UCLA student posts rash racist video ranting about Asians in the library, promptly regrets it

OK, here’s the first lesson of the Internet era, and especially social media: You can’t it back if you say or do something stupid online.

When I first saw UCLA co-ed Alexandra Wallace’s hastily posted video on YouTube, I was appalled and planned to pounce on it. But after a little thought, I decided to wait. I was torn about giving her more attention than she’s worth, because she could be hoping for exactly the flurry of response that would help her go viral with her video.

Well, it’s gone viral all right, but not in the way she intended.

The video, in which she rants about the number of Asians at UCLA and how they’re too loud in the library, and then she does the racist imitation “ching-chong” fake Chinese sound to imitate how the “Japanese” students sound, before acknowledging they’re probably hearing news about their families from the tsunami. Der. The video defines ignorance and insensitivity.

Wallace deleted the video, but too late. It had been copied and is now being reposted all over the Web. She can’t it back if she had all the time in the world.

I’m writing about it now because the sentiments she spouts are so extreme and yet probably not uncommon (racism is always lurking just beneath the politically-correct surface of many people who know better), and because there’s thankfully a backlash against against her, albeit out of proportion.

SocialTimes has posted a thoughtful blog that isn’t from an Asian perspective, so it’s more about how she probably regretted the video when it blew up in her face.

It’s just very, very tedious and downright depressing to see how this kind of garbage never stops, even today. The person next to you at the library, or office, or coffee shop might seem all right, but she might be seething inside with misdirected and ignorant racial feelings, feeding juvenile and irresponsible stereotypes, all ready to explode into a vitriolic video tirade. She might actually be a perfectly nice girl, and isn’t “racist” as in “I-wear-a-white-hood-and-burn-crosses” racist.

But what’s striking is how easily and glibly it seems to have flowed from Wallace after a week of midterm stress.

I kind of wish her parents would see this, except for all I know, they agree with her and they’re the ones who taught her these ignorant values and hate- and fear-mongering attitude. Yuck.

UCLA’s Daily Bruin newspaper website posted a piece that includes an apology from Wallace and response from the school, which calls the video “repugnant.”

The Asian American Journalists Association‘s national office (I’m the president o the Denver chapter) released this statement to the AP’s Los Angeles bureau: “The Asian American Journalists Association is troubled when stereotypes are used to generalize people. To be honest, we don’t understand the reasons behind this student’s hateful words. But the attention given to her rant allows us to focus on the importance of civil discourse in our discussions about diversity. We encourage campuses across the country to continue the important dialogue about the diversity that makes up our country in 2011. AAJA is a nonprofit organization that offers resources to people who want to report accurately on Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.”

Today, SocialTimes posted this today (March 15) noting Alexandra Wallace’s apology, and including a video from UCLA’s chancellor deploring the video.

It points out that she’s received lots of death threats. Come on, people, if you threaten people like Wallace for something stupid they did, you’re as stupid as she is. Get a grip, and work harder to educate all people about racism and stereotypes. (Here’s a Daily Bruin story about the death threats against Wallace.)

Now I’m hearing that there may be a backlash against the backlash, and an Asian student may have been attacked on the UCLA campus. Stay tuned. This meme may not be over yet….

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10 Responses to UCLA student posts rash racist video ranting about Asians in the library, promptly regrets it

  1. Andy says:

    Thanks, Gil. There’s enough pain and suffering in the news recently, without having this compound the misery

    Key quote, ‘But what’s striking is how easily and glibly it seems to have flowed from Wallace after a week of midterm stress.’ These attitudes are all too prevalent at the small college where I teach.

    Appreciated the linked piece from Social Media about the blowback, but unfortunately, I must agree with your conclusion, that ‘the meme may not be over yet.’

  2. Gil Asakawa says:

    Thanks Andy. I guess these attitudes are around at schools both small and large. I work at the University of Colorado and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are students here that feel that way too. Sad, but not surprised.

  3. john says:

    She should learn an Asian language…she doesn’t even know the differences between different Asian people.

  4. Louis says:

    A little sensitivity training is in order? Or just better education? In any case the girl has to live with the sting of her own self inflicted backlash. It is our hope that she learns from this and perhaps will use better judgement in the future.

  5. Gil Asakawa says:

    Hi Louis, I hope she learns a lesson from this. I’m nervous that she may miss the point of the backlash and simply become defensive and blame Asians for her problems.

  6. Gil Asakawa says:

    True that, John! To her, we all look (and sound) the same!

  7. john says:

    Gil: what’s funny is, even though Italian and Spanish are Latin languages and from a totally different language family than Japanese, phonetically and cadence-wise, Japanese is closer to them than it is to Chinese for example. I met an Italian person in Fukuoka who told me that it was fairly easy for them to learn to speak Japanese (as opposed to learning to write it).

    Then of course, there’s Korean, which is actually related to Turkish, Finnish, Hungarian, Estonian and Mongolian (Ural-Altaic languages), and seems related to Japanese grammar-wise (Chinese grammar is coincidentally more like English, however).

    Thai and Vietnamese are tonal languages with some similarities to Chinese, but the former has its own alphabet, while the Viets use the Latin alphabet, due to the French influence before.

  8. Gil Asakawa says:

    Thanks for the background, John! I have to admit, I think Korean sounds like Japanese from a distance, just its cadences and inflections.

  9. E says:

    Gil- I enjoyed reading your opinion on this issue and I was also offended (although not surprised) at her words. We have a LOT of racist people in this country.

    I don’t mean to de-rail but the part that stuck out to me the most was her rant about how the family members of Asian students all come on the weekends and cook for them and do their laundry, etc. I sensed some resentment there.

    It made me think about the fact that us ethnic minorities (I am a black woman) all seem to have a VERY strong sense of family (when I was in school my fam would roll deep on the weekends too). Familes of my fellow white students only really showed up for parents weekend or something similar. Maybe she’s miffed that she doesn’t have a close relationship with her family (although something tells me if all her fellow students families were white she probably wouldn’t have had such an issue with it).

    Just my thoughts.

  10. Gil Asakawa says:

    Thanks for your comment, E — I agree that there may be some subconscious cultural jealousy there. That’s certainly part of the dynamic of the Model Minority myth….

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