When Daniel Dae Kim shared in late March that he was one of the more than 1 million Americans who has been diagnosed with the new coronavirus, COVID-19, his goal was “to be informative and helpful.”
But it also opened him up to racist attacks as a person of Asian descent, Kim, 51, said.
“Thankfully I haven’t really experienced anything firsthand, person-to-person. But in sharing my experience with the virus, I exposed myself to the worst of online humanity. It was eye-opening and very discouraging,” he told The New York Times on Sunday.
Kim said the experience has lowered his hopes that the country will ever reach a point where all Americans feel unified.
“I firmly believe now that there’s a segment of the population that will forever consider anyone other than them outsiders,” he said. “We could use more emphasis on unity.”
Now nearly two months since his diagnosis, Kim said that he has almost fully recovered with a few remaining symptoms — random loss of taste or scent, and occasional trouble focusing. He has also been proactive, by donating his plasma for treatments and research, working to condemn the stigma against the Asian-American community and organizing fundraising drives for health care professionals.
“I don’t necessarily see my activity as a responsibility,” he said. “My only goal was to be informative and helpful for those who were fearful or had no reference point.”
He also discussed the importance of his latest role as the narrator of Asian-Americans, a new documentary series about the history of the Asian-American community premiering Monday on PBS. Although it was in production prior to the pandemic, it took on an added meaning for Kim considering the current attacks on Asian people.
“It makes it all the more important that people understand and see that this has happened in the past. There’s that saying about those who forget history are condemned to repeat it — this is a way of hopefully preventing history from repeating itself,” he said. “The one phrase that I always think about from Hamilton is: Are you going to be on the right side of history? As today’s chapter of our nation’s history is being written, which side will we be on? And which side will you be on?”
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