Saturday, December 16, 2006

Does Racism Against Asians Count?

Before I add my commentary, I thought it would be useful to present some background. Here are the facts, as best I can determine them:

1) On the December 5 episode of "The View," Rosie O'Donnell decided to illustrate the global interest in discussing Danny DeVito's recent drunken television appearances by performing an "imitation" of a Chinese newscaster. Here is the transcript:

"The fact is that it's news all over the world. That you know, you can imagine in China it's like: 'Ching chong. Danny DeVito, ching chong, chong, chong, chong. Drunk. The View. Ching chong.' "

2) Several organizations and individuals, including UNITY (an umbrella organization for minority journalists that includes the associations of Asian American, Black, Hispanic, and Native American journalists) and New York City Councilman John Liu, criticized O'Donnell's actions and asked for an apology.

3) O'Donnell's publicist Cindy Berger's initial response was to downplay the incident:

"She's a comedian in addition to being a talk show co-host. I certainly hope that one day they will be able to grasp her humor."

4) O'Donnell added on her blog: ""I do many accents and probably will continue to. My mom in law impression offends some southerners. What can u do? I come in peace."

5) O'Donnell later responded to the criticisms on air:

After running a clip of the offending segment, which originally ran Dec. 5, she said, “This apparently was very offensive to a lot of Asian people. So I asked Judy, who’s Asian and works here in our hair and makeup department. I said, ‘Was it offensive to you?’ And she said, ‘Well, kinda. When I was a kid people did tease me by saying ching-chong.’

“So apparently ‘ching-chong,’ unbeknownst to me, is a very offensive way to make fun, quote-unquote, or mock, Asian accents. Some people have told me it’s as bad as the n-word. I was like, really? I didn’t know that.”

Chris' Commentary:

Where to begin...where to begin.

1) Let me first state that I'm a firm believer in free speech. If Rosie wants to make jokes that I feel are distasteful, that's her right. Just like it's my right to respond as I see fit. Restrictions on free speech, even on hateful speech like Holocaust denials, are wrong.

2) Ultimately, the actual offensive "joke" is less virulent than many of the recent Celebritard outbreaks (Michael Richards and his n-word tirade; Mel Gibson telling the police that Jews start all wars). Rosie didn't intend to hurt Asians, she just didn't care enough to think before she spoke. Or apologize.

3) That being said, what really bothers me are the second-order events--not the event itself, but the reactions to it.

First of all, I'm pretty shocked by how little attention this has received. Sure, it's been in all the celebrity gossip blogs, but these people cover Angelina Jolie's parking tickets. It would be a shock if they didn't cover Rosie O'Donnell insulting Asians on "The View." No, I'm talking about attention in the mainstream blogosphere.

I use doggdot.us to monitor the four horsemen of mainstream social news: Digg, Slashdot, Reddit, and del.icio.us. This gives me a pretty firm handle on the pop culture of the Internet. When Michael Richards had his tirade, it was big news. When Mel Gibson spewed his drunken hate, it was big news. Hell, when racist former Senator George Allen used the word "macaca," it was big news.

But when Rosie slurred Asians? Not a peep.

Nor did I pick it up from any of the other blogs I read, many of whom pointed to the other three episodes I list above and quickly condemned the offending parties.

In fact, I found out about the O'Donnell non-traversy on the radio (usually the last place I expect to learn something new)!

To me, this is much bigger news than an aging comedian making a tasteless joke on national television. The blogosphere (or at least the corner that I frequent) has spoken, and apparently it doesn't think racism against Asians is postworthy.

As an American of Asian descent, this bothers me.

It bothers me because while I don't have to deal with the especially virulent racism that other minorities like blacks face every day, I do have to deal with the insidious racism that those with Asian appearances put up with: That we're not going to stand up for ourselves.

A simple question: How many times have you ever had to wait for a checkout clerk to change the roll of receipt paper?

My wife (who is Puerto Rican) tells me she's never experienced it.

I've had it happen to me well over 30 times.

Now I've thought about this. Figure that a roll of receipt paper can print about 1,000 receipts before needing to be changed. Therefore, every time you get in line, you have about a 1/1,000 chance of having to wait.

To have experienced as many waits as I've encountered, the expected number of checkout visits would be 30,000. Or roughly 1 visit per day for 85 years. I guarantee, I have not gone shopping 30,000 times in my life. Twice a week for the last 10 years is more like it, or about 1,000 visits.

My theory is that checkout clerks, consciously or unconsciously, make the decision to change the paper when they think the customer is patient and/or less likely to make a fuss. Let's see...that fellow is Asian, dressed neatly, wears glasses...I'll bet he won't yell at me or complain--better wait until it's his turn to change the roll.

Think I'm crazy? I'm open to other suggestions.

Of course, the horrible thing is that they're right. I don't complain. Those checkout clerks have a hard enough time as it is without people yelling at them for doing necessary maintenance. But dammit, why do I always have to be the one that suffers?

People don't think that racism against Asians counts because it doesn't result in negative consequences. We don't make the bastards pay. We don't make a fuss. Sure, it's embarassing when someone overreacts (like when Rosie O'Donnell plays the homophobe card at the drop of a hat, as she did when called Kelly Ripa a homophobe for telling closeted singer Clay Aiken, "I don't know where that hand has been," after Aiken jokingly put his hard over Ripa's mouth in an effort to get a word in edgewise on Ripa's show), but it does tend to discourage the next guy.

If Rosie had performed an imitation of colloquial Ebonics, there would have been a firestorm of controversy. Had she taken a Tonto-style swipe at Native Americans, she would have been booed. And I guarantee that if someone had made the same joke using the cruel "flamer" stereotype of gay men, O'Donnell herself would have been up in arms.

Silence--our silence--the silence of the blogosphere--is part of the problem. I've done my part. Will you do yours?

27 comments:

Ben Casnocha said...

Asians are the best off of any minority group.

This may be one reason there's not as much attention on their complaints. Couldn't one response be, "You're complaining about check-out receipt paper while blacks are being overcharged for cars and not offered jobs b/c of the color of their skin?"

Chris said...

Ah yes, the old "Asians have it good, so why does it matter" argument.

The implicit assumption is that if a minority is doing well, it doesn't need protection.

The only problem is, this is another case of double standards.

In your beloved San Francisco, homosexuals are a model minority: well-educated, well-off, successful. Yet I doubt that the general population would laugh it off if Matt Lauer adopted a "flaming" manner on the Today show for yuks.

Other minorities in the United States are also high achievers. By any standard, Jewish Americans are also well-represented in many prominent fields, including finance, entertainment, the arts, and politics. What would happen if Oprah Winfrey suddenly broke into a mocking imitation of a Hasidic newscaster on her show?

Ah, you might say, but Chris, homophobia and anti-semitism are dangerous forces that are still at large. Anti-Asian sentiment is harmless.

Tell that to the Korean-Americans whose business suffered during the L.A. riots, the Asians who were harassed and even in some cases killed due to anti-Japanese sentiment in Detroit, or the Asian-American children who continue to face the little-concealed ire of many white American parents whose children are applying to college.

Yes, you might say, but with the homophobia and anti-semitism that are so prevalent in other parts of the world, it's more important to protect these groups.

That would come as news to the ethnic Chinese who are discriminated against and threatened every day in countries such as Malaysia. Not for nothing are the Chinese known as the Jews of Asia.

True, you might say, but homosexuals have suffered from centuries of repression, while Jews suffered through the Holocaust. The Asians haven't suffered anything similar.

I'm not as familiar with the history of all the Asian peoples, but it seems to me that the people of Vietnam were involved in a rather bloody war with French and American troops. The Chinese suffered through the two Opium Wars (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opium_war) which were fought because the Chinese government banned the sale of opium by the British. The equivalent would be if Colombia were a well-armed superpower, and conquered the United States to force the legalization of cocaine.

Within the United States, the Chinese were exploited as a source of cheap labor (http://www.asian-nation.org/first.shtml). One notable incident stems from the famous meeting of the Union and Central Pacific railways (the famous photo of two locomotives meeting). Not only were the Chinese laborers who helped build the railroad not acknowledged at the ceremony (indeed, they were specifically ordered out of the frame before the picture was taken), but immediately after the ceremony, the men were all fired, and forbidden to ride back on the railway they had built. Instead, they had to walk back from Utah to their adopted home in San Francisco.

The anti-Chinese movement grew from there, with the usual assortment of riots, lynchings, and other murders. Then in 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act became the first law to forbid a specific ethnic group from immigrating to the United States. It also, charmingly enough, forbade the Chinese already in the United States from becoming citizens, and also ruled that their American-born children would be become citizens. (http://www.asian-nation.org/first.shtml)

But ultimately, I find that there is little to be said for the "my people are/were more oppressed than your people" debate.

Is justice really a zero-sum game, where righting the wrongs inflicted on one group excuses society from worrying about another group's situation?

Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best in his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letter_from_Birmingham_Jail):

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Isabel Wang said...

Ben - Chris' receipt paper experience is not the only example of discrimination against Asians. For instance, Asian applicants have a much lower likelihood of being accepted by California colleges b/c of the color of their skin. As best-off minorities, Asian students are expected to compete against each other's near-perfect SAT scores, rather than measured against standards within the general population.

Chris - I went to elementary school in Taipei. Every single teacher had the exact same response whenever a kid complained about being unfairly treated: your adversary is stupid for behaving that way; you sink to his level by dwelling on it. If you think you were picked last for kick ball for the wrong reasons, you need to work on becoming a better athlete. You are responsible for making your merits so compelling that it outweighs other people's wrongheadedness. The silence you noted might be coming from this kind of Asian upbringing.

Ben Casnocha said...

Chris,

I'm wondering if you found the Rosie O'Donnel skit actually offensive, or if you were offended because more people didn't find it offensive.

Your complaint is over the silence. Why aren't more people pissed? Why not more shouting? Why not expose Rosie as the racist she is?

My point remains: Rosie's line was a silly insult at language. When I was overseas people made fun of Southern English and "California English" and even asked me to speak like a California surfer, which I didn't appreciate. Making fun of language is one thing. Blatant economic discrimination is another. I'm not saying Asians haven't suffered historically, nor am I saying there is not discrimination today. There is, and it's inexcusable.

But as a matter of strategy, I think all activist groups would be better off picking their fights instead of crying wolf each and every time CNN doesn't cover their cause.

Jackie Danicki said...

It doesn't sound, from Chris's post, like Asians are picking any fights.

Martin Eng said...

We should all boycott anything to do wth this woman.

This show Asians power is not enough. Not enough backlash against people who dare to show their racism toward Asians.

MJ said...

I think the lack of outrage may have to do with the fact that the parody was of foreign Chinese newscasters rather than Chinese-Americans (e.g. Connie Chung). I certainly think it was dumb and a little offensive to use the playground taunt "Ching-Chong" as the Chinese gibberish in this bit, but this bit would have played equally well (or poorly) with French gibberish, Russian gibberish, or Bushman-of-the-Kalahari clicks.

Foobarista said...

As for the "checkout counter" question, you've often said that you have a "friendly face", etc. For those who work in these sorts of crappy service jobs, one skill that is quickly learned is how to use shotgun stereotypes to judge "asshole potential".

Race is part of it, but so is sex, clothes, age, appearance, a quick guess at economic status, the type of store you're in, etc. People who look friendly and tolerant have a low "asshole potential", so they may be inconvenienced by stuff that wouldn't be done if they were seen as more likely to be troublemakers and jerks.

Chris said...

Isabel:

I agree that the Asian (or at least Chinese) belief in turning the other cheek and trusting in the meritocracy may certainly play a role in the lack of outrage.

That's why I believe that, as repugnant as it may seem, some good old fashioned lack of perspective may do Asians good.

After all, we've spent the entire post-WW2 period being a model minority, and what has it gotten us? Ridicule in popular culture, quotas in school admissions, and blatant indifference from the two major political parties.

Meanwhile, more activist minorities rule popular culture, benefit (sort of--long discussion possible here) from affirmative action and government contracts, and are courted heavily by Democrats and Republicans alike.

We're supposed to be smart, but it sure seems like we're being dumb.

Isabel Wang said...

Well... it’s tough for Asian people to lobby for attention, because the public response will be similar to Ben's: you guys are too well adjusted. You’re 40% of Berkeley’s student population and 25% of MIT’s. Many of you become doctors and lawyers and rocket scientists. Your average levels of education and income are amazing. Latinos and African Americans, on the other hand, are so much less likely to attain the same quality of life. And you have to agree. All this is absolutely true. So it's all about picking the right battles.

For instance, productive case: have you read about the complaints a Chinese student recently filed against Princeton for admitting less qualified non-Asian candidates while rejecting him? He cited a study by two Princeton professors showing that a race-neutral college application system would significantly increase acceptance of Asian candidates. The case is especially interesting because other Asian students who did get into Princeton called the complaint unwarranted. But at the very least, it generated some media attention.

http://insidehighered.com/news/2006/11/14/princeton

On the other hand, unproductive case: I winced when I read Michael Arrington's Zoho Wiki review earlier ("these guys don’t speak American English without an accent"). They're kicking ass though, as Mikes puts it in the next sentence. And their new product got mentioned in more places than I can count. So complaining about the comment would divert attention from their success without garnering any public sympathy.

BTW, it's not just Chinese people who are dumb about working the system. A friend from Russia said he didn't apply to a certain university in Moscow because the administration didn't like the fact that his stepfather was half-Jewish. When he moved here, he said he really admired the PR talent that American minority activists have. There's more to activism than courage; it also takes a lot of skill to present the situation in a compelling light. And Asian people don't excel on that front. Yet.

Foobarista said...

Chris said:

After all, we've spent the entire post-WW2 period being a model minority, and what has it gotten us? Ridicule in popular culture, quotas in school admissions, and blatant indifference from the two major political parties.
(endquote)

What political action do you want to see? There _are_ political steps being taken on the school admissions questions, such as the "equal access" propositions that passed in California a few years ago and recently in Michigan. As for Hollywood, one can always do the entrepreneur thing: make mass-market movies with your desired portrayals, whatever they are. If the movies work, they work. As for Vincent Chin, it was an outrage, but it happened 25 years ago, and was as much about the horrors of economic collapse as it was about racism.

What is your "victory condition"?

Tim Taylor said...

I would be interested in where Rosie O'Donnell learned about the thing that she said and who, if anyone, had ever talked to her about discrimination against Asians.

I think it's racist, but to judge it is dangerous. Better that we talk about it. And yes, I think it's a little unusual that it's getting little to no coverage.

It's a great sign that it's politically correct to slur one group not another.

Gramps said...

Of course racism against Asians counts. But to decide it's racism because you have been caught by the cashier changing a roll of register paper is just absurd. I'm a 6'3" caucasian male with a presence that would scare a water buffalo, but I've waited for the paper changing exercise more times than I can count. Do you honestly think (I mean REALLY) the cashier is waiting for the patient Asian to appear? Or is the pink, end-of-spool warning strip on the paper connected to a facial recognition scanner? If you want to be a victim that's fine. If you feel like (a) you're different and (b) something happens to you, then (c) it must be because you're different fine. Just don't try to foist it off on me. I agree that Rosie's remarks were stupid and racist. But then I've always thought that Rosie's IQ is in single digits, so anything she says can safely be ignored anyway. If she's funny, it must have happened when I was sleeping. Nevertheless, to use cash register rolls as an example of prejudice against Asians is sloppy logic. Heck, in today's society white males are the most denigrated sector of society, and nobody gives a crap. And, by the way, I'll bet your wife suffers more prejudice daily that you will in your entire life, cash register rolls included.

Chris said...

Re: Whether I find the Rosie O'Donnell sketch offensive, or the lack or response offensive:

Ben,

To me, the lack of response is more offensive.

The sketch was offensive, without a doubt, but what was far more offensive was:

1) The lack of coverage of the incident;

2) Rosie's lack of a real apology.

And I'm pretty certain that there is a direct relationship between the two.

If Rosie had accidentally slurred African-Americans, would she be able to get away with, "Well, I didn't think my joke would be offensive, but after talking with Jamila, my makeup artist, I found out that it's actually hurtful. I didn't mean to offend, but I didn't mean it, and I'll probably do it again just out of ignorance."?

Hell no. Rosie would have to be publicly contrite, invite guys like Jesse Jackson on her show, and probably donate to African-American causes.

But because she can feel safe that people will ignore the condemnation of the various Asian and minority journalist groups, she can get away with that kind of apology when it comes to an accidental slur on Asians.

Finally, as even Rosie's "apology" points out, the use of such language to mock Asians has a long history of being used hatefully, much like the N-word. I don't believe that Europeans passed anti-surfer laws or prohibited surfers (and surfers alone) from receiving citizenship.

Chris said...

MJ,

I agree that it was not Rosie's intention to offend, but I do believe that this is different from imitating a bad French or Russian accent.

The main reason I believe this is because of the charged history of the term, and the fact that it is still being used hurtfully today.

It's not clear to me that little French and Russian children are being taunted in American schools for their accents.

Chris said...

Isabel,

Thanks for your comment on the Asian dilemma--that is, that Asian-Americans as a whole have done well in American society (in terms of education and income), and that therefore complaints against anti-Asian racism are met with, at best, indifference.

In terms of productive vs. unproductive complaining: I'm reminded of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, when the original civil rights campaigners were very careful about which cases to press. The leadership chose to make a big deal of Rosa Parks because they knew she'd hold up well under pressure, and they chose MLK as their spokesperson (he was a little-known preacher, just 26 years old at that point) because they judged that his oratory would play well in the press.

This is a heartwarming story that makes everyone nod their heads.

But there is a more sinister and cynical side to this.

Today, race-baiting seems to take place all the time, and without anything resembling either the careful planning or noble motives of the Montgomery bus boycott.

My friend Cory Booker lost his first election for mayor of Newark when his corrupt opponent blasted him for not being "black enough."

The sad thing is, it seems to work.

I would argue that developing a reputation for being unduly sensitive to potential racial slights is actually helpful in preventing overt racism, much in the same way that nobody on the playground fraks with the crazy guy who doesn't know when to stop.

The typical Asian response (measured, thoughtful, appropriate) does not inspire any self-examination or behavior change because it imposes little cost on the racist.

I'm ambivalent about calling for Asians to suddenly become hypersensitive players of the race card, because it does seem inherently unproductive and unseemly, but that's probably my passive Asian logic talking, and just look where that's gotten Asians so far!

Chris said...

Foo:

You asked about my victory condition. This is actually an easy question to answer: I want to see a world without a double-standard. Where slurring Asians (or anyone else for that matter, including non-minority groups such as rich white Protestants) draws the same response as slurring any other group.

The more difficult question to answer is, how can this victory condition be achieved? I don't know the answer. As I've mentioned, I'm reluctant to call for yet more playing of the race card, but I'm also pretty certain that the Asian strategy of "behave nicely and rationally" isn't helping.

Chris said...

On objecting to the cash register paper changing example:

Gramps,

I totally agree that cash register paper discrimination is pretty small beans. What's a little inconvenience in comparison to segregation, discrimination, and hate crimes?

But I use it as an example of how Asians are perceived--as non-troublemakers.

I know better than to argue with the presence of a former Master Chief who was probably cowing snotty ensigns before I was born. But is it possible that your cash register waits have increased as you've gotten older? Do you find that people automatically assume that you drive slowly and erratically just because your hair is turning grey?

I don't like the ethos of victimization. But I don't think I'm advocating that. I'm not saying that Asians should sit around and ask for handouts or special treatment. What I am saying is that they need to get offended and kick up a stir when they feel harmed, and that to that end, it may be a little overreaction and irrationality may actually be helpful, as repugnant as that thought may be.

Finally, I have to agree with you that it is unfair for people to feel like they can slur white males with impunity. The only justification these bigots provide tends to be that white men are the oppressor--this kind of eye for an eye logic is why we have such terrible conflicts throughout the world.

The most head-shaking moment I remember is when I was sitting in an English literature class in college, discussing the plight of author Sarah Orne Jewett, whose literary genius was never recognized because of her gender.

One of the other students, a militant lesbian (who was Caucasian) spoke up: "She was white and rich. She's got no right to complain about discrimination."

That's just nuts.

Bobby said...

Chris,

We feel the same way. So much so that we wrote a little song about dear Rosie:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ywgxa5ORyIU

Enjoy!

Bobby

Phil Crissman said...

I just heard Tom Mischke (talk radio host here in Minneapolis/St. Paul) make a reference to this.

For some reason, he was talking about Mme Chiang Kai-shek (Soong May-ling) having been Time's woman of the year. After clarifying who he was talking about by both names, he said pointedly, "Or, as Rosie O'Donnell might say, 'Ching-chong'..."

I'm listening to a rebroadcast of the show and I don't think he says anything more about it; but even that small reference is actually the only mention I've heard of this in the media. In fact, if I hadn't read this post, I wouldn't have known what Mischke was referring to.

paul said...

Interesting discussion here..

I agree with what Chris said about double standards and Chinese typically not voicing their discontent. However, I think being stoic about slightly awry racial comments is something inherent in our culture - and it isn't all that bad.

Perhaps we can blame it on confucius or our genes or whatever but I think in a way other groups value our tolerance and accord us with a certain level of respect.

Sure a derogatory remark might come your way occasionally, or you might be treated differently in certain cases. Also, maybe its just me but I personally find jokes at the exxagerrated stereotype of a Chinese person complete with ridiculous accent highly amusing.

I'm not downplaying your case man, but in my books, so long as they're not banning the sale of dimsum or anything I'll just let it slide.

oohlala said...

i think isabel wang's comment is simply hilarious. without adding much to the conversation, she succeeds at adding a few booster descriptions of asians while doing nothing for blacks or other true american minorities. if whites weren't the ruling majority in america and asians someday ruled, the situation would be no better for blacks or native americans or latinos because the asians would simply look out for themselves. let's face it--we're all animals here and it's survival of the fittest. if asians are unhappy and feeling discriminated against in america, then go back to china where you can oppress tibetans and other groups of people yourselves. your asian countries are no less hostile towards foreigners. in fact, one could argue the opposite.

JayFox said...

Asians definitely have a right to be angry.

The lesson to be learned here is assimilating is not the answer. The problem with Asian people is they try to hard to please people. Be who you are, and if people don't like you, that's their problem. It has to start with the family and the communities. Instead of faulting yourself, fault society at large.
It's hard for Asian Americans growing up. Turn on television and there are no role models to look up to. Everyone always comes up to the generic answer of look up to your parents...well, while you might look up to your parents for some things, you're definitely not going to look up to your parents for all things.
There needs to be more Asian Americans in the media and in Hollywood. Hollywood does a ridiculous job of trying to perpetuate stereotypes against Asians. Why is that on Heroes, you have the dorkiest looking dude cast, who can't speak English.
Hollywood refuses to cast an articulate, good-looking Asian male for its own racist reasons.
For a while, this country thought all black people were ugly, had VD, and basically were grimy people. With shows like 24, and commercials where black guys and white dudes are hanging out, and the white guy always messing up, and the black guy correcting them, race relations have to got to a point today where there's a viable black candidate.
Meanwhile, there's no prominent Asian males on television outside of martial arts or other stereotypical roles and there's no cry for more Asians in Congress or putting an Asian in the White House.
Asian Americans need to have a stronger voice. They need to unite, and let their presence to known. We might not be a monolithic group, but racist America definitely thinks we are.
Change doesn't happen simply with dialogue. There needs to be a stimulus, a catalyst. It's time to produce that catalyst.

Anonymous said...

@oohlala - You freaking idiot. How about you actually LEARN something about China and Tibet before spewing out crap like that. I'm willing to bet all your information comes from one-sided anti-china western media.

You are one of those people who are racist against asians.

"If you asians are unhappy, then go back to China"

First of all, not all Asians are from China you stupid racist. Secondly, I dare you to say "If you black people want your rights so bad, go back to Africa (Insert racial slur) to a Black person. See how they like it. Us Asians don't feel any differently when we are racially insulted. We feel hurt, and angry. In fact, my blood feels like it is boiling.

You people may not think racism against Asians is a big deal, but it is just as big of deal as racism against anyone. Is America not a country of equality and acceptance?

Some think that Asians aren't being discriminated against because they think Asians are well off with all A+s. That in itself is a racist stereotype.

As an Asian-American I resent your kind.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Yeh, my name is Sean and I am curious of why you chose to blog about your anger towards O'Donnell being a moron instead of some other way? You seem to be a peaceful person, but I wonder why you chose this method to talk about the problem. I know this blog is old, but I am writing a new paper on racism towards Asian-Americans, and I used your paper as the main topic. I hope you don't mind. Thank you, Sean.

Chris said...

Sean,

As you probably saw from the comments and discussion, my main point is that Asian Americans need to become more strident and irrational in their denunciation of anything that remotely resembles racism.

The reasoned, constructive approach simply lets people ignore the issue. That's not something I'm happy about; I'm generally in favor of the reasoned, constructive approach, but I'm also an empiricist. If something doesn't work, I try something else.

Julie K said...

Hi, Chris. I'm joining the comment-posting 2 years late. I was horribly offended by Rosie O'Donnell's racism and also bothered that it didn't receive the widespread attention that the other examples you provided did. Why not? I realized that it's possible that the public reaction to her racism **could** have grown stronger, but the media then became obsessed with another R'OD incident that followed soon afterward -- her ferociously long argument with Elizabeth Hasselbeck on live TV. Could this have been a case of "wagging the dog" -- downplaying a previous gaffe by staging a spectacle? Maybe not, but RO'D **was** able to cast herself as an oppressed victim (overweight lesbian) to EH's blonde, perky, mainstream Christian goodness. The point is, media attention focused on the debate, and RO'D **didn't** have to address further accusations of being a racist.