Aftermath of Alexandra Wallace “Asians in the Library” video: She meant to do it, and two great responses

The Sacramento Bee newspaper reported yesterday that Alexandra Wallace, the now-infamous UCLA poli-sci co-ed who posted a racist rant about Asians at her school, intended to start a blog about Asians in the library. The paper quoted her dad’s Facebook account proudly stating that she was looking that morning for a URL addressing “Asians in the Library.”

I gave her the benefit of doubt and thought she posted “Asians in the Library” on YouTube in a fit of pique after a crappy week of mid-terms (she says “finals” in the video), but I guess I was naive. She was aiming for her 15 minutes of fame.

Still, she probably didn’t count on the tsunami of infamy (both puns intended, thank you) that greeted her stunt, which is why she deleted it. But it was too late, of course. The social Web doesn’t allow for do-overs, and a bunch of copies of the video had already been made and re-posted. Now she’s been covered by everyone from the Daily Bruin, her school paper, to the New York Times (which oddly did not get any interviews from Asian Americans in its short coverage of the flap.)

I can only hope the shame and embarrassment of this incident will prevent her from coming up with any more ridiculous entrepreneurial ideas.

But the disturbing part of the aftermath of the flap over her video is the level of violent commentary aimed back at her. Anger I get — I’m pissed off every time I watch it too. Hate I get too, though I feel more disdain than hate. But she’s getting death threats, which are alarming if if they’re not meant seriously. This kind of response doesn’t help fight her ignorance and racism.
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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.
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Rep. King’s Muslim radicalization hearings eerily echo the era of Japanese American internment

Anti-Japanese 1942 article from Washington PostHere’s a post worth reading and thinking about by Eric Muller at Faculty Lounge, “Representative King’s Investigation and the Ghost of Hearings Past” that notes that NY Rep. Peter King’s hearings on the radicalization of Muslims echoes the experience of history during World War II.

Muller points out the race-based hysteria at the start of World War II, when false reports about Japanese Americans’ involvement in espionage and sabotage against the United States led to an atmosphere of hatred for an entire group of people, and warns that we should be careful not to do the same thing today. Those reports weren’t just propagated by the West Coast Hearst newspapers that had been anti-Japanese (and anti-Chinese) for decades, with their drumbeat of “Yellow Peril” stories.

Even the Washington Post (shown here) reported the lies. (For the record no case of espionage or sabotage during the war by anyone of Japanese descent in the US was proven).

So, kudos to the Washington Post of today for “Rep. Peter King’s Muslim hearings: A key moment in an angry conversation” which looks at how the discussion of Muslims might be affected for the worse by King’s hearings.

We’ve seen other examples of how hatred can be easily stoked by leaders who fan the flames of fear in the name of patriotism: Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee hearings blacklisted suspected Communists including government officials and Hollywood celebrities in a gleeful witch hunt.

Let’s not make the same mistake again. I assume King is holding these hearings out of a genuine, if mistaken, patriotism. But I hope these hearings don’t simply lead to a notching up of the often ignorant extreme ideas some Americans have about Muslims (they’re not all terrorists, people) and a blanket indictment of all Muslim Americans.

(Thanks to Densho for the heads-up.)
(Cross-posted from my Posterous blog)

Disturbing video of anti-Muslim protesters in Yorba Linda, Calif screaming at Muslim families

This video made me literally cry. It’s of protesters (includig elected officials) in Yorba Linda, Calif. outside of a fundraising event for homelessness, by a relief organization that happens to be Muslim-based. As attendees arrived, they were subjected to what I can only call hate language.

My stomach clenched when I heard “Go home!” and “Never forget 9/11!” because I’d grown up hearing “Go home, Jap!” and “Remember Pearl Harbor!” from people who hated me for no good reason. They say a lot worse things in this video too, disgusting and ridiculous stuff.

Everyone should watch this video, and realize how vile hatred and bigotry is bubbling just beneath the surface of American society, fueled by fear and ignorance.

Thanks to Angry Asian Man for the link.

UPDATE: Here’s Al Jazeera English’s report on the protest:

UPDATE: Here’s a link to a Salon story about a Muslim woman who had to walk this gauntlet of protesters with her children to attend the fundraiser.

3 years after the “War Against Asians” controversy, I’m the adviser for the CU Independent

the Campus Press is now the CU Independent

Today is the third anniversary of the “War Against Asians” controversy, which was sparked by an ill-advised and poorly executed satire in the Campus Press, the student-run news website of the University of Colorado in Boulder. I remember the date because it ran on Feb. 18 — one day before the annual Japanese American observance of Day of Remembrance, when President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which led to the internment of 110,000 people of Japanese Ancestry, half born in the US and therefore American citizens.

So here was this commentary by a young student journalist, who thought it would be appropriate to make fun of Asians on the CU campus in a piece titled “If it’s war the Asians want… it’s war they’ll get.” In my initial reaction to the article, I quoted this passage:

I’m such a fool for not realizing it sooner. I can’t tell you how many times the Asians have treated me like a retarded weasel and I’ve forgiven them. But now I know that Asians are not just “a product of their environment,” and their rudeness is not a “cultural misunderstanding.”

They hate us all.

And I say it’s time we started hating them back. That’s right-no more “tolerance.” No more “cultural sensitivity.” No more “Mr. Pretend-I’m-Not-Racist.”

It’s time for war.

But we won’t attack their bodies or minds. We will attack their souls.”

Some people might say that we’re being too sensitive, but every Asian I know was outraged and offended. The article spread like wildfire, passed along via email and word-of-mouth. It didn’t just make an impression with readers on the CU campus — especially Asian and Asian American students, who felt unsafe. It provoked passionate angry reactions within the Asian community in Denver, and with Asian student groups in Denver. I wrote my response (and a bunch of follow-up blog posts), and others did too. There were community meetings to discuss what steps to take to protest the column. A group of the area’s Asian and Asian American leaders met with CU administrators, including the dean of the journalism school and the university’s chancellor. Meetings were held. A public protest on campus drew the attention of the local media. Nobody thought it was funny.

The repercussions from this column have echoed ever since — and in good ways.
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