A monthly column about all things Asian in popular culture
By Vivian Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
This month, new and old Asian faces landed in the hot seat due to controversy. And 2012 has only just begun! Is there something in the water? Maybe Haterade? Because lots of people seem to be sipping it.
Racism … from Asians
If you haven’t been living under a rock this last month, perhaps you’ve heard of the New York Knicks’ point guard Jeremy Lin. Known for his apparent overnight superstardom, Lin and his ethnicity have been a topic of great debate in the media because he is one of two American players in NBA history to be of Asian descent.
Some people, however, thought the hype was due purely to Lin’s racial background. Floyd Mayweather Jr., a Black professional boxer, took to his Twitter account and wrote, “Jeremy Lin is a good player, but all the hype is because he’s Asian. Black players do what he does every night and don’t get the same praise.”
After receiving the inevitable backlash for his comment, Mayweather later tried to amend his statement by claiming that he was speaking his mind on behalf of other Black NBA players, who would be faulted for saying anything that was not politically correct.
Mayweather’s follow-up tweet, however, did not placate everyone riding the Linsanity train.
Among the angered supporters was musician and songwriter Jenny Hyun. Hyun, who is Korean American, is best-known for writing songs for popular K-pop groups SNSD and Chocolat.
While going off on a tirade against Mayweather on her own Twitter account, Hyun wrote a series of tweets with outrageous claims against Mayweather and Blacks, including calling their culture “DISGUSTING.” She asked her followers to imagine a world without Blacks.
“Imagine a world if there was … NO BLACK PEOPLE. All the tension in every aspect of life would be drastically improved without them around. And ONLY them.”
It gets juicier (or ridiculous, depending how you want to look at it).
In summing up her series of tweets, Hyun ended her rant by stating simply, “[The] eradication of one toxic family is exactly what this world needs.”
Hyun went there — she actually brought genocide into the picture. You can’t even make this stuff up.
After the backlash fully set in, Hyun took to her website to issue an official apology. It doesn’t matter what she said in her apology though, because she admitted that, in the end, she had no regrets about what she had said about Blacks. She then wrote one last tweet before finally privatizing her Twitter account, “I love KFC. #YaHeard.”
So, clearly Hyun isn’t racist if she loves KFC, right?
It goes without saying that Hyun’s vitriol should be condemned. What makes Hyun’s outburst the most annoying, though, is that she considers herself a voice for all Asian Americans. In addition to demanding that Mayweather worship Asians, she also wrote, “This is not Black America, THIS IS ASIA AMERICA.”
No, no, no. Please don’t make a claim to speak for the rest of us. Please don’t assume we want you to represent us. Please don’t think we respect your Adolf-Hitler-esque outlook on life.
According to a blog post issued recently on her website, Hyun has since been admitted to a hospital for schizophrenic and mental illnesses. Who knows if Hyun is actually ill? But how convenient that the situation arose right on the heels of her tweeting controversy.
Racism … against Asians
During the Super Bowl, a racially-charged and offensive campaign ad aired in Michigan from Michigan Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra and his team. The television ad features an Asian woman riding through rice paddies and thanking Hoekstra’s Senate rival, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, in broken English, for outsourcing U.S. jobs to China.
Did I mention that the ad opens with the sound of a gong?
The actor, Lisa Chan, took to her Facebook to apologize, saying that her participation in the ad was a mistake. Hoekstra defended his ad, however, claiming that there was nothing offensive about it. In fact, he went on to say, “Through the creative [design of the ad], this is a young woman in China who’s speaking English. That’s quite an achievement.”
There could have been so many different ways to handle refuting your opponent, Hoekstra. The race card did not need to be played, and your ad was anything but creative.
Hoekstra’s website and the campaign ad have since, of course, been taken down. But like all offensive things in existence, the ad continues to live in infamy online.
The return of long-lost Asians
Speaking of the Super Bowl, M.I.A. also made a splash at the televised event. M.I.A., who is a Sri Lankan-British musician, may be best-known for her “Kala” album, which came out in 2007, featuring hit singles “Jimmy” and “Paper Planes.”
As a performer in the Super Bowl’s legendary halftime show, M.I.A. who has been, well, MIA for some time, made a big return on people’s radars after flippantly giving the finger to the camera — and all of America — during the live, televised event.
Her stunt, however, was not well received. In a Reuters article, pop superstar Madonna, who also performed at the event, negatively commented on the act, “It’s such a teenager, irrelevant thing to do … what was the point? It was just out of place.”
What was the point? My suspicion is that M.I.A. simply wanted to create some controversy.
Meanwhile, actress Kristin Kreuk, is making her way back to the small screen! Kreuk, who is half Chinese, is best known for her long-time role on the now defunct drama “Smallville.” Kreuk will be heading back to her former network to take on the lead role in the CW’s adaptation of “Beauty and the Beast” — a modern-day take on the classic tale. It apparently includes a homicide detective. Modern indeed! Welcome back, Kreuk. (end)
Vivian Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.