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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.

April 29, 2007

Written by C.N.

Adult Asian Americans Helping Their Parents

For many Asian Americans, parent-family relationships can be a little tricky as each side tries their best to negotiate generational differences and the complex process of assimilating into American society and carving out a new life and identity for themselves in a new social environment. As the Orange County Register points out, one evolving trend is how many adult Asian Americans have now come full circle and are now reaching back to help out their parents:

It is not unusual for adult children in Asian families to contribute money to their parents on a monthly basis to help pay for their parents’ mortgages and other living expenses. “It is the ultimate symbol of gratitude that a child can show to his parents,” said Cal State Fullerton professor Son Kim Vo. “In the Vietnamese culture, it shows the complete cycle of a family. Parents raise their children, and now the children give back.” . . .

Among those who do give their parents money, there is another half-joke that those who give the most money receive the most love from their parents. “In a weird way, it is kind of like buying the parents’ love and approval,” Mai said. “I don’t want to say it, but it’s true.”

Tracy Pham, 34, of Garden Grove, said it can raise feelings of resentment among siblings. “My two sisters make way more money than I do, so they can afford to give my parents more,” said Pham, a hairstylist. “So, in my parents’ eyes, I know I’m not respected as much as my other sisters, and I feel like I can never measure up.”

For many immigrant families, Asian or otherwise, there does seem to be a consistent (although not universal) cycle of the second generation wanting to separate from their parents because they represent “old” or “foreign” ways, whereas the children just want to be like their (predominantly White) friends. Then somewhere in college, many young Asian Americans eventually rediscover their racial/ethnic identity and pride and come to finally appreciate the love their parents have for them. Then as adults, they then try to “repay” their parents back in whatever ways they can.

As an Asian American immigrant, scholar, and parent myself, I have seen this pattern over and over again and it always warms my heart each time to see each generation reconnecting with the other. The process may not be completely smooth at times, but ultimately, the results usually represent a positive reinforcement of not just the bond between family members, but also the bond of ethnic solidarity within each Asian/immigrant community.

April 26, 2007

Written by C.N.

Survivor Winner Comments on VA Tech Tragedy

You may remember Yul Kwon was the winner of the Survivor series that initially divided teams by racial group. His victory was seen as a significant accomplishment and source of pride by many Asian Americans. Yul has since continued to demonstrate his acute understanding of his social environment, as shown in an interview he recently conducted with the Asia Society in New York City:

As you can see, he verbalizes many of the same points that I made in my previous posts about the Virginia Tech tragedy, but with a particular emphasis from his point of view as a Korean American. Kudos to Yul and the Asia Society for helping to educate us about these important issues.

April 25, 2007

Written by C.N.

Online Survey: Identity & Well-Being

A regular reader asked me to help him publicize an online survey he’s conducting for his dissertation research on Asian Americans. If you complete the survey, you are eligible to possibly win a $50 gift card or cash:

Dear Asian-Nation Visitors,

My name is Derek Iwamoto and I am a doctoral student at the Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln. I am writing to enlist your help with collecting data for a research study examining the relationship between ethnic identity, racial identity, values, perceived discrimination and psychological well-being among Asian Americans. Completion of the online survey will take approximately 15-35 minutes. You will not be individually compensated for your participation however you can enter yourself in a raffle for a 1/50 chance to win $50 cash or Bestbuy/Target gift cards.

Also if you can forward this link to your friends and colleagues that would be much appreciated. Thank you.

April 24, 2007

Written by C.N.

Radio Hosts Suspended For Racist Skit

The Don Imus incident seems to having a ripple effect for the benefit of people of color in general, and as CBS News reports, for Asian Americans in one particular case, as two White radio show hosts have been suspended indefinitely after making anti-Asian and anti-Chinese remarks on the air:

The hosts of the daily morning show, WFNY-FM’s “The Dog House With JV and Elvis,” have been suspended indefinitely without pay. . . . Local chapters of the Organization of Chinese Americans, an advocacy group, released a statement Sunday protesting the segment. By Monday, California State Sen. Leland Yee and others joined the campaign.

In the segment, broadcast on April 5 and again last week, a caller to a Chinese restaurant intersperses an order for takeout with lewd language and racial slurs. The caller tells one female employee he wants to come to the restaurant to see her naked and refers to a part of her body as “hot, Asian, spicy.”

The caller attempts to order “shrimp flied lice” and refers to a male employee as “Chinese man” before claiming himself to be a student of kung fu. At one point he refers to a part of the employee’s body as a “tiny egg roll.”

Kudos to all those who fought to make these radio hosts accountable for their racist actions. It would indeed have been a double standard if people had they not been punished after what happened to Don Imus. Ignorance and racism is the same, regardless of who it’s directed at.

Let this also be a lesson to public personalities out there that Asian Americans are no longer easy targets — we will fight back and we will demand justice!


Update: The Associated Press reports that on May 14, CBS announced that the “Dog House with JV and Elvis” show has been officially canceled, although there is no official word whether the two deejays still work for CBS. Kudos to CBS for doing the right thing in canceling the show, but there’s still one last step: fire the deejays.

April 22, 2007

Written by C.N.

Korean Reaction to VA Tech Shootings: Guilt vs. Solidarity

At the risk of overanalyzing the events surrounding the shootings at Virginia Tech last week, I would like to offer one last set of observations. In my previous posts, I’ve acknowledged that certainly, there are many complicated emotions and reactions to these tragic events. This also applies to Koreans and Korean Americans, for whom this event stirs up additional feelings that include guilt, shame, and embarrassment based on the fact that the gunman was Korean American.

As one article from New American Media describes, many Koreans felt that Cho’s murderous rampage tarnished the image of Koreans and Korean Americans and that it would lead to a backlash against them. Korean government officials have also issued repeated apologies, perhaps fearing that an association with Cho would interfere with their diplomatic and/or economic relations with Americans.

In talking about this particular issue with my Korean American colleagues, many of them observe that for whatever reasons, many Asian Americans in general, but Koreans in particular, are very quick to personalize and internalize the high-profile public failures of anyone identified as Korean or Korean American, and to therefore feel a deep and profound sense of humiliation and guilt about such events. The implication is that somehow, the entire Korean/Korean American community is “responsible” or “at fault” in some way for Cho’s actions.

In contrast, many Koreans/Korean Americans, particularly younger or more “Americanized” members, feel that while they obviously share in the shock, grief, and sorrow regarding the tragic events at Virginia Tech, their community should not have to feel that they are somehow responsible for what Cho did just because he was Korean American, in the same way that Whites as a collective group were not responsible for the shooting massacre at Columbine High School eight years ago, nor any of the other high-profile school shootings in recent American history.

I happen to agree with that sentiment, but I think it’s a more complicated issue than that.

The question that comes to mind for me is, where do we as Asian Americans draw the line between shared guilt versus group solidarity? In other words, in most other respects, many Asian Americans including myself have consistently tried to encourage a sense of pan-Asian American unity and solidarity. This effort is based on the notion that in emphasizing our commonalities and uniting as a collective group, Asian Americans can speak with a louder and more powerful collective voice in American society, rather than as isolated individuals or ethnicities.

But with that in mind, is it then a contradiction to disassociate ourselves from Seung-Hui Cho in this case, and basically say that he wasn’t “one of us” and to reject any insinuation that his ethnicity had anything to do with his actions (which would also imply that some Asian American may share some of his feelings of alienation, etc.)?

Ultimately, I don’t think that it has to be an either-or proposition. That is, we can still say that ultimately Cho’s actions should be understood as the aberrant behavior of an extremely troubled individual, while at the same time saying that his mental illness could have been made worse by feeling like an outsider and ridiculed for being different — sentiments that inevitably do exist among many Asian Americans.

Thankfully, even though many Asian Americans may have similar feelings of alienation, they do not react by going on a murderous rampage. Nonetheless, we as Asian Americans should recognize and advocate that (1) we be treated with respect and tolerance — especially those who might be otherwise seen as outcasts, (2) members of our community who are emotionally troubled be actively encouraged to seek help, and (3) mental health services should be readily available and culturally-competent.

These efforts would go a long way in preventing not just tragic incidents like this, but also in reducing the difficulties many Asian American face in the complicated process of finding our identity within the complicated American racial landscape.

April 19, 2007

Written by C.N.

Immigrant Status of VA Tech Gunman: Does it Matter?

Following up on my last post about Seung Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech gunman, the evidence that’s coming out seems to suggest that among other things, he felt ridiculed for his social class background (at least in comparison to the ‘rich’ kids that he railed against in his suicide note and video) and for being quiet — but apparently not specifically for being Asian.

In other words, it does not seem that he was lashing out in reaction to incidents of racial prejudice or discrimination. I personally feel somewhat relieved to know that prejudice can now be removed from the equation. Why is that comforting to know? Because to me, it means that Asians and Koreans on the one hand, will not have to engage in the “blame game” with non-Asians on the other (specifically those who would have been the perpetrators of prejudice against him).

Nonetheless, a different aspect to the media’s coverage of his situation has gotten my attention and that of many others. Specifically, a lot of analysts, commentators, and observers have brought up the fact that he originally immigrated to the U.S. from Korea. One example of this is to refer to him in the traditional Asian way of using the surname first — Cho Seung-Hui, instead of the American version– Seung-Hui Cho.

Does his immigrant status make a difference in trying to understand what he did?

For many Asian Americans, the answer is no. First of all, even though he was originally from South Korea, he immigrated at a relatively early age — 8. According to sociologists and demographers, that makes him part of the “1.5 generation” — in between the first generation (that would be his parents) and the second generation (those born in the U.S.).

The distinction of being 1.5 generation also includes being raised and socialized primarily as an American. In other words, most of his formative schooling took place in the U.S. and by all accounts, he was perfectly fluent in English. In fact, he was so Americanized that he majored in English, rather than majors normally associated with Asian immigrants such as engineering, math, the ‘hard’ sciences, etc.

So why is it that so many people commented and even focused so intently on the fact that he originally immigrated from South Korea?

I think the answer is that they were consciously or unconsciously trying to culturally distance themselves from him. In other words, by emphasizing that he was an immigrant, they were basically saying “He was a foreigner, an outsider — he wasn’t one of us, he wasn’t a ‘real’ American. ‘Real’ Americans would never have done something like this.”

That is, even though he was basically socialized as an American, much of America refuses to accept that he was in fact an American. And with underlying sentiments like that, they only function to reinforce notions of Korean Americans and Asian Americans as perpetual foreigners. In other words and unfortunately, many Asian Americans still need to overcome the perception that they are not “real” Americans.

This particular stereotype exists even though many Asian American families have been in the U.S. several generations, even though we tend to be the most educated racial group in the U.S., even though we are the group most likely to have high-skilled jobs, and even though on the family level, we have the highest income of all racial groups.

Of course, there are specific ethnic differences in this generalization, but the point is that in virtually all other respects of what it means to be an “American,” we meet or exceed those standards. But for various reasons, most of which have to do with our skin color and distinct physical appearance to be perfectly blunt, we’re more likely to be seen as foreigners.

That is exactly what is going on in this instance, with the American media’s focus on Cho’s immigrant status. In trying to distance ‘real’ Americans from him, American society is only reinforcing the notion that Asian Americans are not ‘real’ Americans. In the end, even though we may grieve and cry just like the rest of American society, we still have to pay a price for what he did.

April 17, 2007

Written by C.N.

Asian Identity of Virginia Tech Gunman

By now, I’m sure everybody has heard of the tragedy that took place yesterday, Monday April 16, at Virginia Tech University. Words cannot adequately convey the profound shock and sadness that I feel about this unthinkable human catastrophe. As an educator, a parent — as a human being — I am struggling to come to grips with the enormity of what happened but at the least, I want to convey my deepest, most sincere condolences to everyone affected by these killings.

You may have also heard that gunman has been officially identified as an Asian American — Seung-Hui Cho, a 23 year old senior English major at Virginia Tech who originally immigrated from South Korea in 1992.

The Associated Press article cited above notes that he was referred to school counselors after his instructors found his creative writing rather disturbing. The Chicago Tribune also reports that he apparently left a rambling suicide note that railed against “‘rich kids,’ ‘debauchery’ and ‘deceitful charlatans’ on campus” and that he had committed several strange and violent acts in recent weeks.

As a sociologist and Asian American Studies scholar, I will try to to put some sociological context into this horrific tragedy and several initial reactions come to mind:

If the gunman were White, his racial identity would go virtually unnoticed and unmentioned. However, because he was a person of color, much will probably be made of his racial identity. Specifically, because he was Asian American, much of the nation’s attention will be turned to examining what kinds of cultural characteristics may have influenced his behavior.

Also, inevitably, there will be some extreme reactions from xenophobes and people with anti-immigrant positions, perhaps along the lines of “This is what happens when we let in all kinds of immigrants, so we need to shut down our borders” or “We let in these damn foreigners and give them a chance at a better life and this is how they return the favor?” In addition, those who have anti-Asian sentiments are likely to say something like “Well, this just proves that Asians are so weird, foreign, and inscrutable –we just can’t trust them.”

Unfortunately these sorts of opinions are a classic example of confounding individual traits with group traits. In other words, yes, this one particular immigrant was responsible for this tragedy, but that does not mean that all immigrants or all Asian Americans are ticking psychopathic timebombs just waiting to go on a murderous rampage.

More likely, I think typical reactions will be along the lines of “Wow, I always thought Asian Americans were so quiet and passive” or “As an Asian, he must have been under a tremendous amount of pressure to do well in school.” Admittedly, these types of responses are a little harder to respond to because there are some kernels of truth to these particular sentiments.

For example, some Asian Americans do tend to be quiet and unassuming, although that is changing and also, much of these perceptions are based on biased media portrayals and cultural stereotypes. Nonetheless, the perception — whether it’s true or not — of Asians being quiet does exist. Similarly, it is also true that many Asian Americans, particular students, do experience a lot of pressure to succeed. In fact, I’ve written about such examples before and other barriers many Asian American students regularly face.

To this mix, we can also add other examples in which various social pressures or contentious incidents have pushed Asian Americans over the edge, causing them to snap and commit murder. But does that mean that Asians are more prone to psychotic episodes that result in them killing those around them?

My answer is, absolutely not. If anything, I believe the opposite is true — that despite having to frequently deal with various incidents of prejudice, hostility, and outright racism, the vast majority of Asian Americans react with dignity, courage, and perseverance. Perhaps too many still keep their emotions buried inside them and need to share their frustrations more openly in order to move beyond them, but as a group, I think that in the face of persistent examples of inequality and injustice, we do not react more violently than any other group.

Did the Virginia Tech gunman’s reasons include having to deal with racism as an Asian American? At this point, I don’t know. But if that turns out to be the case, my reaction would be the same as it was in the case of Chai Soua Vang, the Hmong American convicted of killing six White hunters in Wisconsin after a hostile encounter that allegedly contained anti-Asian profanities.

That is, many of us Asian Americans face racism as well, but we don’t go on murderous shooting rampages. In other words, my point is that ultimately, what Seung-Hui Cho did at Virginia Tech was an example of someone who was clearly emotionally unstable and that he just snapped for whatever reasons known only to him.

I would not be a sociologist if I did not also point to the culture of violent masculinity that frames mass shootings like this. My UMass Amherst colleague Sut Jhully has produced several acclaimed documentaries that detail this phenomenon, most notably the video Tough Guise. For now, I will leave it up to him and others who have greater expertise in this particular sociological context to contribute their analysis.

In the end, this entire episode is an opportunity to remind Asian Americans and anyone else out there who are facing emotional issues or challenging situations that there are resources out there for them to access in order to more constructively deal with those pressures before they get out of hand. Suffering in silence doesn’t help anyone.

April 16, 2007

Written by C.N.

Asians Most Influenced by College Rankings

In recent years, the popularity of national college rankings — most notably that from U.S. News & World Report — has increased significantly. Although many colleges are now trying to organize a boycott of the rankings, they are still a prominent part of discussions on which schools to apply to for many students. With that in mind, which racial group tends to place the most importance on these rankings? New data points to Asian American students as the answer:

Preliminary research into the importance of rankings also suggest some “compelling differences” among ethnic and socioeconomic characteristics, says Victor Saenz, co-author of the report, conducted by UCLA’s Cooperative Institutional Research Program.

For example, he says, students from more affluent families are much more likely to identify rankings as important than are students from less affluent backgrounds.

That’s “especially true” for more affluent black and Hispanic students, he says. But Asian students are more likely to report rankings as very important, regardless of their socioeconomic status, Saenz says.

So what does that ultimately mean? On the one hand, as the authors point out, the more affluent the student, the more likely s/he is to consider the rankings important. Therefore, that should mean that the groups at the top of America’s socioeconomic hierarchy, Whites and Asian Americans, should be the most likely to consider them important.

But as we see, Whites are the least likely to consider the rankings as important. So what does that mean for Asian Americans? There seem to be two potential explanations. The first is that it may mean that Asian American students are more likely to be concerned about status and reputation than other groups. In other words, perhaps Asian students are more vain and preoccupied with symbols of materialistic success, such as the school they attended.

There may be a little truth to that first notion. However, I think the more plausible explanation is related to the reason why Asian Americans are so much more likely to get bachelors and advanced degrees in the first place — to compensate for institutional discrimination.

In other words, my guess is that many Asian American students know consciously or unconsciously that because of American society’s historical legacy of unequal and unjust treatment of all groups of color and their status as a racial minority in American society, they are more likely to encounter individual and institutional barriers toward their educational and career success.

With that in mind, many Asian Americans compensate or try to protect themselves from this potential disadvantage by getting more years of education, a higher degree, or in this case, attending a more prestigious school. In other words, rather than being motivated by an “irrational” desire for status, many Asian Americans may see such rankings as a “rational” strategy to overcome whatever mechanisms of inequality they may face.

April 15, 2007

Written by C.N.

Chopsticks + Fork = Chork

You’ve probably heard of a spork (spoon + fork), right? Well, meet the newest culinary Frankenstein utensil: the Chork, a combination of chopsticks and fork:

The chork

Chork?!? Isn’t that what you call a Chinese dork? Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Hey, I thought chopsticks could already be used as forks, right? At any rate, like the author of the Slashfood article says, it’s perfect for your Asian Fusion dishes!

April 13, 2007

Written by C.N.

New Bruce Lee Movie Projects

More than 30 years after his death, Bruce Lee still occupies a prominent place in Asian American culture and identity. As Wired News reports, there are several movie projects about him in the works, most notably by Justin Lin, director of films such as Better Luck Tomorrow and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift:

Bruce Lee died in 1973, midway through making Game of Death, the only film in which he was the writer, director, producer and lead. Rather than bag the project, Hollywood moviemakers continued filming with a cast of stand-ins — Asian men with only a passing resemblance to Lee. The film led to an entire genre of Bruce Lee films (sans Bruce Lee). For the next 10 years, actors with names like Bruce Li, Bruce Le and Lee Bruce starred in dozens of low-budget, badly dubbed kung fu flicks that mirrored many of Lee’s original films. . . .

[Lin’s new movie] Finishing the Game pokes fun at the entertainment industry’s relentless efforts to hold onto something great that, in reality, is gone forever. In a closing scene, Lin shows a casting director presenting the final candidates. There’s a white guy, a guy in a wheelchair and a guy over 6 feet tall — it’s all pretty absurd. . . .

Finishing the Game also leads what looks to be the next wave of Bruceploitation: A Chicago theater company is working with David Bowie and Tony Award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang on a Bruce Lee musical, and director Rob Cohen has been pushing to make a movie that features the real Bruce Lee in CG.

Don’t forget that Chinese entrepreneurs are planning to build a Bruce Lee theme park, complete with roller coasters that emit Bruce’s signature yells. So the question becomes, are these projects a good thing? Are they sincere tributes to his enduring cultural legacy, or is Bruce’s legacy being exploited merely for money?

Ultimately, I think the answers are yes to both questions. In the same way that Mongolia is wrestling with how to promote their ancestral ties to Genghis Khan without corrupting his historical importance, so too are Asian Americans grappling with how to best remember and celebrate Bruce’s life. In the end, capitalism will do whatever it thinks will work.

With that in mind, our task as Asian Americans is to remember Bruce’s legacy as someone who sought to create his own image and identity in the face of resistance and racism from mainstream American society. In that sense, his legacy is alive and well.

April 12, 2007

Written by C.N.

Movie Piracy in China

Modern China is known for many things, but not all of them are flattering to the Chinese. One such point of notoriety is the near-universal supply of pirated American movies that are available throughout China. After repeated unsuccessful attempts to address the problem, the U.S. has now decided to file suit against China at the World Trade Organization (WTO). Will it work? As reports, the Chinese don’t think so:

China is always claiming it is going to crack down on the country’s rampant intellectual property abuse. In fact, the government declared this past March 15 anti-piracy day, and there are still big billboards downtown urging everyone to fight against IPR theft. . . . “Many countries are facing the same challenges in their anti-piracy campaigns,” said Chen Zhaokuan, deputy director of China’s Copyright Society. “For China, we are a latecomer in this area, and it’s natural that the sense of copyright protection among the Chinese people is not that strong.” . . .

When it comes to computer software, pharmaceuticals and a handful of other areas, Chen is right. The Chinese actually have made some progress on IP protection over the years. But for the film and music business, the claim that there has been progress is simply a joke. Ask Zhou, or any of the other street vendors in Shanghai, Beijing or anywhere else in China.

“Competition has never been tougher,” Li Haihua told me as he did a brisk business selling brand new American-made films for five RMB apiece (the equivalent of about 60 cents) on Huaihai Street in central Shanghai, not five minutes from one of the big anti piracy billboards. He cast his eyes up and down the street. “There are more [sellers] than ever before, and the price has come down. It used to be you could sell a new DVD for eight RMB. Not anymore. There’s too much competition.”

His message doesn’t bode well for any kind of crackdown. There is more supply [and] prices have fallen sharply because of that. If the government had made any progress drying up the supply of counterfeit movies and music, prices would have gone up, not down.

Is piracy just the cost of doing business with China? Is it inevitable that China will always have a piracy problem? Looking at the extent and pure pervasiveness of the problem, it’s tempting to say yes. But if I recall, the same issue existed in Japan for a long time as well, before Japanese society and its economy matured enough so that piracy was no longer necessary. Could the same process happen again in China?

Before I can say yes to that question, let us remember that China has about ten times the population that Japan has and that China’s economy is developing in an era of much more fierce global economic competition. So what’s the verdict?

The piracy problem may become somewhat alleviated, but my guess is that until the standard of living inside China increases significantly, piracy will continue to exist. However, having said that, American companies will complain but in the end, will temper their anger because ultimately, they want a part of the action — China’s 1.3 billion consumer market.

To paraphrase the old adage, capitalism might take one step backward, but somehow, will always end up being two steps ahead.

April 11, 2007

Written by C.N.

Larger Context of Imus Racist Comments

By now I’m sure you’ve heard of the controversy regarding radio talk show host Don Imus’s recent comments about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team, in which he called the student-athletes “nappy-headed hos.” Imus has a history of making controversial and even racist comments and surviving, but as many observers point out, he finally crossed the line this time.

As you’ve also probably seen, the outrage and backlash against Imus has been significant. He’s been suspended for two weeks and several of his show’s advertisers have pulled out. It goes without saying that I join the overwhelming chorus of those who condemn his comments as profoundly offensive and blatantly racist.

His comments clearly expose the racial differences involved as a White male making racist comments toward Black women. Despite his apologies and the fact that he runs a ranch for disadvantaged children (many of whom are of color), I absolutely agree that he deserves every bit of the criticism he’s received and needs to be fired, immediately.

The point of my post here however, is to try to place this incident in the larger context of American race relations. Specifically, in the wake of this entire controversy, I find myself asking, “Where was the overwhelming national collective outrage when Asian Americans were the targets of racist comments by various radio personalities?”

As detailed on the pages of sites like, in the last few years, there have been several incidents in which radio talk show personalities have made equally offensive and racist comments about Asian Americans. Some examples:

  • December 2004: Star (aka Troi Terrain) of Philadelphia’s Power 99 WUSL morning radio show yelled to an call center work in India, “Listen to me, you dirty rat eater. I’ll come out there and choke the ‘F’ out of you. You’re a filthy rat eater.”
  • January 2005: hosts of the ‘Miss Jones in the Morning’ show sang a ‘Tsunami Song’ which mocked the victims of the South Asian tsunami, using racist terms such as “chink” and “Chinamen,” and called the drowning victims “bitches.”
  • April 2005: Craig Carton and Ray Rossi (the “Jersey Guys” of New Jersey 101.5 FM) made racist comments and characterizations of Arab Americans and Asian Americans, calling them “Damn Orientals and Indians” and speaking in “ching chong” gibberish.
  • January 2006: Adam Corolla made disparaging “ching chong” comments against Asians on his show and disparaged the Asian Excellence Awards.

To be fair, in most of these instances, due to pressure from Asian Americans and other community organizations and activists, the guilty parties did issue apologies and in the case of Troi Terrain, he was fired from his job. But to the best of my knowledge, none of these incidents attracted nearly the same level of overwhelming national, collective outrage as we’re seeing regarding Imus’s comments.

In other words, it was almost exclusively due to the outrage and work of Asian Americans that we were able to receive some justice in these cases — we received very little, if any, help from the mainstream media or American society in general. So my question is — is that fair?

Before I go further, I want to make it clear that I am not interested in perpetuating some sort of “Oppression Olympics” in which groups of color compete with each other in pointing out that historically, they’ve been more oppressed and institutionally victimized than other groups and that therefore racist incidents perpetrated against them are more important or significant.

Instead, my point is that I hope incidents like this remind us all that whenever we encounter racism that we should feel compelled to attack it, regardless of what racial group we identify with and/or to what racial group the offense is directed. This also applies to the mainstream media — they need to keep in mind that racism happens to all groups of color. In other words, in the immortal words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “A threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”