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Asian Bashing

John Melegrito Now that a winterless winter has given way to Spring, it’s hard to ignore the not-too subtle hints that point to renewals and new beginnings. There also a sense of urgency about restoring energy to initiatives we’ve taken on over the years, not to mention fighting the same old battles.

Like Asian bashing. The latest bigoted remarks come from someone we didn’t quite expect, given his track record as a champion of civil rights.  But DC Councilmember Marion Barry’s racist statements about Asian businesses and their “dirty shops” were outrageous. Several Asian Pacific American organizations, including NaFFAA, denounced Barry for fanning the flames of racial divisions and perpetuating stereotypes of Asians taking jobs away from other Americans.

In case you missed it, Barry spewed those scurrilous remarks at his Ward 8 primary election victory party two weeks ago. “We got to do something about these Asians coming in and opening up businesses and dirty shops … They ought to go,” he crowed. Although he later apologized, the damage was already done.

Some in our community want us to simply look the other way but ugly slurs like this have to be attacked and dealt with right away. Otherwise people get the idea it must be okay. Not to publicly challenge bigotry also perpetuates the stereotype of Asians being considered foreign,

We’ve heard offensive statements like these before  from politicians, entertainers, celebrities. And they won’t stop unless we call them out each time they cast aspersions on an identifiable ethnic.

Here are some examples:

ESPN got into some trouble recently for posting a racially insensitive “chink in the armor”  headline about pro basketball player Jeremy Lin, a point guard for the New York Knicks.

Boxing world welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather’s racially offensive and disgusting diatribe against Manny Pacquiao was a racial slur against all Filipinos and Filipino Americans and an embarrassment not only to the boxing community, but to all Americans. Talking trash may be common between boxing rivals, but Mayweather’s racially laced profanities brazenly crossed the line of decency and respectability.

John Rocker, a pitcher for the Atlanta Braves, maligned gays, Asian women, immigrants and other minorities in a hate-filled xenophobic outburst. If he’d have his way, everyone who doesn’t look like him – meaning, non-whites – would be kicked out of this country. What’s scary is that there are probably millions who think like him. But they know better so they shut up. Not Rocker. He thinks he can get away with it because he’s a big star.

White supremacist Buford Furrow hated Jews, Asians and Hispanics. Like Rocker, he wants them wiped off the face of this earth. So he goes on a shooting rampage at a Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles and later gunned down Joseph Ileto, a Filipino American postal worker. He thought like John Rocker but took it one step further.

Comedienne Joan Rivers made fun of Filipinos by calling them dog-eaters. An episode in a popular sitcom, “Frazier,” caricatured Filipino women as mail order brides. In each of these instances, the networks apologized in response to the outpouring of condemnation across the country. And so did the producers of ABC’s “Desperate Housewives,” when they aired an episode disparaging medical practitioners who were trained in the Philippines.

It’s hard to ignore the hurts and slights: MSNBC announces Tara Lipinsky’s victory over Michelle Kwan with this headline: “American Beats Kwan.” Rep. Tom Delay couldn’t pronounce a Thai name and concludes that the person must be an alien. A talk show host in Houston advocates turning Panda bears into culinary delicacies, for a laugh.

Despite the fact that we are US citizens and permanent residents, we continue to be maligned with false characterizations. Next month’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is an opportunity to re-engage America about who we are. That we are Americans, too.

E-mail your comments to jonmele@aol.com

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