Friday 19th January 2018,


Ξ 4 comments

Are Asians Racist?

posted by Randall

Chinese laundry detergent commercial(Note from the Editor: The following letter to the editor was sent to the Root and shared with AsAmNews in response to two recent articles about the Qiobi laundry detergent commercial recently published by Root)

By Melissa M

In response to Yesha Callahan’s two articles: Watch: Commercial for Detergent Aired on Chinese TV Shows Just How ‘Dirty’ Racism Can Be  and “Chinese Company Apologizes for Racist Detergent Commercial. My hope is that if you are truly open lively discussions, you will post this response to Ms. Yesha Callahan.

As I sit here prepared to write this response to Yesha Callahan articles, I am trying to find the “politically correct” words to describe how I am feeling but if I am going to be honest, I am not really a politically correct type of person and that’s why it actually takes a lot to offend me. Most of the time, I can laugh things off to pure stupidity.  However, something in these articles really pushed a button in me that I can’t seem  reset.  It could be the callousness of your author or the lack of apathy in the pieces she wrote that made so emotionally aroused that I felt compelled to respond.

So let me first begin by telling you who I am.  I am a Cambodian American woman.  My family came to the U.S. in the early 80’s in order to escape a mass genocide within our country after the Vietnam war.  Over a thousand years of history and 1.5 million people died because one man and his followers decided the Cambodian way of life had become too westernized for his liking.  Pol Pot wanted to socially engineer a classless society based around agriculture.  Where everyone was truly equal in every way.  In the process, he destroyed any and everything that stopped him from reaching his goals, he pitted rich against poor, city folks against country folks, adults against children, neighbor against neighbor, and, worst of all, child against parents.  Just take a moment and think about your son or daughter holding an AK-47 against your head or against his aunts or uncles head.  The first thought that would come to most people’s mind is “My child would never do that,”  but under the right circumstances, anything can happen.

Whether a child or adult, people absorb the information like sponges.  Unfortunately, most people absorb only the information that loudest and most prominent while reflecting all other noises from their ears.  As a result of this, you have the “jump on the bandwagon” effect.  Pol Pot capitalized on this.  He told the children of Cambodia it was the Khmer Rouge that would love and protect them.  Their parents hated them.  Just to give you a general idea of the propaganda that was preached – these are all from Pol Pot’s Little Red Book:

“He who protests is an enemy; he who opposes is a corpse”
“If someone is very hungry, the Angkar will take him where he will be stuffed with food”
“The Angkar tenderly looks after you all, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers”

Messages like these were played over loud speakers and taught to children in “re-education classes”.  What does any of this have to do with Ms. Callahan’s article you may ask.  Well, it’s pretty simple.  Pol Pot used a war tactic known by most western society. . . Divide and Conquer.  By pitting people against each other and by making himself and the Khmer Rouge into “saviors”, he ensured the people of Cambodia would never unite against him.

Over the last few years, I have seen the same thing happening in the U.S. although not as extreme and a different end result is wanted.  But the same tactics are being used, Divide and Conquer.  Some, like Ms. Callahan, are adding fuel to the flame whether consciously or not.

In her first article, “Watch: Commercial for Detergent Aired on Chinese TV Shows Just How ‘Dirty’ Racism Can Be, she makes mention of the Chinese only in the title.  The rest of the article generalizes the Asian Community.  The first paragraph in her article reads as such, “If  you needed an example of how deep-seated racism is in Asian culture, look no further than this commercial that aired on Chinese TV for Qiaobi-brand laundry detergent.”  Apparently, because one company in China created a commercial that has been deemed racist, racism is “deep-seated” within the Asian Culture.  Under that same logic, if Tide put out the commercial, every single person on the North American continent no matter what color, creed, or nationality should be deemed a racist.  Oh wait . . . this has happened with American commercials.  Prime example, Popchips, Ashton Kutcher, and “brown face”.

Yet when that commercial was put on YouTube, there was no outcry that all North Americans were racists by the Indians.  The blame was put solely on the company itself.

When American Comedians make fun of the Asian culture, the traditions, the lifestyle, the way we speak, the way we communicate, you know like those nail shop parodies, do Asians put out articles on how deep-seated racism is in North Americans towards Asians.  I haven’t seen any.

Yet, when one Chinese company creates a commercial that is deemed racists, the whole of Asia, a continent of 4.7 billion people, have to take the slack for the commercial.

Ms. Callahan then writes this statement “Just as racism isn’t going anywhere in the U.S., it’s not leaving Asian countries anytime soon. If you take a look at ads featured in those countries, you’ll see everything from products that promise you whiter skin to blatantly racist overtones like the one above, as well as the mocking of black people.”

This is truly a bold statement on her part since I am sure she has visited all 48 countries in Asia, went to all of their stores, and watched all of the commercials and saw how the “blatantly racist overtones” because that is the only possible way she could write such a statement as if it is a fact.  As a Cambodian, I have not witnessed this in my country.  They are usually more worried about the civil rights violations, feeding their family, and people dying over border disputes than making their dark skin whiter.  According to Ms. Callahan’s statement, however, she has been to Cambodia and experience racism towards “blacks” in our community.

Its actually ironic.  With her article, Ms. Callahan was trying to make a point about a commercial she deemed racist and, in doing so, became the very thing she was writing against.

In her next article, “Chinese Company Apologizes for Racist Detergent Commercial, she criticizes the company for their so called apology which we all know wasn’t an actual apology because the company could honestly care less if someone in America is offended by their commercial or not.  Truth is they probably created the commercial to get a reaction and Ms. Callahan just gave their company a whole bunch of free publicity by writing not one but two articles mentioning their company by name.

In her second article, Ms. Callahan writes, “With comments ranging from people (well, actually, only, like, two) calling me racist,” and “So for those in the cheap seats with throttled Wi-Fi, let me explain this as simply as possible: There are racist Koreans, Chinese, Asians, East Indians, Japanese and etc.” One of those two people was me.  She still didn’t get it.  She is writing about some else’s half-a**ed apology for creating something that is offensive while still being callous towards the Asian community.  I didn’t realize Asians had their own country along with the Koreans, Chinese, East Indians, Japanese, and etc.  I am curious though where the country of Asia and Etc. are.  My educated assumption would be that Ms. Callahan has had so little contact with Asian Community that those are the only 4 countries she knows of so to make the statements she did in her articles are beyond me.  What she did was actually make generalized assumptions based on very little interaction which make them racists statements.

There are over 17 million Asians living in America.  The one commonality between all of the Asians communities I have come into contact with is a strong foundation built around tradition and respect – I find that same foundation in many African cultures.  You’d be surprised about the similarities between many African cultures and Asian cultures.  United, along with all other minorities in America, we would be a force to reckon a with, a force the American government does not want to even contemplate.  Together, we can actually force change, we can force the American government to succumb to our demands, to finally put our needs above their own wants and desires.

The American government does not want this to happen so there are things purposefully done to keep us divided.  People are used as puppets, people are taught misinformation and then the information is spread to the masses with the ultimate goal of dividing. Unfortunately, as a stated above, no matter what color, creed, or nationality you are, people are quick to jump on that division bandwagon and continue to divide a nation that should be united.  This is my major issue with Ms. Callahan’s articles along with the racists undertones of her statements.  You see this from the Facebook comments, the them versus us mentality, the assumptions made, the hateful comments.  It is truly sad that these articles which was supposed to be about one company in China has created such turmoil because of how Ms. Callahan chose to make bold and assumptive statements about the Asian culture then others decided to jump on that bandwagon.  It honestly just needs to stop.

By the way Ms. Yesha Callahan, the Asian Community is still waiting for your public apology but I highly doubt that’s coming any time soon because you can’t see that some Black people can be as racist as some in any other culture out there.  Hopefully you will open your eyes to that before your next article but you may need to come back to these cheap seats to get a broader view of the world.

Melissa M.


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  1. Ali says:

    RE: Are Asians racist?: Cambodians treat everyone as an individual and judge them on their actions not what society dictates. It is only natural and right to be suspicious of people no matter their race. They never forget where they came from and the horrors they endured. It makes them stronger and able to deal with anything life throws at them.
    As far as discrimination goes no matter what race there is a bias with in the race. I remember a Chinese woman explaining that we all have our difference within our own race but that the White race will make sure that the other races fight against each other so their flaws will never be seen. That wonderful woman was my great aunt. She saw it first hand when she and her sister my great grandmother came to live in Jamaica. The lighter the better Asian ideology comes from the myth about the creation of the first people. Doesn’t mean they hate other races. The ideology of blonder and paler for whites is real and causes some White peoples to kill and hate others. And that hurts even those who are White. The ideology of lighter is better in Blacks is something the Black community has been fighting other races to stop seeing them that way. It is a negative thing. Not a secret. Look at the news that doesn’t pertained to you and not what the mass media puts out. Racism is a tool use to divide so the small that control no matter their race can keep taking money and power from us.

  2. Mindan says:

    RE: Are Asians racist: Thank you for this article. This is an important conversation to have. Full disclosure, I am a friend of Yesha Callahan. I read her article. I got something from it that you did not and vice versa, so this is an interesting situation. I got from her article that she and many people in the Black community are offended by the commercial, where a Black man is thrown into a washing machine and invariably comes out (cleaner) as a non-Black man. If you can’t see that on some level or more this is an offensive commercial, stop reading because there’s no point in conversing further as intellectuals. If you do understand that it is offensive and that at least one or one thousand or one million Black people would be offended, then continue reading. Hell, I’m offended by that commercial and I’m not Black. Yesha is expressing that offense. And why not?

    You believe that Yesha lumped all of Asia into a statement saying that Asians are racist. I believe her exact statement was: “If you needed an example of how deep-seated racism is in Asian culture, look no further than this commercial that aired on Chinese TV for Qiaobi-brand laundry detergent.” I think that you’re right that she’s thinking of East Asia, which is essentially China, Taiwan, Korea and Japan. There are, indeed, other countries in other geographies. And in SE Asia is your country, Cambodia. As is mine, the Philippines. Since you won’t allow Yesha Callahan to speak about countries she’s never been to, I have to hold you to the same standard. That you’re Cambodian will not buy you currency in this conversation because Cambodia does not represent all of Asia. However, unless you have spent significant time in countries in Asia, you may have a voice– correct? I have spent significant time living and also doing business in the Philippines, Korea, China, India, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, UAE, Malaysia and Indonesia. So, I will be qualified to speak for those countries, correct? So, let me confirm Yesha’s conjecture, there are certainly very racist people in those countries and, further, there is certainly a very palpable anti-Black notion. But just to be safe, I can tell you with the utmost confidence than even in a country like the Philippines– a country that is perhaps the most tolerant of the West in comparison to the rest of Asia– there is deep-seated racism. Filipinos play baseball and are avid NBA fans, yet I can tell you that many carry and anti-Black mindset. No, not all Filipinos, perhaps not even most Filipinos, but more than enough for Yesha to not be completely wrong. Let’s be honest with ourselves here. Some of us “Asians” are wildly racist and not just to Blacks– to every race named in some book written by a White man about us.

    As a quick aside, I think that you and I can I agree that perhaps our countries might not even like each other. No? The term “Asian” is forced on us in the same say “African” is forced on all those extremely disparate countries and cultures in that continent. We do this so much that we have bought into it. In America, “Asian” is convenient. In Asia, we know better. You’re right, Asia is not a country. I think I’ve made the point that you and I cannot speak for Asia’s sentiment. We probably definitely know our respective countries. And that’s our limit. Beyond that, we are making unfair statements at best, dangerous statements at worst. Speak for Cambodia only. And I will speak for Philippines only. We can both promise Yesha that no such commercial would ever air in our countries, because we’re better than that. Cross your fingers. I’ll cross my toes.

    Now, I agree with you that we (people of color) should do our best to work together to correct these social wrongs. I even agree with you when you make your last point, which is that, hey Black people can be racist, too. Fine. But I wish that your last point was more a call to action, a call to acknowledge the obvious– that we all have problems– and a call to work together in expressing intolerance for any racist act on any race. This should not have been Asians versus Blacks. This should not have been finger pointing, calling each other names. Because when we choose to tolerate the most minute, most trivial of all human prejudices, we risk lessening the sphere of human civility.

    You wrote a very important article and you are starting a dialogue. That’s great. I only ask that you’re honest and fair and hold the standards you project on others to an even stricter measure on yourself. Thanks again.

  3. fred says:

    RE: Are Asians racist: A thought provoking article: Are Asians racist? Let’s get this thought out and out-of-our-way!

    I have always found Asians to be traditionally, incredibly, foolishly, screamingly and stubbornly RACIST. I say it out LOUD any time, any day. My present living in the USA and not over in Myanmar is my biggest daily reminder for being of Chinese birth and ancestry – thankfully this makes racism from all other peoples easier to tolerate and to dismiss pronto!

    I also believe that it is through harsh but generalized thoughts and words that we can combat ignorance among us humans. Political correctness – is not needed these days – for it is another one them new finagled Western ideals to keep the status quo.

  4. RE: Are Asians Racist?: Let me begin by stating that I never said I spoke for all Asians. I first spoke about who I am then I went about delving in Ms. Callahan’s writings and why they can be viewed as racist and ended with the importance of uniting as a people. My only statement made about Asians is that in my experience, I have found them to have a strong foundation in respect and tradition. My family extends to many different cultures from Black American to Laos to Hmong to Vietnamese to Thai to White Americans to French and many, many more. I also have a degree in Diversity Management so within my program I was also able to delve deeply into my different cultures. I met people and spoke with people from all over the world. We talked about the differences in our cultures and the similarities. We even talked about the similarities in our superstitions. Throughout all my conversations, I found that there are more similarities than differences in most cultures of the world. The way we treat our elders, the way we care for our neighbors, the way we raise our children. In fact, the only place I found to be vastly different is here in America.

    I am not saying racism does not exist in Asia but in the same breath, I will say it exists in all continents of the world. It’s no worse in Asia then it is here or in Europe or in South America or in Africa or in Australia but I make a conscious choice not to see the worst in those cultures since those bad things are far and in between.

    I think that many times, we mistake biases for racism. Wonderful article here about that very thing – if you ever get a chance to read it, you should.

    Every human being has a bias. Our minds can’t help but to categorize similarities into groups based off our experiences. Racism happens when we can’t get beyond those biases, when we allow those biases to stop us from getting to know people at an individual level.

    For instance, if you look at the comments section in your friend’s first article you will see the following:

    Evelyn Kim9 days ago
    I’m disgusted by this ad myself. Overtly anti-black and absolutely not okay.

    I’m floored by the comments in this article, because one, just as not all Blacks identify as African, not all Asians identify as Chinese. (I’m Korean-American, born in San Francisco.) There are 40+ ethnic groups within “Asia” and if Chinese is the only one we think of, we’re only scratching the surface.

    Unfortunately, this article falls into applying the overt racism in one online ad to all of Asian culture, which is an unfair generalization that shows that communities of color can also oppress and silence one another.

    I will call out, though, that I personally know that anti-blackness can be strong among East Asians and East-Asian Americans, but that might be a different story among Asians who are brown-skinned, or Black Koreans, or Black Asians.

    This article does more to divide the Asian and Black communities than be the starting point for how we can support and stand in solidarity with each other.

    Yesha Callahan moderator9 days ago
    @Evelyn Kim Spare one said ALL ASIANS were racist..but if you’d like me to post other commercials…I can do so easily with a simple search on YouTube.

    Yesha Callahan moderator9 days ago
    @Evelyn Kim Secondly…The post clearly states this commercial was posted on a “CHINESE” network…which in fact it was.

    Yesha Callahan moderator9 days ago
    @Evelyn Kim 3rdly…If you’d like..I can introduce you to my sister’s mother-in-law who is Korean/Chinese & racist..

    Take a look at her third point there. You see that? She has a sister with a mother-in-law who happens to be Korean/Chinese and, according to her, is a racist? This is her experience with the Asian culture so her mind has created a bias. The problem is she can’t get beyond them. This is how she views the Asian Culture because of her experience.

    Let’s face it, Ms. Callahan falls into the group who stereotypes specifically East and Southeast Asians as Chinese/Orientals and her bad experience has led her not to like this specific group of people. If you deny that, you are refusing to look beyond your friend status with her. (Side Note: Interesting fact that she brought in her Asian friend to defend her honor though. Classic “I am not a racist, I have a black friend move.”)

    Let me try putting it like this. Chris Rock hosted the Oscars this year. In his skit, he brought out three young Asian children and basically called them math geniuses. That stereotype that Asians are smart in math. Many within the Asian community found the skit to be rather offensive especially since many Asians, like me, suck at math. What happens if an Asian person wrote an article titled “Look at this Black Racist Skit” and within the article, the author writes, “Within the Black culture, racism is deep-seated against Asians.” When people argue the fact, the author writes, I didn’t say ALL Blacks yet points out that they can show video after video showing how Black people are racist Asians (which you know happens all the time with our accents and the nail shop parodies – for gods sake, “In Living Color” had Ms.Swan), then points out they have a sister who has a Black mother-in-law and these are the authors justifications for calling all Asians racists. Just turn the tables for a second and really think about that. But since we are considered “The Model Minority”, it’s okay for her do just that to Asians.

    This whole whitening of the skin thing to be white . . . I am honestly tired about hearing that stereotype too. If you know anything about Khmers, we are the black people of Asia because black to us is a color rather than a race. I have a black American husband of 17 years and in the summer time, my skin gets darker then his. But just so you can let Ms. Callahan know, that light skin thing in Asia has nothing at all to do with race but with class. When you work out in the sun all day, most Asians don’t burn, we get dark, really dark. When you stay inside, you are light. The rich didn’t have to work outside while the poor did. Light skin is a sign you have money while dark skin is a sign you have to work hard. This has been the thought process for for hundreds of years so who are we to say if its right or not. Do I personally agree with it, no but I also have no right to judge people on what they are taught from generation to generation. That whole appearance of being rich doesn’t just exist in Asia. In America, people show money status by having expensive things even if they go bankrupt doing it.

    I am going to end with this. When I first started my college career, I have one goal in mind. I wanted to be the CEO of a company and make a crap load of money doing it. Didn’t care how I got there, didn’t care who I hurt. I probably would have been the one to think up some offensive commercial to gain attention. But then I met this professor in college. He was this short little Hispanic man with a loud voice and a mind incomparable to any. He did his dissertation on Martin Luther King and found that the most used word by King was AGAPE. This man was completely idealistic and some days, I still think he’s crazy to think that everything can be fixed with love. But other days, I realize he’s not. He changed my way of thinking. He gave me a broader view of the world. I learned from him, I don’t need to lead a movement and I am not trying to. I am one person whose actions are within thoughts and if I can change minds one individual at a time then I am doing what I am supposed to. There is one thing in this world that can exist forever, that is indestructible and its not actions, its not a movement, it is an idea. His idea will live on through me and all of his other students and the students will teach it to others and so on and so on until it becomes timeless.

    As for Ms. Callahan, I wish nothing more than for her to admit to the biases she could not get beyond in her writings about the Asian Community. I want her to admit, even if only to herself, that she as a writer has influence on the thoughts and minds of others and by writing a piece like she did, she creates a even bigger divide between cultures that should unite.

    And, yes, the commercial is racist.

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