On April 24, the Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA) circulated a press release asking
public officials, media representatives, and community leaders… to be aware that the language used in this debate has a direct impact on race relations in the United States. Whether it is bullying on the playground, hurtful behavior in the workplace, or more serious bias-related violence, racialized rhetoric can have a very negative impact on the daily lives of all Americans.
Earlier that month, Jack Cafferty (remember him from 4 New York?) had dismissed “the Chinese” as “thugs and goons.” It was just another example of the growing resentment towards those of Chinese descent in the US. If that weren’t troubling enough, the current hatred directed at Chinese Americans is reminiscent of what Japanese Americans experienced in the 70s and 80s. American Japan bashing lead to the pivotal reprieve of Vincent Chin’s murderers. Pivotal because it is considered a “watershed moment” by many Asian activists across the US and internationally.
I agree with the founders of Media Lens regarding the power and influence of the network news. They put it best when asked “Are you saying mainstream media is some kind of giant conspiracy?”
No. In seeking to understand the basis and operation of systematic mass media distortion, we flatly reject all conspiracy theories… We reject the idea that mainstream journalists are generally guilty of self-censorship and conscious lying; we believe that the all-too-human tendency to self-deception accounts for their conviction that they are honest purveyors of uncompromised truth. We all have a tendency to believe what best suits our purpose…
I would add that the viewer/user also plays a role in the deception. I don’t want to argue the nature of truth or an absolute. That would be fruitless. What do I want to bring to light is that the junky must bear some of the burden of addiction that the dealer does. In this instance, those who accept network news as being the truth, want to believe – need to believe it is the truth.
This was especially evident during World War II when propaganda campaigns lead to internment camps and nationwide discrimination against Japanese Americans. Germany, Italy, and Japan formed the Axis powers. No citizens of German or Italian descent were interred. Americans including Chinese Americans were content to demonize the Japanese.
Call it karma, the Chinese are being demonized in much the same way the Japanese were in the 40s. Tibetans have taken up the role of the sympathetic race that the Chinese once played. The Chinese have been cast in the role of the evil empire. A role once portrayed by the Japanese.
Post internment camps and post Vincent Chin, I want to see unity and dialogue among Chinese and Tibetans living in the US. I had hoped Asians in America would draw upon their unifying characteristics rather than get caught up in the frenzy stirred up by the media and denigrate to simply slinging propaganda at each other.
I am not asking anyone to put their passions aside but a meeting like the one recounted in the Times, about a USC meeting between a Tibetan monk and Chinese students, serves only to cheapen the severity of the situation by reducing it to a shouting match instead of a dialogue where two seemingly opposed groups work towards ways of coexisting.
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