Tag Archives: Racism

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Margaret Cho Mocks North Korea at the Golden Globes

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo
reera@iamkoream.com

Well, we should have seen this coming.

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler kicked off last night’s Golden Globes with jokes about the cyberattack on Sony Pictures, calling the room full of celebrities “spoiled, minimally talented brats,” a reference to Scott Rudin’s leaked comment about Angelina Jolie.

After calling The Interview “the biggest story in Hollywood this year,” Poehler joked that North Korea’s threat over the film’s theatrical release had forced “us all to pretend we wanted to see it.”

The gag didn’t stop there. The two hosts then introduced Cho Yung Ja, a gruff North Korean journalist and army general played by Margaret Cho, as the “newest Hollywood Foreign Press Association member.”

Cho’s character, dressed in full military regalia, toted a fake magazine cover featuring Kim Jong-un’s face and demanded a picture with Meryl Streep. As Michael Keaton snapped the photo, which Benedict Cumberbatch expertly photobombed, Fey joked that Streep should cooperate because they have “a lot of weird emails that can’t get out.”

cumberbombGif courtesy of The Star.com

Later in the evening, Cho commented on Orange is the New Black, declared the show a failure for not having Dennis Rodman and goose-stepped across stage. The North Korean general then closed the show by declaring, “Show over. I host next year.”

Obviously, Cho’s bit on the Golden Globes stirred a strong response from social media. Many critics cited the skit as racist while others applauded Cho for her satirical performance.

“That bit with Maraget Cho as the Kim regime’s representative … managed a trio of awards-show sins: It was unfunny, racist and incredibly long,” one Vulture editor wrote. “Twenty years ago, Cho was the first Asian-American woman to headline her own sitcom — how did we end up here?”

However, Cho remained unapologetic about her bit and defended it as an extension of her stand-up in an interview with Buzzfeed News.

“I’m of North and South Korean descent, and I do impressions of my family and my work all the time, and this is just another example of that,” Cho said. “I am from this culture. I am from this tribe. And so I’m able to comment on it.

“If it’s Asian-Americans making fun of Asians, we’re claiming our own voice, we’re claiming our heritage. We’re claiming all of the aspects of our own culture, and we’re allowed to. Even though it may get us put in a labor camp,” she added.

What do you think of Margaret Cho’s bit at the Golden Globes? Let us know in the comments below! 

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Irish Teacher Rejected from a Job in South Korea Due to ‘Alcoholism Nature of the Irish’

by REERA YOO

A 26-year-old teacher from the Republic of Ireland was turned down from a teaching position in South Korea due to the “alcoholism nature” of her countrymen.

Katie Mulrennan, from County Kerry, had applied for a a teaching job in Seoul after seeing an advertisement on Craigslist in September. She wrote to the recruitment agency about her qualifications, stating that she had been teaching English for over three years in Barcelona, Oxford, Abu Dhabi and South Korea.

However, instead of an offer, the agency sent a rejection email that read: “I am sorry to inform you that my client does not hire Irish people due to the alcoholism nature of your kind.”

The teacher said she was stunned and couldn’t believe the terse message was real at first.

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“Usually when you apply for a job and they don’t want you, they don’t send a reply,” Mulrennan told BBC. “Or they tell you they would prefer someone from North America, because some schools prefer the accent. But this reply was a first.”

Once the shock subsided, Mulrennan reported the incident to Craigslist and replied to the agency with a polite email.  She has since found a new job in Seoul and said that she now finds humor in the situation.

“I was annoyed about it. But I can also see it was a little bit hilarious as well,” she said. “I still love the country and being in Seoul.”

Discriminatory hiring practices have been an ongoing issue for South Korea for many years. Earlier this week, Korea Nazarene University was criticized for its discriminatory requirement for English teacher applicants in its hiring ad, which read: “Drinking, smoking and homosexuality are not allowed.”

 

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‘Hate Speech’ Debate Gets Ugly, Osaka Mayor and Anti-Korean Leader Hurl Insults

by REERA YOO

A debate on hate speech between Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto and an anti-Korean group leader nearly ended in a brawl as security guards were forced to separate the two men on Monday, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Hashimoto agreed to debate Makoto Sakurai, the chairman of the Zaitokukai group, which is notorious for campaigning against “privileges” for ethnic Korean residents in Japan, such as the right to vote and access to welfare.

The debate was held amid rising concerns over incidents of hate speech towards Japan’s Korean population, which the Zaitokukai group has often instigated by holding rallies in Korean neighborhoods.

Within seconds of the debate, the two men began fighting over how they should address each other as Sakurai continued to use the disrespectful Japanese version of the word “you” to refer to the mayor.

Hashimoto, clearly irritated by his opponent’s lack of honorifics, replied, “Lumping together races and nationalities together and judging them — I want people to cut it out with those kind of statements.”

“So, you want people to stop criticizing Koreans at all?” Sakurai countered.

This comment caused Hashimoto to also abandon honorifics, calling Sakurai “annoying” and a “nuisance.” The two men then rose from their seats and took strides towards each other before being escorted back to their seats by security guards.

The scheduled 30-minute debate lasted less than 10 minutes.

The exchange abruptly ended with Sakurai firing insults at Hashimoto as the mayor prepared to leave the room with his security detail. However, Hashimoto did manage to land one final insult at Sakurai by tellling him, “We don’t need racists like you in Osaka.”

The YouTube video of the heated exchange attracted over 700,000 views.

According to the Guardian, the U.N. Human Rights Committee called on Japan to enact legislation to firmly address growing incidents of hate speech and racism against ethnic Koreans in August.

Photo courtesy of Kyodo via The Japan Times

John Cho

John Cho of ‘Selfie’ Talks About Being an Asian American Actor in Reddit AMA

by JAMES S. KIM

What’s the difference between John Cho and Henry Higgins, the character Cho plays on ABC’s Selfie? Not much, apparently. Cho says he’s “pretty curmudgeonly about social media.” He doesn’t have a Facebook account, and although he has Twitter, he is very cautious of it — just like Higgins.

Earlier today, Cho participated in an “Ask Me Anything” Q&A, where he discussed his experiences in Harold & KumarStar Trek and even Better Luck Tomorrow. He also answered a few random questions from Redditors (he wants to be the next Batman!) and delved into some of the challenges he faced as an Asian American actor, from racism in the entertainment industry to finding fleshed-out roles for Asian Americans.

Here are some highlights:

How he is similar to his character Henry on Selfie:
“I am pretty curmudgeonly about social media. I don’t have Facebook and I’m on Twitter, but I go through periods where I’m scared of it, and resent it. Haha! And I don’t like how addictive it is, so I have to put it down. So I am cautious with social media, just like Henry. Henry has a better wardrobe, though,” Cho wrote.

On what drew him to the role on Selfie:
“What drew me in was the opportunity to play a character that I’m not typically asked to play,” Cho said. “I think it’s a very unique show on the tube right now. It’s got a very fun tone, and I can’t overstate this — Karen Gillan as the lead is fantastic.”

His thoughts on his co-star Karen Gillan:
“She’s an amazing actress, and a cool person to boot. It’s been a real privilege to work alongside her. You know what I find amazing? Because people in the UK are typically good at American accents, since they grow up with them? But what’s unusual about her is that she can pop in and out — she doesn’t speak American English between takes. … It’s bizarre. She’s particularly good at it.”

He added, “It’s funny. Karen is on Twitter and pretty good about tweeting. I am less of a tweeter, but have become more so as a result of the show.”

He wants to be Batman:
“I want a shot at playing Batman!” Cho eagerly wrote after being asked which Marvel or DC film role he would like to play. “Ben Affleck’s doing it next right? After Ben retires, I call next. A serious Asian tech billionaire maybe?”

His first time being recognized in public as an actor:
“The first time I really remember … I had shot American Pie, it was just a little bit role, I didn’t think anyone would know what the movie was,” Cho said. “I was out of the country, shooting another movie, and had missed the release of American Pie, and was unaware it was a really big hit. So I came back to America, and kids were chanting ‘MILF! MILF!’ at me on the street. And I was really confused, and it took me a while to understand what was happening actually.”

His experience as an Asian American actor in Hollywood:
“I experienced racism, and in my professional life, I try to take roles (and have always tried to take roles) that don’t fall within the parameters of any Asian stereotype. And so to me, hopefully, that’s a positive thing I can put into popular culture and so maybe in some bizarrely tiny way that helps people not think of Asians in one particular way.”

On Star Trek 3:
After stating that he has absolute confidence in Star Trek 3 director Bob Orci, Cho wrote, “I don’t know anything about Star Trek 3. I’m guessing I’m in it? I just went in for a costume fitting.”

On his overall experience on American Pie:
“It felt innocent. All those actors were young. I didn’t know anyone; they were all starting out. I didn’t know anything about the business, and Chris and Paul (the director and producer) were great,” Cho said about one of his earliest films.

“It could have been a forgettable gross out movie, but what carried the day was its earnestness and its characters, even though admittedly there’s a sexual pie, a man has sex with a pie, but I think there’s a lot of imitators and they were never able to quite capture the spirit of that movie, because what that movie did was effectively capture and remember what it felt like to be that age.”

On popularizing the term “MILF”:
“I don’t know that we needed it in our cultural vocabulary, but it was there and I was the conduit at that moment in time. It’s funny, and it started my comedy career inadvertently, but my joke answer is that I apologize for all the websites I’ve proliferated upon the world.”

On North Korea:
“My father was born in what is now North Korea. I saw a Frontline documentary on North Korea, and … There are people who are risking their lives to smuggle in DVDS with Western pop culture movies and TV shows,” Cho wrote. “It is considered a way to fight the regime by spreading images of Western Pop culture to show that what they’ve been saying about the West is untrue. It would be really amazing if they were aware of a person of Korean descent who was part of that popular culture and output.”

He also wants to be on Game of Thrones:
“I want to up my swordplay and be on Game of Thrones,” Cho said in response to a question asking him which TV show he wish he was a part of the cast. I guess if Cho were to meet John Snow on set, the two could take turns telling each other they know nothing.

His thoughts on Better Luck Tomorrow:
“We did feel that we were making something special. And that was part and parcel of a great movement in independent cinema that came out of the 1990s, but it came out of this great fervor,” Cho wrote about the 1992 crime drama that featured an Asian American cast.

“It felt like we were pushing against a membrane and never really broke through, but I was really proud to be a part of the pushing. And maybe nothing really similar has come along, partially because the business has changed to be less about independent cinema and more about television, that’s where the interesting content is going.”

On working on the Star Trek franchise:
“I would say first and foremost it’s a real pleasure to be working with JJ and that particular cast. Everybody involved in that production is pretty much at the top. They are among the best at what they do, so it’s a pleasure that way,” he wrote. “It’s an honor to be a part of this American cultural masterpiece.”

On George Takei:
“I find George to be fascinating. First of all, I know George and have been familiar with him for all my life. I also find it amazing that he has moved past being an actor and has become an American cultural icon. It’s pretty crazy. But people who’ve never seen Star Trek know who George Takei is, and if you say ‘Oh, my’ you know it’s the dude from Star Trek.”

When asked about receiving any tips from the original Sulu, Cho responded: “He was just very encouraging with me, because I was very very nervous, and he had put in a good word to JJ on my behalf. And I didn’t know that. And it meant the world to me that he approved of my casting.”

When he refused to do an accent for a film:
When Cho was asked to do a Chinese accent for Big Fat Liar, he declined. “I quietly thought to myself, ‘I don’t want to do this role in a kid’s comedy, with an accent, because I don’t want young people laughing at an accent inadvertently,'” Cho said. He explained that despite knowing that the filmmakers’ intent was not to jab at the accent, he “didn’t want to risk it.” Fortunately, the director Shawn Levy was willing to toss the accent and develop a new character for Cho.

“I bumped into him recently, and for him he says it was his first feature, and it was really awesome from HIS perspective that it was a good reminder that actors need to feel invested and the importance of collaboration, but for ME it was important that someone understood where I was coming from politically as far as representation of Asian-Americans.”

His plans for a zombie apocalypse:
“I’m inclined to get eaten as quickly as possible and get it over with,” Cho responded, clearly amused. “I hate being chased, it’s the subject of all my nightmares. Let’s eliminate the chase.”

To read more of John Cho’s answers, check out his AMA thread on Reddit.

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VIDEO: Full Trailer for ‘Dear White People,’ Co-starring Actress Naomi Ko

by JAMES S. KIM

Dear White People has been garnering buzz ever since it sold out all of its screenings at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, and with the release of the first full trailer, we can get a taste of what festival goers were raving about. Director Justin Simien’s satire, which is due in theaters on Oct. 17, follows four black students who attend Winchester University, a fictional, predominantly white school.

KoreAm earlier wrote about Korean American actress Naomi Ko, who makes her film debut in Dear White People as Sungmi, an art major with a lip ring who lives at a traditionally black residence hall, and hangs out with mostly African American students. Though Ko’s role is small, the film’s contemporary exploration of the nuances of racial identity on a college campus will no doubt resonate with Asian American audiences—as it did for the actress.

Dear White People really hit home, in the sense of what it’s like to be a minority in such a white world,” Ko told KoreAm last winter. “You may have a particular theme where somebody wants to touch one of the African American character’s hair. I feel like it’s very easy to switch that out and say, ‘Oh, where are you from?’ It’s a question that I’m asked many times, even though I was born in Minnesota.”

The plot follows activist Samantha White (Tessa Thompson), as she is unexpectedly elected the head of the black residence hall. When the college announces plans to diversify the hall, Samantha takes to the airwaves, using the campus radio show she hosts, called “Dear White People,” to protest the decision. She delivers biting PSAs such as, “Dear white people, please stop touching my hair. Does this look like a petting zoo to you?” and “Dating a black person to piss off your parents is a form of racism.”

The drama comes to a head when the college’s influential humor magazine hosts its annual Halloween party with a very ill-conceived theme: “Unleash your inner Negro,” which throws napalm onto an already unstable campus environment.

The film also stars Tyler James Williams, Brandon P. Bell, Dennis Haysbert and Teyonah Parris.

Film still by Ashley Beireis Nguyen

Bamboo Ceiling

Exploring the Limitations of the ‘Bamboo Ceiling’

by JAMES S. KIM

Asian Americans are the highest income, best-educated and fastest-growing racial group in the United States, but they make up only 2.6 percent of corporate leadership in Fortune 500 companies, according to DiversityInc. Like the term “glass ceiling,” which refers to the barriers women may face in trying to reach the top of their fields despite their qualifications, “bamboo ceiling” refers to the barriers that Asian American professionals may face that prevent them from reaching leadership roles in the workplace.

NPR’s Tell Me More explored the issue last Friday, raising the question of the “bamboo ceiling” and what obstacles the so-called model minority faces at work. These can range from long-standing perceptions in the workplace, to even how Asian Americans view themselves.

Linda Akutagawa, president and CEO of Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics (LEAP), told host Michel Martin that people aren’t accustomed to seeing Asian Americans—and other minorities—in leadership positions to begin with.

“I won’t say that it’s only the structure, but there is, I think, a baked-in kind of assumption of what leaders are supposed to look like, what leaders are supposed to act like,” she explained. “And when it’s different, then people sometimes have a hard time seeing beyond that, and it really takes someone who can look beyond that.”

Wesley Yang, a writer who has extensively written on this issue (at times, controversially, as with his famous “Paper Tigers” piece in New York Magazine), also added that it’s not the traditional assumptions of overt, conscious racism that is seen in the workplace. “It’s really a matter of, like, small daily transactions that exact a toll on women and minorities, that we produce a power structure without there being sort of like an overt intention to keep women and minorities out,” he told NPR.

When it comes to Asian American behavior in the workplace, behavior such as attracting the notice of a potential mentor and getting involved in social activities may not be something they’re accustomed to, according to Akutagawa. “A lot of Asian Americans are taught, you know, you just work hard,” she said in the NPR segment. “And you just keep your nose to the grindstone, and you will be recognized. And you don’t have to talk about yourself.”

Leadership training for Asian American executives, including those through LEAP, seeks to teach or strengthen such competency and skills in the workplace, said Yang. The training involves them in a process of introspection, finding associations between Asian culture and the norms and expectations for leaders in America.

“And what they show is that there’s almost no overlap between these two terms,” he told NPR. “So it may well be the case that many Asian professionals arrive in the workplace with a set of culturally ingrained sets of, what is appropriate behavior, ways to relate themselves to superiors and to elders, that may well be a recipe for invisibility.”

When asked by host Martin what success would look like, Akutagawa said it would be not making it a surprise when an Asian American or a person of color achieves any sort of leadership position.

“I mean it should be just part and parcel of just what we see,” she said. “In some ways right now, they’re still the exception to the rule. I think there’s a lot of ground to be broken.”

Image via Northwest Asian Weekly

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College Student from Indiana Posts Anti-Asian Video

 

Meet Alexandra Wallce 2.0: Samuel Hendrickson, a student from Indiana University, has made a video detailing 10 reasons why he wouldn’t want to be Asian. His reasons include dating Asian women, sweatshops and math.

Since he posted it on YouTube, people have responded negatively, prompting Hendrickson to apologize,8Asians reports. He defends the video as merely humorous digs, but the “jokes” he spews are based on very real stereotypes.

Let’s be frank: racism still exists. Racist jokes aren’t funny. Because we accept racism in our everyday humor, we see the perpetuation of micro-aggressions and misconceptions. If our culture didn’t give racist jabs a green light under the guise of a “good joke,” we wouldn’t see college campuses – areas where we should be challenging and criticizing racism – “border hopping” or “ghetto” theme parties.

Why are supposedly educated individuals continuing a dialogue rooted in ignorance?

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Korean Senior Alleging Race-based Attack Files Lawsuit Against McDonald’s

This file photo from the New York Daily News, taken in January 2014, shows Korean American seniors involved in an earlier dispute with a Queens McDonald’s. 

A Korean American senior citizen in New York has filed a $10 million dollar lawsuit against McDonald’s accusing one of its workers of racially attacking him verbally and physically, Yonhap reported today.

The 62-year-old, only identified by his last name Kim, alleges that on the afternoon of Feb. 16, a female manager at a Flushing, Queens McDonald’s hit Kim with a broom after he complained to another restaurant worker that he had waited 10 minutes to purchase a cup of coffee.

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Before being struck by the broom, Kim alleges that the manager, only identified by her first name Lucy, first yelled at him to leave the restaurant, after he made the complaint, and told him that coffee is not available to “people like you,” according to the Yonhap story. When he tried to record the incident with his cell phone camera, the manager struck him with the broom, the lawsuit says.

The manager was later indicted on assault charges, the article said.

“Kim was not able to work for a while due to the injuries, and he has been suffering from severe mental pain caused by the ill treatment and the subsequent humiliation,” Kim’s lawyer Moon-kyung Bae told Yonhap.

“It constitutes a racially motivated hate crime, as Kim was the only Asian there at that time,” Bae said, noting that this lawsuit is meant “to prevent a recurrence of such a case against ethnic minorities.”

The case carries echoes of past problems between Korean American seniors and a Queens McDonald’s, where just this past January, restaurant employees called the police to get the elderly customers to leave after spending several hours drinking coffee there, in violation of the establishment’s 20-minute seating time limit. The Korean American seniors, joined by some community groups, protested and called for a boycott of McDonald’s. The two sides, however, were able to reach acompromise, with the seniors agreeing to give up their seats during busy periods, and management promising to ease the time limit during off-peak hours.

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