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Daniel Dae Kim originally did not intend to testify in front of the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary about diversity in the media — but one House vote last week changed his mind.
As the Hawaii 5-0 actor and The Good Doctor executive producer testified on the diversity in media hearing on Thursday, he initially thought the importance of diversity in media was “self-evident” and didn’t need a hearing. He changed his mind after seeing about 40 percent of the House vote “no” the week prior on House Resolution 908, which called for “public officials to condemn and denounce anti-Asian sentiment, racism, discrimination, and religious intolerance related to COVID-19 (i.e., coronavirus disease 2019) and [for] federal law enforcement officials, working with state and local officials, to take specified steps.” (Resolution 908 passed the House.)
“To me, it was a no-brainer. Who wouldn’t support condemning racism in 2020, a full 50 years after the Civil Rights Movement?” Kim said in prepared witness testimony. “But as I looked at the roll call, I saw that 164 representatives in the House voted against it. That’s more than a third of the members of Congress… that could not simply say that Anti-Asian sentiment is wrong and should be condemned. That was all the reason I needed to rethink my decision, and it’s why I am here before you today.”
During the hearing — which also featured actor and producer Erika Alexander (Get Out, Living Single), actor Edward James Olmos (Mayans M.C.), USC Annenberg’s Dr. Stacy L. Smith, the Motion Picture Association global general counsel Karyn A. Temple, singer Joy Villa and sports journalist Jason Whitlock as witnesses — Kim argued that media doesn’t just reflect culture, it “helps shape its values,” and called media a “values-delivery system.”
He further said that he hoped in the future that “when a bill like 908 comes up, every one of our elected representatives can unanimously show empathy for those who are being mistreated, instead of an embarrassingly high number choosing to see Asian Americans as invisible and ignoring an issue that, like so many others in our society today, occurs on a daily basis and yet, is willfully ignored.” He added that he hoped a resolution wouldn’t be needed in a more equitable future, when hate crimes “become nothing more than a relic from a shameful past” and that more diverse media would help realize that future.
Later in the hearing, during the question and answer portion, Republican Rep. Debbie Lesko of Arizona told Kim that many Republicans had not voted “yes” on House Resolution 908 because “inserted in that was a political attack specifically against the president of the United States.” (The resolution does not name Trump; Trump has previously called COVID-19 “the China virus.”) On the other hand, Democratic Rep. David N. Cicilline of Rhode Island applauded Kim for highlighting the Resolution 908 vote.
Also during the hearing, which grew heated at several junctures, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) repeatedly asked why profit motives hadn’t moved the needle on diversity in Hollywood yet. USC’s Smith blamed “mythologizing about decisionmaking” in the industry for the dearth of minority employees in front of and behind the camera.
At the very end of the nearly three-hour hearing, Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX) also pointedly asked the MPA’s Temple, “The changes that you outlined, while I am so grateful for them and while they are long overdue, do you really believe they meet the urgency of this moment?” Temple said she couldn’t answer yes or no but that the organization realized that “more needs to be done.” Escobar countered that she didn’t believe the changes did meet the urgency of the moment and asked, “Do we have your commitment that in addition to what you’ve outlined, that you will work at accelerating the work that needs to be done in order to meet the urgency of this moment? Yes or no?”
Temple responded, “Yes, you have my commitment and I’m happy to work with all of the studios to continue this dialogue with you directly.”
Watch the full hearing below.
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