Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | How can radio continue to be so stupidly racist?
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How can radio continue to be so stupidly racist?

Yellowface afootI know, I know, I’m painting all of the radio industry with an awful broad brush. But let’s face it, no one’s doing this kind of stuff on TV.

A year and a half ago, I wrote my (embarrassingly, most recent) Nikkei View column about Hot 97, a station in NYC, which broadcast a tasteless and racist satire making fun of dead Asians after the tsunami. But similar incidents continue, even up to this month.

In May of 2005, two bozos on a New Jersey radio (great, not far from where I now live in Jersey City) got down and stupid about Asians affecting the mayoral election in the town of Edison. Their point was that Asians can’t be Americans and that foreigners shouldn’t dictate who wins an elections Americans should — forgetting the fact that if Asians are voting, they’re American citizens, doh.

Late last year, syndicated radio host Adam Carolla (the guy CBS chose as Howard Stern’s heir) thought it would be funny to “spoof” the Asian Excellence Awards, a sort of Asian Academy Awards noting APAs’ achievement in the entertainment industry, by repeating “ching chong, ching chong” on the air.

Just last week, an Ohio radio station had its jocks calling Japanese restaurants and mocking the businesses with racist stereotypes on the air. Here’s a letter sent by Bill Hoshino, Midwest regional Director of the Japanese American Citizens League, to the program director of Toedo’s Tower 98.3:

July 7, 2006

Mr. Brent Carey

Program Director, Tower 98.3

3225 Arlington Avenue

Toledo, OH 43614

Dear Mr. Carey:

The behavior of Toledo’s Tower 98.3 FM radio hosts in calling Asian American businesses for the sole purpose of ridiculing and mocking them in a racial manner is an outrage.

It’s been reported that Tower 98.3 program hosts called a Japanese restaurant repeatedly with remarks such as “me love you long time,” “ching, chong chung,” and “Me speakee no English.” In another incident on May 22, 2006, the program hosts were taken aback when they called an Asian restaurant where the individual answering spoke perfect English. They responded by saying “Who are you? What are you doing there? What’s with these white people working at Chinese restaurants? We’re not calling Bob Evans.”

This demeaning behavior cannot be dismissed as harmless pranks or as simply having fun to entertain listeners. At the very least, this behavior may reinforce the views of some, including children and young people, that ridiculing people in a racist manner is acceptable. At an extreme, it may be a precursor to violence or the threat of violence by individuals who are looking for an excuse to act on their bigotry.

You need to know that there has been a strain of anti-Asian sentiment throughout America’s history. It was evident when the Chinese first migrated to the United States in the mid-1800s when they endured harassment and lynching, and with the Japanese who followed when the racism directed at them culminated in their unjustified internment in concentration camps during World War II. Remnants of that racism are evident in the appalling behavior of your program hosts.

The Japanese American Citizens League is the oldest and largest Asian American civil rights organization in the United States. The fact that Tower 98.3 management has not sanctioned these employees means that you condone their racist behavior. It’s time for you to begin acting responsibly by telling these program hosts that their racist behavior will not be tolerated and that an on-air apology must be made by the program hosts and station management.


William Yoshino

Midwest Director

I’ll keep you posted…

It’s not just in the media, either. Racism against Asians keeps popping up in the form of ugly, last-century stereotypes on t-shirts in national retail chains, and Hallowe’en costumes available at your local mall, and even, earlier this year, on a shoe manufactured by Adidas that features a slant-eyed, buck-toothed face.

What were all these companies thinking?

That it’s OK to make ruthless fun of Asians, and that there would be no consequences. Well, anyone with half a brain, whether you’re Asian or not, should let these companies know there are consequences. In each case, APA and civil rights organizations have protested the incidents and gotten various levels of apologies and gotten offensive products pulled off shelves.

Adidas, by the way, won’t apologize for the sneaks and hasn’t pulling them off shelves.
We need to keep protesting, until everyone gets the message: racism is not cool, it;s not funny, and it’s not acceptable.