled with Asian pride. I'm so sick of holding the pain inside.

I'm just hoping that the representation now, with me doing my thing, can be hope for younger Asian females, Asian queer females, Asians in general, females in general. You know what I mean? Every layer of myself, immigrants-- that you absolutely can do it and it is possible because I will make sure of that.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

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