In Response to “Asians in the Library”

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In Response to “Asians in the Library”

From the Asian Pacific Coalition at UCLA

On Sunday, March 13th, an alarming video was re-posted on YouTube from the Facebook account of a UCLA student. The video, titled “Asians in the Library”, chronicled the student’s racist tirade against the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities at UCLA. Within hours, the video re-posted on various forms of social media, where members of the community viewed and responded to the video. The resulting reaction reveals an alarmingly dangerous campus climate and an underlying current of racism and prejudice still vibrantly alive in America. The Asian Pacific Coalition and API communities at UCLA would like to issue the following response:

In her public comment to the UCLA community, Alexandra Wallace expressed her concern about the “hordes of Asian people that UCLA accepts into our school every year.” On a campus that boasts a student population of 40% Asian Americans and Pacific Islander communities (API), Wallace’s comments are both insensitive and revelatory of the flawed mainstream perception of the API community. Many view API’s as a uniform aggregate, thereby failing to acknowledge the diversity within the API community and perpetuating the view of API’s as the model minority and the foreign “they” who unfairly get accepted into “our” school. Wallace perpetuates the “us” versus “them” rhetoric in her comments, thereby expressing distaste in API’s and an even greater anxiety that “foreigners” are taking over UCLA.

However, she claims, it would not bother her so much that “hordes of Asian people got into our school” if they would start learning to “use American manners.” Her comment stems from the supposed phone conversations she overheard whilst studying in the UCLA library, citing one particular conversation in the following phrases, “OOo, ching chong, ling long, ting ta.” Among these phrases, “ching chong” stands out as an ethnic slur considered derogatory due to its historical usage in negatively depicting Chinese speech patterns [1]. While some argue that “ching chong” is a phrase we should regard with desensitization now that decades lie between us and the Chinese Exclusion Act, its constant resurfacing tells us otherwise. API’s today are viewed as the legacy of the “yellow peril”: if we are not taking over railroad jobs in the 1860’s or taking over auto industry jobs in the 1980’s, we are now supposedly taking over coveted spots at universities like UCLA. The use of such a blatantly ethnic slur portrays API’s as the perpetual foreigner, undeserving of an opportunity to study next to “Americans” in the UCLA library.

Her remarks do not simply address the students at UCLA, but she extends her call for American mannerisms to the brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, and grandparents of API students, whom “swarm” the apartments every weekend to cook and clean and stop API students from learning to “fend for themselves.” Why should the involvement of family in a student’s life be considered with such disdain? Why do the experiences of a few API students become generalized as the experience of every API student? Above all, why is there an assumption that Asian Americans do not know how to fend for themselves?

Furthermore, her ignorant comments extend to the tragedy currently affecting Japan following the tsunami.

Her decision to state such culturally insensitive remarks via a forum as public as a Facebook video is disturbing. What gives her the audacity to record such a video? Perhaps she did not expect anyone to react. Perhaps she did not expect API’s to fend for themselves.

Well think again. We are responding, and by the numbers.

As evidenced by the responses of outrage and hurt from our community, it is clear that this student’s comments can be considered a hate speech, an act of discrimination, harassment, and profiling.

However, we must address the many ignorant comments stemming from our own community in reaction to Wallace’s comments. While we condemn this student’s remarks as not only ignorant and offensive but hateful as well, we believe that we as a community can do better than to resort to the student’s tactics of throwing out divisive words which only perpetuate a culture of racism and sexism on both sides.

We will not use our strength as a community to attack this individual but rather we will use this event to grasp at an understanding of campus climate: despite what you may have believed about UCLA or our universities before, it is clear that racism, sexism, bigotry, and hatred still exist.

As a community, we should respond with the grace, sensitivity and civility afforded us through the manners we learned from our parents, and their parents before them.

Hence, as a community, we demand the following:

1) We call for a public apology from Alexandra Wallace. Her words and actions are not in line with the UCLA Student Code of Conduct which states:

“The University strives to create an environment that fosters the values of mutual respect and tolerance and is free from discrimination based on race, ethnicity, sex, religion, sexual orientation, disability, age, and other personal characteristics.”[2]

2) We call for UCLA to take the appropriate disciplinary measures befitting of Wallace’s violation against the UCLA Student Code of Conduct and UCLA’s Principle of Community, which states:

“We do not tolerate acts of discrimination, harassment, profiling or other harm to individuals on the basis of expression of race, color, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, religious beliefs, political preference, sexual orientation, gender identity, citizenship, or national origin among other personal characteristics. Such acts are in violation of UCLA’s Principles of Community and subject to sanctions according to campus policies governing the conduct of students, staff and faculty.” [3]

3) We call for UCLA to issue a statement addressing this incident. UCLA must demonstrate its commitment to a culture of diversity, respect, tolerance, and acceptance for all communities by standing against such acts.

4) We call for the UCLA Academic Senate to pass a requirement in the general education curriculum grounded in the UCLA Principles of Community.

As students at UCLA, here is how you can help voice your concerns:

1) Email Chancellor Gene Block (chancellor@ucla.edu) and Assistant Vice Chancellor Robert J. Naples (rnaples@saonet.ucla.edu) to report this matter as a violation of Student Conduct.

2) Post a message on Chancellor Block’s Facebook page expressing your concern: http://www.facebook.com/uclachancellor

3) Allow this event to help us bare in mind the continual relevance of ethnic studies at UCLA and beyond. While ethnic studies programs are crumbling at CSULA and struggling for a place at UCSC, let us remember why it is important now more than ever to continue to support the development, sustainability and growth of ethnic studies.

Let this incite an honest discussion on what it truly means to be a community founded upon mutual respect. Do not turn this into a riot. Do not turn this into an attack. We are better than that. Allow us to come together in solidarity and address the matter where it truly stems: as a reflection of the gross misunderstanding of our communities and the hatred which grows from it.

[1] http://www.websters-online-dictionary.org/definitions/Ching+Chong?cx=partner-pub-0939450753529744%3Av0qd01-tdlq&cof=FORID%3A9&ie=UTF-8&q=Ching+Chong&sa=Search#906

[2]
http://www.registrar.ucla.edu/catalog/catalog10-11-827d.htm

[3]
http://www.diversity.ucla.edu/strategicplan/docs/Principles_of_Community.pdf

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