Like many others, along with the subsequent substantial media coverage over the misreporting of the Asiana pilot’s names on Friday, I was offended and irritated over not simply the fact that it was so blatantly racist, but that it was almost blindingly obvious that the error was there and yet, the inaccurate names still aired.
There have been a couple pieces in the blogosphere on the racism that ensued with the tragic crash of Asiana ‘FRIGHT’ 214, which to the moment of this writing, has claimed the lives of three Chinese students. One of the best pieces I’ve read analyzes the role of media in racism (read it here), uncovering people who stupidly and arrogantly used modern stereotypes to react to this event.
To top off the fact that the reporting error was offensive, after I tweeted about it the other day, I got this response from Twitter user @dave204: “It was a play on names to create a funny story. Get a life..” I don’t think offended begins to characterize how I feel.
Via Critical Spontaneity:
The practice of forming racial biases and sweeping generalizations against groups of people after tragedy strikes is nothing new… we have not moved past racism. Instead, we have allowed it to transform into “jokes”, making light of tragic events at the expense of those we consider less than fully American. Today, we’ve mastered the art of xenophobia in 140 characters or less.
Stereotyping can be prejudiced and racist
There are plenty of generalizations and stereotypes against Asians that are, in fact, damaging and impossible to apply to the all Asians. Asians are bad drivers, Asians are all book-smart, Asians cannot lead (i.e., management positions/bamboo ceiling)… the list goes on.
One of the most offensive things I’ve heard, however, was a comment someone carelessly made to me in the past year. Whilst I paraphrase, the gist of the comment was simply, “Asians don’t face discrimination or racism, Asians are basically white.”
Sure. Statistically, we may not be aligned with other communities of color when it comes to household income, quality of life, or above all, education. But that does not mean all Asians are privileged to the same degree, and it does not mean that the diverse communities that fall under the “Asian” umbrella all receive the same amount of good fortune.
The diversity of the Asian diaspora
Those who assume all Asians are the same, regardless of ethnicity, really need to broaden their horizons. Just take a look at simplestatistics. Just in terms of education education, Southeast Asians (in this case, Cambodians, Hmong, Laotians, and Vietnamese) face drastically lower levels of education levels compared to “All Asians” (including East Asia—China, Japan, and Korea). Poverty levels are higher, and reliance on governmental assistance is higher.
So we’ve established that “Asians,” like other races/ethic groups, are diverse, even though the generalizations and stereotypes we make in the United States tends to forget it.
Other things, such as this dazzlingly brilliant video that went viral on YouTube, titled “What kind of Asian are you?” struck a chord with many, many people. I’ve been casually reading through some of the comments, not knowing whether I should be angry or laugh at the stupidity of some commenters, many, disappointingly, calling out Stella Choe’s character as more racist and offensive than Scott Beehner’s.
What these commenters and others who have displayed distaste for this video do not understand, as the person who said Asians don’t face racism does not understand, is simply that the virtue of being Asian does not make us any less of an individual—whether it be as a citizen of the United States, or an immigrant. Simply because we face different difficulties and trials, it does not mean we do not have them.
The different racism Asians in America face
Somehow, Asians in the United States are still, to this day, seen as the immigrants—as with the “What kind of Asian are you?” video, Asians are grilled in a way on a regular basis others are not. We’re questioned by “Americans” constantly as if we need to prove ourselves that we are, in fact, allowed to be here.
I’m not even going to begin taking the time to outline the racism and discrimination against Asians in United States history. I hope it won’t come as a shock to you, but there is plenty of ground to cover in that realm, from sinophobia and the Chinese Exclusion Act to Japanese internment camps. We have sixty years of official racial discrimination from the U.S. government with the Chinese Exclusion Act, which happens to be the only law in the United States ever in its history to prevent immigration based off of race, on our history books.
Asian communities in the United States may seem tight knit and alien to many others, but these communities are not exactly uncommon in American history. Each wave of immigrants to the States have formed similar communities before assimilating and branching out further.
By all means, ask me what my ethnic background is. But don’t be so surprised when I tell you that I was born in the United States, and have only lived in this country my entire life. It’s fantastically irritating when people assume or imply that I am not “American” enough despite my dazzling English and U.S. college education.
Last time I checked, there isn’t just one way to be American.
Jokes aren’t okay
Reading the comments section of reports that Asiana Airlines plans to sue KTVU over the egregious misreporting of the pilot’s names, it’s discouraging to find that many people jab at Asiana over the fact that their reputation was, in fact, damaged over the tragic crash and less so the offensive report.
This is discouraging and a bit disappointing because what almost all of these commenters are saying is that the misreporting was not a big deal, and a simple, harmless prank. It’s not funny. No matter any way you look at it, it’s far from comical.
One thing they also need to understand is that it’s not uncommon in Asia, as well as South Korea, to sue for defamation over something exactly like this case. Something, because of free speech and the First Amendment, is much more uncommon and unheard of here in the United States.
From a CNN report, Ken Paulson, the president of the First Amendment Center says the following:
“Where is the real damage? Yes, it was tasteless and undoubtedly it caused some short-term emotional distress, but nothing that rises to the level of litigation.”
The real damage is the way the small jabs and “jokes” are hurting Asians in the United States as they become permissible and commonplace thanks to modern culture and media. This short-term emotional distress will just lead to more parodies of Asian languages and other offenses towards Asian cultures. That is unacceptable.
While it is true that Asiana’s reputation suffered far more from the plane crash at SFO, I applaud the company for not accepting nor tolerating these “pranks.”
They are not funny. They are not harmless. And they need to stop.