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All posts copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le.
Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

The views and opinions expressed on this site and blog posts (excluding comments on blog posts left by others) are entirely my own and do not represent those of any employer or organization with whom I am currently or previously have been associated.

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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.

January 24, 2007

Written by C.N.

Princeton Student Newspaper Controversy

You might remember that recently an Asian American student applicant who was rejected at Princeton sued the university claiming racial discrimination. The people at Princeton’s student newspaper, The Daily Princetonian, decided to write about his case. Unfortunately, they tried to do so using a parody that included mocking Asian language accents and basically playing off offensive stereotypes against Asians. While the student newspaper claimed it was all hyperbole, others weren’t so amused:

Under the byline of Lian Ji, the article used broken English and racial stereotypes to bash the school for his rejection. “Hi Princeton! Remember me? I so good at math and science. Perfect 2400 SAT score. Ring Bells?” the article began. “Just in case, let me refresh your memories. I the super smart Asian. Princeton the super dumb college, not accept me.”

An accompanying note informed readers that the article was part of the joke issue, but that did not stop Princeton students and alumni from accusing the writers of racism. “Many angry Asian American alums are circulating this article like wildfire. I consider myself an easygoing person, but, guys, this article doesn’t even try to use humor to hide the underlying hate,” Andre Liu, who identified himself as a 1991 graduate, wrote to the editor. “Real bad call.”

Friday’s issue published an article on the controversy and a note from the paper’s managing board that stated its members “sincerely regret having upset some of our readers,” but defended their intentions. “Using hyperbole and an unbelievable string of stereotypes, we hoped to lampoon racism by showing it at its most outrageous,” the note said. “We embraced racist language in order to strangle it. At its worst, the column was a bad joke; at its best, it provoked serious thought about issues of race, fairness and diversity.”

In a letter that appeared in the Daily Princetonian, Princeton’s Asian American Studies Association said the column was “offensive to Asian American students” and “reflects poorly on Princeton’s reputation as a diverse and informed university.”

Apparently The Daily Princetonian includes a few Asian American writers who worked on the “parody” and apparently felt that publishing it was appropriate. Because of that fact, many defenders of The Daily Princetonian argue that they were right in publishing the piece. And apparently, all Asian Americans are supposed to think alike, right? Just because one or a few Asian Americans thought that it was funny means that all Asian Americans should fall right in line, like mindless robots?

As someone who’s been called “extremely sarcastic” by friends and relatives, I can appreciate the value of hyperbole and satire. But in this case, the parody clearly crossed the line into reinforcing and perpetuating offensive stereotypes. Ultimately, The Daily Princetonian has a right to feel that their piece tried to attack racial stereotypes. But they should realize that the same freedom of expression allows the rest of us to denounce it as patently offensive.

For more perspective on this issue, be sure to read Jeff Yang’s weekly “Asian Pop” column.


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

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Princeton Student Newspaper Controversy" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/01/princeton-student-newspaper-controversy/> ().

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