VOX POPULI: Ching Chong Ling Long and a Tsunami

12

By Mia Nakaji Monnier

===

In one weekend, a video [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DoLLEZlpUxk] posted by UCLA student Alexandra Wallace exploded all over YouTube, spurring responses in only a matter of hours. The responses themselves range from public service announcement-type videos made by concerned fellow students to lighthearted songs (see Jimmy Wong’s music video response [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zulEMWj3sVA&feature=youtu.be&hd=1]) and angry retorts — even to videos and comments more ignorant and hateful than Wallace’s original.

Wallace initially posted the video on her own YouTube channel then removed it, only for it to be replaced soon after by numerous clones. The video is a rant about the “hordes of Asians that UCLA accepts into [her]school every year” distracting other students in the library with their “ching chong ling long ting tong” phone conversations and bad manners.

I have nothing I’d like to say to Alexandra Wallace that hasn’t already been said, and frankly I’m not sure that this video even deserves the attention it’s been getting. Why should we be so incensed about some thoughtless remarks made by one college girl who in less than four minutes has managed to tarnish her own name, alienate an entire race of people and their friends, jeopardize her future, and make herself look like an idiot?

In a friend’s opinion, Wallace’s words are not “racist” so much as they are simply ignorant, thrown out without malicious intent. But, he wonders, is racism that comes from people who don’t even realize they’re being racist better or worse than its alternative of blatant, self-conscious racism?

As “Avenue Q” has eloquently put to music [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zc5ztwJvfUA], everyone’s a little bit racist, and in certain scenarios laughing at racism is perfectly socially acceptable. So where is the line between acceptable racism and offensive/dangerous racism? Is it okay when we caricature our own race like Peter Chau in his parody of Chinese eating behavior [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGI0jlz22Dg]? Or when people of color do it to each other (see almost any of Indian Canadian Russell Peters’s stand-up bits [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qtrAMK7_Qk])? Can white people call “Stuff White People Like” racist?

A screen shot of Alexandra Wallace from her YouTube video rant, "Asians in the Library."

If Peter Chau’s videos are received so positively, why did people overwhelmingly dislike the Alexandra Wallace response video — since removed — made by another UCLA student, an earnest Asian American guy who claimed to see truth in Wallace’s complaints, and argue that not being able to distinguish one Asian group from another (after Wallace’s “ching-chong” Chinese bit, she says maybe the Asian students are checking on their families in tsunami-hit Japan) isn’t ignorant because he can’t tell the difference either? While his video was still available, people left comments calling him a “twinkie” (yellow on the outside, white on the inside, the Asian version of an “Oreo”). I can’t help seeing a certain parallel to the Japanese Americans called “dogs” and traitors because they asserted their Americanness during WWII despite being forced into concentration camps.

Taking a break from the Alexandra Wallace issue, here’s an incident of ignorance way beyond the borderline of “it wasn’t meant maliciously; maybe they just don’t understand”: this collection, circulating Facebook, of status updates [http://img840.imageshack.us/img840/8409/1299923102166.jpg] calling the tsunami in Sendai an act of retribution for Pearl Harbor.

This is a pretty big jump, I know, from one college girl ranting from her dorm room about Asian students in the library to a sampling of people celebrating the death of 10,000 civilians in a horrific natural disaster. But both come, I think, from a similar place of ignorance and poor logic that leads average, otherwise harmless people to feel that their supremacist beliefs (whether racist, nationalistic, sexist, or otherwise) are acceptable and right.

My first inclination when I saw the Pearl Harbor status update collection was to read through the whole thing, let myself be angry, and repost it on Facebook with some “Isn’t it sad for these idiots?”-type commentary. My boyfriend cut me off, telling me it’d only make me sad about humanity. On my own later, I couldn’t help myself from searching for the link again and reading through it all. He was right. I felt sad about humanity — upset, too, and ready to share the offending link on my wall. I even typed out a note about the atomic bombs, the incarceration, the occupation of Japan, and the fact that our shared humanity should make us want to be decent to each other.

In the end, though, I didn’t repost it, and I didn’t repost the Alexandra Wallace video either. For one thing, I doubt many of my Facebook friends would feel differently about either link than I do, so nobody would learn anything, we’d all just feed off each other’s anger, and probably off each other’s smugness too, thinking we’d never say anything so racist or ignorant because we’re well-educated and therefore enlightened (anyway, Wallace goes to one of the best universities in the country, so there goes that argument).

But my main reason for holding off on sharing these links was that after the initial shock, I couldn’t muster up enough anger. Though Wallace’s rant is indicative of larger societal problems, I don’t think we should direct all our frustration about these issues at her. While she’s earned her humiliation, she doesn’t deserve the threats she’ll no doubt receive, let alone the fear for her safety, or the infamy that could haunt her name for the rest of her life. She’s just one college kid who made a mistake, albeit a pretty huge one.

As for the Pearl Harbor avengers, they’re probably not embarrassed at all about their comments, and what do they care if they offended one more Japanese American on Facebook who they don’t even know? What will they say when another natural disaster strikes in the United States? Depending on where it happens, a handful of people in other regions will probably claim it was deserved too, as some did after Hurricane Katrina.

One thing is for sure: racism, nationalism, ignorance… these will never be solved completely. So where does that leave us? What are the right steps to take to at least begin to diminish them?

===

The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

 

Share.

12 Comments

  1. Darrell Kunitomi on

    Hi, first, my thanks for writing about the girl in question. However, I have bones to pick with you.

    “…I have nothing I’d like to say to Alexandra Wallace that hasn’t already been said, and frankly I’m not sure that this video even deserves the attention it’s been getting. Why should we be so incensed about some thoughtless remarks made by one college girl who in less than four minutes has managed to tarnish her own name, alienate an entire race of people and their friends, jeopardize her future, and make herself look like an idiot?”

    You’re posing a question, Why should we be so incensed? then go on to detail exactly why we should. What?

    And:
    “…But both come, I think, from a similar place of ignorance and poor logic that leads average, otherwise harmless people to feel that their supremacist beliefs (whether racist, nationalistic, sexist, or otherwise) are acceptable and right.”

    I don’t get the logic here that “harmless people” who have “supremicist beliefs are acceptable and right” because they are coming from “a similar place of ignorance and poor logic” ? What is the point here? I don’t think you’re intending to say that peeps with supremicist beliefs are average, otherwise harmelss people.

    “…She’s just one college kid who made a mistake, albeit a pretty huge one.” She’s more than “just one college kid” if you argue this as your closer:

    “…One thing is for sure: racism, nationalism, ignorance… these will never be solved completely.” She’s really more than just one college kid who blew it. If you lay out your closer and place her next to it, she winds up being a rep.

    Not here to argue, I applaud your initiative.

  2. Thank you so very much for your article on the you tube video by Wallace and others that affect the viewers. You write in a thoughtful way and might want to consider making a vid to post in response to Wallace’s vid on you tube. I think your positive response would be good for all the world to hear. Thank you again for using your mind as well as your heart to write this article ..may we all be as culture and humanly conscious as you are.

  3. Quincy Kawada on

    It’s not surprising to see this kind of behavior from a person who more likely grew up in a predominately Caucasian area. There is very little multiculturalism in an all White neighborhood, whether in the home or at school (outside of Black History Month or the annual Pow Wow).
    Ms. Wallace was probably suffering from culture shock and may have resorted to her childhood for reasoning and comfort. It’s obvious that she thinks like an elementary student in the video. This video is an example of what happens when a person who grows up in a homgenous area and is thrusted into a diverse world like Los Angeles.

  4. I’m not to sure about us never being able to get over nationalism (which is the primary source of racism ) but this was a good article. All we need is for us to be intolerant of intolerance.

    Compliments from York University, Canada!

  5. We all love to judge, but lets not forget that the woman is still young enough that a certain amount of dumb is OK. She should be criticized, she should not be kicked out of school.

    The worst part of the video wasn’t the racism, it was thinking that people should not interrupt the silence you are enjoying simply because they are worried that their family members may be dead. There is an insane amount of self contentedness going on in her head and I do hope that she matures and develops a better sense of morality and compassion. Sadly there are thousands of people with no compassion racing to the scene to deliver their fire upon her. Let’s all hope she survives and matures.

  6. Thank you for this opinion piece. You gave your personal insight and were still able to remain professional. I have just learned of the UCLA incident but had no idea of the Facebook statuses and cannot believe the ignorance of some people.

    In response to one of your statements Darrell about:

    ” “…But both come, I think, from a similar place of ignorance and poor logic that leads average, otherwise harmless people to feel that their supremacist beliefs (whether racist, nationalistic, sexist, or otherwise) are acceptable and right.”

    I don’t get the logic here that “harmless people” who have “supremicist beliefs are acceptable and right” because they are coming from “a similar place of ignorance and poor logic” ? What is the point here? I don’t think you’re intending to say that peeps with supremicist beliefs are average, otherwise harmelss people. ”

    I disagree with your statement. You are basically trying to argue that the writer is saying that all Supremacists, Racists, etc are harmless, when that isn’t her point. She is inferring that they are “harmless” because they are vocalizing their supremacist, racist, etc. views through Facebook statuses and youtube blogs. These can be considered “harmless” methods compared to extremists ways of killing, torturing, enslaving, etc.

  7. Darrell Kunitomi on

    M, believe it or not I agree with you disagreeing with me. I just needed the piece clearer.

    IMHO, her conclusion should have been the first sentence.

  8. I doubt very much that this young lady in question is a racist, or in fact even understands that basics of genetics, anthropology and evolution to be able to adequately comment on what a “race” is. On the other hand, she was rude. Or at least expressed herself in a way which lacked wit, and presupposed a number of cultural confusions. Had she been witty, well then all is forgiven.

    I laughed at her when I watched the video – not with her, at her. Her Chinese was quite excellent.

    Seriously, this is all a lot of silliness. There are better things to spends one’s time on than giving a little girl the spotlight for having the audacity to make cultural criticisms without much knowledge of “culture” or “criticism”, for that matter. I actually think that many Japanese were deeply offended because they never do speak in the library. At least not in Japan. Nor on the bus. I have witnessed it. Kind of nice. We all know that it’s really the Koreans – pretending to be Japanese and Chinese – that are making these noises! No. I’m joking…or am I?…

    To answer your question – you can fight nationalism, racism and ignorance by fighting for INDIVIDUALISM. Identify yourself and others by your actions and values – not by a tribe, ethnicity or race. If you love aspects of Japan, China, Canada, wherever – they are yours for the taking. You don’t need to be Asian to love Bushido, and you certainly do not need to be Canadian to enjoy maple syrup.

    People like Alexandra are just a passing amusement. A young girl getting annoyed at behavior that she is probably right to. But her assessment, mis-integration and expression of criticism is the problem. That and her hair.

  9. Swedish Chef on

    I find it difficult to believe that Ms. Wallace – your stereotypical dumb-blonde spoiled brat sorority party girl Caucasian princess – had any legitimate business in the library much less has any degree of literacy. Shouldn’t she be at “the Mall” folding a blouse at a Gap, New York and Co, or Old Navy at a wage of $8 per hour?

  10. calmyourliver on

    She was kidding around. God. Now she’s dropped out of school cuz she was afraid of the death threats. I have no bones to pick with Asian people and have several close friends from China, Japan, and Korea. But if this violent murderous reaction to a simple Youtube vid is what someone is about, wow! Take a chill pill. A lot of the confusion is culture clash, not racism. Americans are more outspoken about how they feel. You guys have to quit getting so upset about little things. It’s not like she said “kill asians” or “throw them out of school”/ She said “please keep silent in the library” the same thing every librarian has said since I was a little kid.

  11. I too was dismayed and disgusted with humanity for such a messed up response to a natural disaster. Especially in light of our recent behaviour in the international arena, who is America to talk about Kharma?!?!?!

    But, like you, I ended up not posting anything to Facebook, although our reasons are only slightly different. I just didn’t want to draw more attention to this issue. I wanted to let it die a natural death.

    But, please, please, please know that there are many white Americans who are embarrassed and ashamed of this.

  12. Pingback: Ching Chong Ling Long and a Tsunami Deserved? | Mia Nakaji Monnier

Leave A Reply