So I’m pretty sure you’ve heard all about it.
A white student from UCLA gets on the webcam one regular afternoon and decides to share her annoyance towards the monolithic race-culture that is known as ‘The Asian’.
What follows is a tragic mix of 1930’s ‘ching-chong’ taunts, a putdown of the survival skills of Asian youth, a half-hearted attempt to sympathy for Japanese tsunami victims, and a condescending ‘welcome-to-America’ instruction on ‘American manners’ (the dog-whistle here being that ‘American’ is synonymous to ‘white’, since Asians and other cultural groups are apparently excluded from these manners, regardless of US citizenship).
Tellingly, miss Wallace shares that her annoyance stems from her upbringing as a ‘polite, nice American girl’.
If we believe this to be true (and we do, since nice, polite American girls do not lie), we can trace her bigoted world view to her parents. By extension her immediate family, by extension her friends (which we can only assume includes Asians, since she took the effort to exclude them from her rant), and by extension the circle of acquaintances she keeps.
One 3-minute video then becomes more than a singular youthful miscalculation, but a glimpse at the entire segment of the American population that she inhabits. It chills me to think that in this segment, miss Wallace’s views are not extraordinary, but the unspoken norm.
And in there seethes a different strain of racism. It is not your father’s racism, mind you, the one that lets loose dogs on protesters and hangs men on trees. Instead, it is the racism that tries to excuse itself with “I’m not racist but”. The one that prides itself of its hateful garbage because it is somehow a protest against the perceived tyranny of political correctness.
While the racism of old was a humoungous, armored beast, the racism of today is a snake that hides in the grass. It is slippery, and it has many holes to hide in. Our struggle against this form of racism may no longer be in streets and barricades, but in every person that we meet. It is no longer a matter of bringing it down, but a matter of denying it safe haven.
An indictment of Alexandra is an indictment of every person who did not challenge her ignorance. It is an indictment of our society and mass media that did not widen her horizons and gave her the impression that her anecdotal experience is enough to demean entire races and cultures. This is not to say that Alexandra committed no fault; it simply means that too many of us are at fault with her.
There is no telling how this will affect Alexandra Wallace, the individual. Unfortunately, in the age of Google, whether she genuinely sees and understands her bigotry or not, her reputation may already be forever tarnished (unless, perhaps, another Alexandra Wallace comes by and accomplishes something great, or commits a bigger blunder). I would assume that the greatest distraction from her finals are no longer Asians in the library, but the death threats she is now subjected to.
She has now issued an apology. But like all apologies bourne from scandal, only she would know if she is apologizing for something she now knows to be wrong, or if she is apologizing for being caught.
Either way, I wish her well. If we are all children of our societies then Alexandra is our sister. Perhaps the best way forward would be to forgive but never forget, and purge our own bigotries before we, in turn, make fools of ourselves in front of the world.