Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Japan, Racism and the Aftershocks

Originally published in the BG News on Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A series of unfortunate current events started last week, with an earthquake. 
Friday, Japan was shook by a force earning a 9.0 on the Richter scale-- nearly two points higher than the trembling that devastated Haiti.  Followed by a 10 meter tsunami and several smaller earthquakes, much of Japan is completely devastated. 
As buildings collapsed and infrastructure washed away, cities became unrecognizable.  With the ground still rumbling, Japan has yet to finalize its death toll.  In fact, residents are awaiting more catastrophes surrounding the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
Citizen journalism is giving the world a first person perspective of this tragedy.  After the power of social networking made itself known in Egypt, the World Wide Web appears be, in Charlie Sheen’s terms, “winning.”  
But latent consequences of easy access to technology are playing out on the internet as well.  Anyone can post a video.  Anyone.
And like a futuristic Pandora’s box, the damage can be monitored by the number of hits received, but never contained—even when one utters terrible things about people living through hell.
After explaining she and fellow Christians prayed for Atheists everywhere to see the error of their ways, a young extremist said this:
And she’ll be praying even harder, asking her vengeful God to miraculously knock out a few more nations of non-believers before Easter.   
“Not even a few days later, God shook the country of Japan.  He literally grabbed the country by the shoulders and said ‘hey look, I’m here.’  Oh, it’s just so amazing to see how God can answer prayers like this and I am so overjoyed and so encouraged.”

Unbelievable?  It should be—because “tamtampamela” is a troll and her entire YouTube channel was a hoax.  After finally coming clean, she deleted her account. 

While this should come as a relief, there were comments suggesting viewers felt otherwise about the “cunt” and her “blasphemy.”
Then, proving anything can be outdone, a UCLA student identified as Alexandra Wallace was featured in a vlog criticizing “Asians in the library.” The tirade began with her generalized observation that Asian students receive too many family visitors, which overcrowds her apartment complex.     

But the setting of her greatest grievance was the University’s library because “in America, we do not talk on our cell phones in the library.”
Apparently its finals week in UCLA-land and her “epiphanies” are interrupted by stereotypical imitations of the Chinese language—“ohh, ching-chong-ling-long-ting-tong, oh,” which she uses when referring to people from Japan.
“I swear they’re going through their whole families just checking on everybody from the tsunami thing,” was the ultimate low blow, making this video more than insulting.
After Wallace became an overnight sensation for all the wrong reasons, she apologized:

“Clearly the original video posted by me was inappropriate. I cannot explain what possessed me to approach the subject as I did, and if I could undo it, I would. I’d like to offer my apology to the entire UCLA campus. For those who cannot find it within them to accept my apology, I understand.”

More upsetting than the outlandish free speech expressed by the faux-fundamentalist and the valley girl are the comments reacting to their antics. 

For instance:
“LOL! What a stupid cunt. You don't need a UCLA degree to have a career in porn. Next time that you decide to open that mouth, make sure that it's doing what it does best.”
And then:
“What the hell was this DUMB UGLY TRASH doing in the library? The bitch should be on Sunset Blvd waiting on customers as her PIMP told her. She is going to get her ass whipped tonight by her pimp. UGLY FAT WHORE.”

But Alexandra Wallace is not overweight and she’s not unattractive.  And there’s no way to know anything about her sexuality or employment from what she stated in her video. 

Audiences only know she studies Political Science at the University of California, Los Angeles where she is very comfortable with her white privilege—comfortable enough to star in her own racist video.
The backlash is predictable.  When it comes to insulting women, cunt and bitch are automatic.  Slut and whore are almost second nature.  And fat and ugly are like adjective icing on the reputation-ruining cake. 

But threats of physical and sexual violence were made against these offensive women, who could easily pass for little girls.  It’s frightening, but more importantly, it’s gendered.
In January, Rush Limbaugh impersonated the speaking patterns of Hu Jintao, the President of China.  After broadcasting his own “ching-chongs” on his radio show, no one threatened to kick his ass or rape him.  No one called him fat or ugly, or even promiscuous. 

They simply called him racist—if they called him anything at all.  
It is what it is, but when “what it is” refers to women, there’s always a few extra words sneaking into a personal attack.  And insults rush through a floodgate when a target is accessible online.
People’s comfort with cyber bullying and digital cruelty prompted President Obama and multiple celebrities to team up with MTV’s “A Thin Line” campaign which asks, “if you wouldn’t say it, why would you type it?” 
But this only pertains to text-messaging, Facebook, or other traceable public forums-- with a focus on teenagers. 
We have yet to see a public service announcement addressing the millions of people (of all ages) who comment anonymously and viciously anywhere comments are permitted.  And we have yet to see any educational materials dedicated to controlling misogynist hate speech.
What these vloggers said is inexcusable—but so are the thousands of comments festering with hate below their virtual mistakes.  While humanity navigates its new ability to reach the masses with the push of a button, some will surely stumble.  But that doesn’t justify anyone kicking them when they are already down.   

All this proves, as Shark-Fu of Angry Black Bitch said, is that we are no more post-feminism than we are post-racism.


  1. Thank you so much for bringing attention to this. Will be passing this around, for sure. xoxo

  2. It is really sickening at the comments these people have been making towards Japan and Asian cultures in general. I have been legitimately pissed from seeing some of this stuff, that I almost cannot read or watch anything about the ongoing events in Japan, because these people are everywhere.

    I have a very close friend that is from Japan and he moved back there a few years ago. Everyday I hope he and his family continue to do well as well as the rest of the people of Japan.

    On top of that as you stated, I have always been insulted by the people making fun of Asian language. My sister was adopted from China and I know that unfortunately she gets directly made fun of in that same context, and she will probably continue to do so. There have been times when she came home from school crying. It would be nice for more people to be a little more moral with how they treat those from another culture.

    I understand it is not acceptable either with what some people are saying to those verbally attacking Japan and Asian cultures. I have yet to go around calling someone a whore, bitch, etc., simply because I really don't know them. If I say anything at all, its just simply along the lines of being something like "I really don't agree/like what you say, I would prefer if you kept it to yourself." Just short and simple.

    Like the comment before me, thank you for writing this. It is something I have been wanting to say myself.

  3. Even I was shocked when I started to read some of the replies to the troll Christian enthusiast. Horrific threats of murder and rape. I can't explain why, but threats of rape are even more disturbing to me than death threats. Maybe it's because they seem more viable and less empty. Mostly, I think, it scares me to think that the threat of rape is something that even crosses a person's mind when they are angry with a girl. Death threats are plenty-- "I hope you burn in hell" sort of thing...those are easy to say when you are angry, because you aren't really going to kill anyone. It just sounds extreme. But to specifically threaten rape... If a man had said the same thing as that troll girl, there is no way this threat would come up. Neither would insults to his appearance or the like. Truly disgusting.

  4. @Feministified--
    You are the best publicist a girl could ask for.

    @Mr. Schafer--
    Thanks for keeping it real. People who make threats don't have the words to express what's really bothering them. And the limited vocabulary of the masses is only getting worse as we condense language via technology.

    Say what you mean, but more importantly, mean what you say.

    and @Anissa--
    We share the same brain. Mostly.

    Thanks for reading and keep commenting!