March 6, 2013

Why I’d Hate To Be Asian

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What is the issue?

Screen Shot 2013-03-06 at 1.58.35 PM

Last night, a YouTube video of a young man named Samuel H. went Facebook and Twitter viral. In it, Samuel makes a string of negative, racial remarks against Asians. In the aftermath of the video gaining so much publicity, some have said in Samuel’s defense that he was “just joking” and that “everybody makes racial slurs sometimes.” But where does one draw the not-so-fine line between comedy and ignorant, hateful speech?

YouTube user TheBsnyde2424 saved the video from Facebook, where Samuel himself originally uploaded it, and then put it on YouTube. In the information section of the video, he includes the following disclaimer:

The guy in the video is not me — Why I’d Hate To Be Asian (Totally Not Racist) is what this Samuel H. titled his video. He made the video public on Facebook and decided to belittle anyone who opposed his video with elementary school-like comments. He and his friends spammed my Facebook and called me a “raging faggot” and said he would “dismantle me socially” for standing up against him. He even sent me a message thanking me for posting this video. He said, “I was going to post it myself.”
I do not know him, but many friends of mine are very offended by this, so I decided to let the world know what he thinks. This video is not mine, but I felt it necessary for everyone to see. I enjoy sarcasm and joking around, but this does not cross many as a joke. Some people may cry freedom of speech or “it’s not a big deal” but I have been taught otherwise. Since I was raised this way I urge you to NOT CONTACT HIM. It is embarrassing enough for him now, there is no reason to riddle him with threats.

Everybody remembers Alexandra Wallace from two years ago who, on this day exactly, released a similarly themed YouTube video, “Asians in the Library.” And for those who did not follow up on the incident, she received overwhelming criticism from the UCLA population and opted to withdraw from the university. Sam, however, does not live in a city with a significant Asian population, as Los Angeles boasts. Sam is from Indiana. We don’t even know where in Indiana he’s from — it was advertised that he was a student at the University of Southern Indiana but, after many enraged e-mails were sent to the dean of the school, it has been discovered that Sam does not actually attend USI.

As an Asian American female who had the privilege of growing up in the predominantly Asian part of Orange County, California, I had grown up almost entirely unexposed to racism against Asians. It was only once I relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, that I was called a “chink” for the first time and had jokes made at the expense of my ethnicity. Indeed, I myself had to overcome some unfounded assumptions about race and culture, many of which I was not even aware I harbored. In the years I have subsequently lived in Atlanta, I have had the privilege and pleasure to establish intimate relationships with people of all races and cultures, something that has monumentally improved myself as a person. However, I have also been forced to raise an unpopular question: while racism against almost any other minority in the United States can bring about sensational responses, is racism against Asians seen in as serious a light?  Because Asian Americans as a whole are less stricken by poverty than many other minorities (and I say as a whole because I am well-aware that both sides of the spectrum exist), the racism against Asians that I have witnessed is often dismissed. When people make derogatory comments about Asians, most think immediately of people in Asia. However, they neglect to recognize the huge population of Asian Americans, people such as myself, who are wholly and legitimately American. While I was born and raised in California, I am still labeled as a ‘foreigner.’ Asian Americans have not suffered as much, some say. However, is it fair to compare the histories of different minority groups in America in order to legitimate the seriousness of racism?

While I absolutely do not condone the harassment of Samuel H. as an individual for this video, I am curious to see what kind of response it elicits from the internet. Will the internet’s reaction to this video be different from its reaction to the Alexandra Wallace sensation?  If so, does it mean that there is only so much outrage available towards racism against Asians, and that we have exhausted this supply? Does it mean that, because Samuel does not belong to a community with a substantial percentage of Asians, there will be fewer individuals offended? Samuel H. is a real person and there are hundreds of thousands of other real people who agree with him: racism against Asians is not ‘racism,’ it’s hilarious. And because these people exist, I do not want this video to fade to obscurity. It is long overdue that the seriousness of racism against Asians is addressed.

In the meantime, I want to remind my readers of another, less hateful video that was created in response to the Alexandra Wallace incident. TC Mark

Heidi Liu

Heidi is a twenty-one year old radio journalist from Los Angeles who now lives as an ex-pat in Beijing. E-mail her …

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