Three years ago this week, a student news website at the University of Colorado sparked a firestorm of protest. The website posted a column by a student, Max Karson, which ineptly tried to address racism on the CU campus by poking fun at Asian stereotypes. The column, “If It’s War the Asians Want, It’s War They’ll Get,” stirred the Denver area’s Asian and Asian American communities to organize and demand changes at the University. The timing was unfortunate, because it ran on Feb. 18, just a day before the 2008 Day of Remembrance, when Japanese Americans mark the signing of Executive Order 9066, which led to the internment of 120,000 people of Japanese descent in American concentration camps during World War II. The column joked about “locking up” all Asians.
The area’s Asian communities weren’t amused, and rallied quickly to protest. So did student organizations not just at CU, but at the states other universities. National Asian American and civil rights organizations sent letters of protest to the Campus Press, but to the CU administration.
In the two years since, there haven’t been a lot of concrete changes at CU in general over racial issues as far as many students can see, but there have been lots of changes at the Campus Press. Its faculty advisor, Amy Herdy, a former colleague of mine at The Denver Post, was an early target of protesters but it turned out the rules for the website prevented her from having editorial control. It’s a student-run website. But since then, Herdy and the students who run the website have been busy rebuilding the class’s reputation, upgrading its commitment to quality journalism, and have worked hard to avoid ever allowing something like the “War Against Asians” column from bubbling up again. Continue reading