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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

December 19, 2006

Written by C.N.

Rosie O’Donnell’s Anti-Chinese Comments

For those who don’t know already, Rosie O’Donnell is an actress and talk show host who has seen her fair share of controversy through the years. The latest incident occurred on Dec. 5, 2006 on her talk show The View when she was discussing actor Danny DeVito’s recent drunken run-in with police and how she predicted that the story was being discussed around the world: “You know, you can imagine in China it’s like, ‘Ching-chong, ching-chong. Danny DeVito. Ching-chong, ching-chong-chong. Drunk. The View. Ching-chong.'” The video of the incident is below:

As the San Francisco Chronicle points out, predictably, the Asian American community was outraged and just as predictably, O’Donnell was absolutely clueless about why Asian Americans found her ‘ching chong’ comments offensive:

So far, she has not apologized for her Dec. 5 comments as Asian Americans in the Bay Area and across the country are demanding. But she has responded on her blog at She writes that she “wasn’t mocking / that’s my best impression” and that her “bad accent was not meant to insult or degrade / linguistic incompetence — guilty / mocking — never.” She tells one detractor to go “f- urself.”

Spoofing a language belittles the people who speak it, community leaders say. They also say it’s disappointing to hear such insensitivity from O’Donnell, who has championed gay and lesbian rights and taken others to task for being homophobic. “She’s shrugging it off, saying get over it, but it’s hypocritical,” said Pauline Sze, 20, a UC Berkeley student and an editor of Hardboiled, a news magazine focusing on Asian American issues.

I should be shocked at this particular incident but unfortunately, I’m not. First, many Americans are still completely clueless as to why making fun of someone’s language — and by implication, their culture and identity — is blatantly offensive and racist. But second, historically oppressed groups such as gays/lesbians are certainly not immune from being racist — or at least being completely racially ignorant.

In other words, the same kinds of prejudices and stereotypes that are reinforced and perpetuated against Asian Americans among “straight” Americans are also reinforced and perpetuated among gays and lesbians as well. Being “oppressed” does not mean that you cannot be guilty of oppressing others. When that happened, as the SF Chronicle article points out, Rosie O’Donnell was exposed for what she is — an ignorant and loud-mouthed hypocrite, plain and simple.

Author Citation

Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Rosie O’Donnell’s Anti-Chinese Comments" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <> ().

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