Taiwan’s Next Media Animation, which produces animated commentary on news events, has become a reliable source for grins after every big international news story for their… uh, slant on world affairs.
This time they’ve responded to a U.S. college student Samuel Hendrickson’s racist rant on YouTube, Why I’d hate to be Asian” (which has since been removed, but you can read his points on 8 Asians’ response). His video evoked memories of Alexandra Wallace, who produced an offensive video after the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami that made disparaging remarks, among other things, about Asian students at UCLA who were calling their families in japan to see if they were OK.
NMA’s response had me laughing out loud, though to be honest, it traffics in Hendrickson-style racist stereotypes by showing white women in Indiana to all be big fat farmers. My favorite responses are to “Most Asians look alike” and Hendrickson’s comment about pot-smoking Asians (the point he makes is that smoking pot makes Asians’ “Chink-eye” so small they look closed). (Language NSFW…) Also, NMA’s counter to Hendrickson’s crack about sweat shops is a little too approving of the reality of sweatshops.
And also this week, Taki’s Magazine ran a commentary by Gavin McInnes titled “Tackling Asian Privilege,” in which the author makes a (satirical? serious?) infocused case about Asians being overly successful and therefore being privileged. “You don’t need epicanthic folds to see that simply by the virtue of their success Asians are seriously and systematically oppressing people of color,” Innes writes. It reminded me of a stupid commentary that ran in the University of Colorado’s student news website (which I now serve as adviser for) five years ago, titled “If it’s war the Asians want, it’s war they’ll get.” The immature, lazy-thinking student writer back then thought he was being satirical, but the column was so offensive it caused a furor in the local Asian community. I responded with a post titled “Satire or stupidity.” Ditto for McInnes.
Oh, and one more item, this time from a small town Vermont newspaper, which inserted a poster to boost team spirit for the local high school team in the upcoming state basketball championship game. The opponents are Rice High School, and the students journalists unfortunately chose to use the wonton font for a poster that reads “Fry Rice.”
Now, mind you, this doesn’t rise to the level of “Why I’d hate to be Asian.” But it’s worth pointing out why some things are considered racially insensitive and offensive. Wonton font is one of them, for many Asian Americans. The Asian American Journalists Association got involved in this one and sent this letter from AAJA national president Paul Cheung to the high school:
Dear Mr. Todd Smith, Publisher, The Caledonian Record
No one can criticize the Caledonian Record for rooting for the home team. But we at the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) were appalled by the insert included in your newspaper to cheer on the St. Johnsbury Academy. “Fry Rice” caught the wrong kind of attention because of its racist undertones.
By itself, the slogan might be considered clever. But it became offensive when published in a typeface mimicking Chinese calligraphy.
A Wall Street Journal columnist summed up how seemingly inconsequential things like fonts perpetuate stereotypes. The column (found at http://on.wsj.com/LCaQYn) noted the “psychological toll from regular exposure to ching-chong babble, slant-eyed caricature, cheesy font choices and face-painted minstrelsy.”
We’ll assume that your use of that typeface was not meant to offend. But we’ll also assume that if that is the case, the Caledonian Record will publicly acknowledge its lapses in taste and judgment.
MediaWatch, AAJA’s watchdog program for fair and accurate news coverage of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, stands ready to assist news organizations that have questions or concerns about covering our communities. As a resource, we offer this guide: http://www.aaja.org/aajahandbook.
President, Asian American Journalists Association
UPDATE: The Vermont newspaper that published the poster, the Caledonian Record, stands by it and says because it wasn’t intended to be racist, it’s npt. The paper says in an editorial that just evoking an ethnicity doesn’t mean it’s a racist statement.