This past weekend, UCLA poli sci undergrad Alexandra Wallace took it to Youtube to candidly express her sentiments about UCLA. What was she ranting about? Her inability to study in the library. Specifically, though, she points out that the problem isn't her friends, but that "the problem is these hoards of Asian people that UCLA accepts into our school every single year".
Wait, what? Did that seriously just come out of her mouth?
She goes on to add, "If you're gonna come to UCLA, then use American manners".
Okay, my brain just exploded. Unfortunately, the further into the video I got, the worse it got. The was some cringing, mouth gaping, eye bugging, and a whole lot of snickering on my part. Despite being Asian myself, I even went as far as to feeling second hand embarrassment for her, and from the quotes below, you'll be able to see why. In chronological order, you get choice quotes like,
"So it used to really bug me, but it doesn't bother me anymore, the fact that all the Asian people that live in all the apartments around me [...] everybody who they know that they brought along from Asia with them comes here on the weekend [...] You will always see old Asian people running around this apartment complex. They don't teach their kids to fend for themselves." Blanket statement much?
"Ooooooh! Ching chong ling long ting tong! Ooooooh!" Hold on, let me cue the oriental riff.
"So being the nice, polite American girl that my mama raised me to be..." Because it's nice and polite to voice these thoughts on the internet and because all Americans>all Asians and/or American parenting>Asian parenting. Anyway that you interpret it, there's a definitely superiority complex there. It should be noted that if you watch the video, she really stresses the word "American" when she says that.
"I swear they're going through their whole families just trying to check up on everyone from the tsunami thing [...] Like I feel bad for everyone who's affected by the tsunami, but if you're gonna go call your address book, like, you might as well go outside because if something is wrong, you might really freak out in the library and everybody else quiet. Like, you should seriously go outside if you're gonna do that." Because she's so concerned about the suffering going on in the world. Did she seriously just downplay the severity of the tsunami that happened on the very day that she posted this video that, as of today, has brought in a death toll of 7,000 lives?
There were many indications in the video that she knew that what she was saying was wrong. To lessen the blow of every totally racist, politically incorrect, ignorant and hurtful thing that she said, she laden the video with little lines like,
"So I know that I'm not the most politically correct person, so don't take this offensively..."
"I mean, yeah, I know that sounds wrong. I feel bad for all people affected by the tsunami, but..."
"Even if you're not Asian, you really shouldn't be on your cellphone in the library... But I've just never seen that before."
As a person of Asian descent, one who grew up in the United States and considers herself to be just as American as Alexandra Wallace does (though if she's the supposed epitome of American that she makes herself out to be, I don't know...), I can't say that I'm actually offended. "Offended" would be too strong of a word. "Appalled" is more like it, that someone not only thought about this, but felt it so strongly enough that she felt the need to broadcast her ignorance to the world.
Many have said that they can't take this video seriously because of the way she looks, what with the eyeliner, the valley girl voice, the bleached blondness, the boobs, cleavage, push-up bra, revealing shirt, etc. However, what makes me discount this video is the way she approached the topic, her demeanor, rationality, and the fact that she made this generalization in the first place, and then chose to make it public.
The most alarming part to me, though, is not the video itself, but that there are people out there who think and feel like this. The United States has been so progressive when it comes to race issues in the past century that this is just a painful reminder that racism still exists, and this feels like such a step back.
I'm fortunate enough to live in the San Francisco Bay Area, where it's a total melting pot of culture, ethnicities, and all around diversity, so I haven't really experienced much racism here. However, I sent this video to a friend who lives in a predominantly white, Southern town, and she said, "You know what's really sad? If people around here watched this video, they would be in HER favor".
Based on the reactions that Alexandra Wallace must have received shortly after she posted this video this past Sunday, she pulled the video from Youtube almost immediately, but not before others were able to download and mirror it. It created a huge stir, and by Monday, she had issued an apology in the UCLA student newspaper, The Bruin,
"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."
Despite her apology, there's still a lot of controversy surrounding this story. I, for one, don't buy her apology, but it's a good start. Some have speculated that this is a publicity stunt, but I doubt it. If it is indeed, it was done with extremely poor taste and judgment, and who would want this kind of negative attention anyways?
Aside from what was actually said in the video, let this be a lesson and example of how one should always use their best judgment when posting anything online, whether it's on Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, or your blog, etc. Once it's online, anyone with access to a computer or smartphone can easily save or capture it, and once it's seen, it can't be unseen and can only spread. It's near impossible to take anything back; there's only going the difficult road of addressing it head on. Alexandra Wallace pretty much just flushed her future down the drain because of this lapse in judgment. Though she did apologize, it's going to be difficult and will take a lot of time to rectify the situation and clear her name.
If you haven't yet seen the video in question, you can watch it here. When I first watched over the weekend, this video had a scant 200 views. Right now, it's close to 5 million views, so clearly, this story has made a splash,
The public isn't the only one reeling from this; UCLA is as well. They haven't yet decided whether to take any action against Alexandra Wallace yet, but the chancellor felt compelled to issue a statement and address this regardless:
In a written statement that came alongside the video, Chancellor Gene Block writes, "Like many of you, I recoil when someone invokes the right of free expression to demean other individuals or groups."
On a side note, if you need a little comic relief after reading this, check out this brilliant musical response, Ching Chong (It Means I Love You),
UPDATE: Alexandra Wallace has chosen to voluntarily leave UCLA, despite the school deciding not to take any disciplinary action against her. She states to The Bruin that she's leaving because of "the harassment of my family, the publishing of my personal information, death threats and being ostracized from an entire community".
Alexandra, this is not a good time to play the victim. As for anyone out there who is actually threatening or harassing her, or thinking about it, please take the high road and don't. I'm sure that by becoming news fodder, a web meme, having parodies made in her name and having the chancellor of her former school publicly address and condemn her actions have shown her the severity of what she said and is suffering and embarrassment enough.
She also goes on to say, "In an attempt to produce a humorous YouTube video, I have offended the UCLA community and the entire Asian culture". I don't know in what sort of parallel universe is in her brain where this would be humorous, but I have to admit, it did end up being humorous, but in all the wrong ways in which she did not intend.
As for UCLA not disciplining her, they cited that she was exercising her right to free speech and that she didn't violate any student codes of conduct as she didn't "seek to harm or threaten a specific person or group". I have mixed feelings about this as this rationale is very reminiscent of Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church and why his funeral stakeouts are still happening. Furthermore, it's sending the message that this type of behavior is okay.