In today's New York Times, it reports that two CBS Radio personalities have been put on suspension following complaints from an Asian-American group concerning a six-minute prank phone call to a Chinese restaurant "peppered with ethnic and sexual slurs."
In the skit, a series of apparently unsuspecting employees of a Chinese restaurant are berated by a caller who tells one woman he would like to “come to your restaurant” to see her naked, especially a part of her body he refers to as “hot, Asian, spicy.” The caller also attempts to order “flied lice,” brags of his prowess in kung fu and repeatedly curses at several employees.Not only was this call played the day after Imus' comments, it was also played the day after Imus was fired. How does that make sense? Now, full disclosure here, I am Asian-American, and I am offended by this skit and this story. I absolutely think these radio hosts should be fired. And, I think that CBS Radio should suffer some consequences as well.
I'm on the record saying that Imus should not have been fired. But, since he was fired, I believe that the Imus episode has set a precedent that no offensive language should not be tolerated on the radio. Or, did the Imus episode tell us that only language offensive to African-Americans and to women are not tolerated on the radio?
As it plays out, this story will demonstrate the double standard that exists against Asian-Americans. These radio hosts will not be fired and America will not ever care about this story. Here are three reasons why:
1. There is no Asian-American in the United States with the political power to gain any kind of attention (meaning press time) to this story. Many Asian-American leaders will try to make their outrage known, but after a 24-48 hour news cycle, this story will quickly lose steam in the press.
2. The Asian-American target in this prank was not someone prominent like the Rutgers Women's Basketball team - people all of America could relate to. Employees of a Chinese restaurant in New York City will probably not appeal to anyone outside of NYC.
3. The face and image of the Virginia Tech massacre is an Asian-American. Last week, America was subject to the playing and re-playing of Cho Seung-Hui's video diary. Many will have those images etched in their minds forever. And, I don't see a lot of sympathy towards Asian-Americans - at least not enough to get these two radio hosts fired.
The "rules" have already been laid out. If you make fun of African-Americans, you have the self-appointed black leaders to answer to. Mexican-Americans? You'll have groups like La Raza knocking at your door. Gays and Lesbians? Rosie has a platform everyday to attack you until you apologize and ask for forgiveness.
But, Asians? Well, I think the Asian community in America is suffering a little bit by playing fair and following the rules. Can you name any prominent Asian-American who can take up the torch for Asian advocacy? I know I can't. This is the perfect set-up for Asian racism on the radio, in television, in the movies, and wherever else it is marketable to do that.
I know, people are going to accuse be of being overly sensitive and trying to play the victim in the politically correct society that we live in. "You don't have to listen to this stuff, Dr. A. You could just turn the channel."
Well, you could have just turned off Imus or you could have walked out during Michael Richards tirade. People were outraged by them, but will probably not be outraged by these radio guys. They'll get a slap on the wrist and then go back to work. I think that's wrong, but what do I know. I'm just Asian....
Update 5/13/07: These radio hosts have been fired. Read here for details.