Talking Giants Baseball: A San Francisco Giants/Baseball Blog: UCLA student’s rant against “Asians in the library” spawns mixed reaction from public

Friday, March 18, 2011

UCLA student’s rant against “Asians in the library” spawns mixed reaction from public

Ok, here's another news story. I promise I will have some baseball-related stuff soon, but I got to make a living. I'll have something previewing the Giants' crowded outfield situation soon. They got Torres, Burrell, Ross, Schierholtz, Rowand, and DeRosa. Someone's got to go. Could Rowand be cut? We'll get into that later. Right now, more Wallace.


A UCLA student enraged Asians across the globe last Friday after posting a three-minute YouTube video that criticized Asian conduct in the library while referencing the Japanese tsunami, and people in the South Bay Area agreed that her comments were abhorring.

Alexandra Wallace voiced her displeasure about Asians talking on their cell phones in the library during finals week because they might be communicating with loved ones affected by the tragedy in Japan. Coincidently, Wallace posted the video on the same day of the tragic earthquake and tsunami in Japan that has reportedly claimed at least 10,000 lives.

Wallace’s tsunami comment left Ben Pacho, a second-year journalism major at De Anza College, scratching his head.

“Wallace [mentioning] the tsunami…put her cultural insensitivity over the top,” Pacho said. “For people tuning in, institutional racism still exists.”

Pacho added that he was at a loss for words after viewing Wallace’s YouTube video.

“I was speechless -- I had no words,” Pacho said. “Her cultural insensitivity was staggering. I thought UCLA must be really proud to have her as a student (said with sarcasm).”

Wallace also said that the “hordes of Asian people” attending UCLA lack American manners because their parents do not teach them any.

Second-year De Anza hospitality and events management major Marianna Rivera believes that Wallace had a valid point about people turning off their cell phones in the library, but the way Wallace expressed it against one group was unacceptable.

“I could understand how someone could be irritated for talking on the cell phone, but she does not realize the severity of what she did,” Rivera said. “She’s getting a world-class education, but she has no sense of what she did. It’s counter to what an educated person ought to know.”

In her video, Wallace also mimicked a generic Asian language by assembling a random assortment of stereotypical, pseudo-Asian language while holding her cell phone to her ear.

As an Asian male, John Tran, a Santa Clara County resident and consultant, was personally offended by Wallace’s imitation speech and even had a punishment for her.

“The part that offended me the most was when she was trying to speak Chinese or imitate an Asian language,” Tran said. “She should be expelled from school for her own safety and stupidity.”

The video has spurred negative notoriety, with one copy of the video reaching over 5 million hits. Many Asians and non-Asians voiced their displeasure on blogs and even creating YouTube video responses of their own.

Sondra Morishima, who writes for a Tumblr web site called Generasian, was displeased that racial stereotypes are still alive and well. She believes that the video is insensitive and displays bigotry.

“In my mind, it’s nothing more than a grating reiteration of the same stereotypes that have been passed around for years,” Morishima wrote on the Tumblr web site. “They’ve become so internalized that they show up everywhere - from policy to talk show hosts to viral YouTube videos.”

“It’s easy to call this woman out on her bigotry, because it’s so obvious, but we also need to look at less obvious cues that these ideas persist and how they harm the Asian-American community,” Morishima added.

Steve Peterson, a social networking instructor at UCLA, explained that Wallace’s video had all the makings of a viral video and that posting it toward media-competent college students contributed to the video’s infectious spread.

“Wallace conformed to the stereotype of the ditzy, bleached-blond Californian college girl which is salient in and of itself,” Peterson said. “Then you add racism, insensitivity to the Japanese tragedies, the ‘ching-chong’ ethnic slur, and…racial and cultural ignorance, [along with] social media ignorance -- that is… not [realizing] that digital content persists on the Internet even though she ‘removed’ it.”

Peterson added that the video could come back to bite her a few years down the road.

“The video will still exist, but most likely it will be forgotten by most,” Peterson said. “However, if she eventually decides to run for president or become a Supreme Court justice, it most likely will impact the vetting process.”

UCLA Associate Vice Chancellor Robert Naples said that the comments expressed in Wallace’s video was “beyond distasteful” and is in no way a representation of UCLA’s beliefs.

“We’ll be taking a look at the language that she uses in the video to see if it violates any codes under the student code, perhaps regarding harassment,” Naples said to the Daily Bruin.

University Spokesperson Phil Hampton called the video “repugnant” and agrees with Naples that Wallace’s video is in no way indicative of UCLA’s view.

“The comments on there are contrary to the values the university believes in,” Hampton told the Daily Bruin.

Keith Fink, a UCLA professor, who teaches several free speech courses including Free Speech on Campus, and discrimination lawyer at the Los Angeles-based law firm Fink & Steinberg, advocates Wallace’s First Amendment rights.

“She did not violate the law,” Fink said. “Punishing her would contravene constitutional mandates.”

Fink added that the law is on Wallace’s side, and her comments, although foolish, are not a valid claim for peer-on-peer harassment.

“The law has been well settled for over a decade on what conduct constitutes a peer-on-peer hostile environment claim,” Fink said. Davis v. Monroe County…held that actionable sexual harassment occurs only when the conduct is ‘so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive, and that so undermines and detracts from the victims educational experience, that the victim students are effectively denied equal access to an institutions resources and opportunities.’"

According to Fink, Wallace's short rant does not meet the severe or pervasive test set forth by Davis nor does it meet UCLA's policy on harassment, which was adopted based on the Davis case.

Tyler Dimich, a fourth-year communications major at UCLA who is from Milpitas, agrees that the law is on Wallace’s side no matter how distasteful her comments were.

“The essence of the First Amendment is to protect speech even when it is distasteful to the vast majority of people,” Dimich said. “She certainly had the right to say what she said, but that doesn't make what she said right.”

The Daily Bruin also reported that Wallace received complaints and death threats from people all over the country, which left Dimich uneasy.

“To bring violence in personal opinion is invariably too far,” Dimich said.

Dimich feels remorseful for Wallace, but his initial reaction was that she should have put more thought into her rant.

“My initial reaction was ‘wow, this student ruined her life in 2:52,’” Dimich said. "If you are going to utilize your right to free speech in that manner, then people can and will utilize their rights to chastise you.”

Although he in no way supports Wallace’s comments, Fink was disappointed with UCLA’s reaction to the incident and warns that punishing her would give the university unlimited power that is violative of student’s rights.

“The school missed an opportunity to underscore the important value in free expression -- even expression that is distasteful and offensive to most,” Fink said. When the university becomes simply a hallowed hall where students must bow to the prescribed politically correct orthodoxy of the day, then we all have something to be very concerned about.”

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