Of white hoods, push-up bras and getting on your "ching-chong"March 22, 2011 2:05 PM
I wish they hadn't taken down that YouTube video of the now ex-UCLA coed who created a Sheen-like commotion last week with her anti-Asian rant.
It was so perfect as the look of fresh, modern unconscious racism. It was the girl next door channeling Archie Bunker. Except Archie Bunker's a fiction, Alexandra Wallace is real.
Two generations after the birth of Civil Rights, you don't need a white hood anymore. As Wallace showed, all you need is a web-cam and a push-up bra.
You would have to be living under a large ramen bowl not to hear about this one, where the blonde Wallace castigates Asians for being loud in the library, talking on their cell phones to call people about the Japanese earthquake.
Given the circumstances, Wallace's anger could easily be dismissed as boorish gracelessness. But Wallace was ready for her close-up and went nuclear. She put a racist patina on it all with the "ching-chong" impression of her fellow students.
When I saw it, I wondered, "Where did she learn that?" Is it just so natural when you want to mock an Asian to get your "ching-chong" on?
We all know the "ching-chong" joke has been with us for ages, just as fried chicken and watermelon jokes have hounded blacks since slavery. Today, only a truly racist and ignorant lout would be so unoriginal.
Unfortunately, sensitivity to Asians and Asian Americans just isn't that far along. So we must endure the Wallaces of the world and witness as they discover for the first time their inner "ching-chong" and think they're being hysterically funny.
If I were her, I'd blame it on the media.
Trickle down doesn't work in economics. But as far as what's appropriate, things do trickle down.
Throughout the years, entertainers like Rosie O'Donnell, Rush Limbaugh, Adam Carolla et al. have all fed at the "ching-chong" trough. For morning DJs, it's a staple. In New York, there was the "Tsunami Song" episode with Miss Jones at Hot 97. Then again at WFNY with a Chinese takeout skit in 2007.
Despite community protests, there's still a green light in pop culture that says mock away. It's about time the green light turns red.
As a private person, Wallace may deserve an ounce of sympathy. But the difference here: she did it on the internet, where revolutions are spawned.
In this case, it was the anti-"ching-chong" revolution.
Wallace's video went viral and garnered a million or so views, much of it from young, web savvy Asian Americans irate at Wallace's insensitivity. The video ultimately was removed, and Wallace apologized.
UCLA rightly chose not to reprimand her, though it could have. Congress shall make no law, but UCLA can do anything it wants. Wallace took UCLA off the hook by leaving the school on her own, saying she feared for her safety, or so she claims.
I doubt if militias of Asian American ninjas were stalking her. We generally don't roll that way. I'm sure she got some menacing taunts, but many more responses I saw seemed to be creative reactions from young Asian Americans.
That's actually a positive. Free speech may be the rule. But historically, Asian Americans have always been slow to meet the challenge of negative speech. A Wallace rant? That's an invitation to debate. As a first amendment absolutist, I always believe in more speech not less. This time, the internet allowed Asian Americans to speak out.
What gets me is the charge that the spontaneous viral push back displayed Asian Americans as intolerant. Wallace's political science professor, Phil Gussin, was one quick to defend Wallace.
"What Wallace did was hurtful and inexcusable, but the response has been far more egregious," Gussin reportedly told the UCLA campus paper, the Daily Bruin. "She made a big mistake and she knows it, but [Asian Americans] responded with greater levels of intolerance."
No, I'd say they woke up and decided to create a new modern standard.
Besides, if there's no hate behind her statements, just ignorance, then Wallace really has nothing to fear.
She should stay in school, not drop out. Join the Asian American club. Take Mandarin. Hang out in Little Tokyo.
Remember, any negatives Wallace experienced are just a fraction of what Asian Americans have experienced since coming to America. From Exclusion Acts, to anti-miscegenation laws, to internment camps, Asian Americans have endured it all. We didn't go away. If we had, there'd be no community worth being part of.
If you're for real, Alexandra, finish school. It's still the best cure for ignorance.