UCLA student Alexandra Wallace’s life changed the day she posted her video Asians in the Library online. The video, in which she can be seen saying “The problem is these hordes of Asian people that UCLA accepts into our school every single year” and mocks their speech as “Ohhh. Ching chong ling long ting tong,” immediately went viral. The fact that the video’s release coincided with the date of the March 11, 2011 tsunami in Japan was additionally outrageous.
UCLA chancellor Gene Block released a statement saying “I am appalled by the thoughtless and hurtful comments of a UCLA student posted on YouTube. Like many of you, I recoil when someone invokes the right of free expression to demean other individuals or groups….I believe that speech that expresses intolerance toward any group of people on the basis of race or gender, or sexual, religious or cultural identity is indefensible and has no place at UCLA.”
Wallace released a statement saying “Clearly the original video posted by me was inappropriate. I cannot explain what possessed me to approach the subject as I did, and if I could undo it, I would. I’d like to offer my apology to the entire UCLA campus. For those who cannot find it within them to accept my apology, I understand.” She herself became the target of ongoing online attacks and received death threats against her and her family, ultimately leading to her decision to withdraw from the university:
In an attempt to produce a humorous YouTube video, I have offended the UCLA community and the entire Asian culture. I am truly sorry for the hurtful words I said and the pain it caused to anyone who watched the video. Especially in the wake of the ongoing disaster in Japan, I would do anything to take back my insensitive words. I could write apology letters all day and night, but I know they wouldn’t erase the video from your memory, nor would they act to reverse my inappropriate action.
I made a mistake. My mistake, however, has lead to the harassment of my family, the publishing of my personal information, death threats, and being ostracized from an entire community. Accordingly, for personal safety reasons, I have chosen to no longer attend classes at UCLA.
(Robert Naples, associate vice chancellor and dean of students, commented that “If she’s received a death threat, I find that as deplorable as her original YouTube video. If this is the response of students on campus, we’ve got a lot of work to do.”)
Wallace’s video hit a raw nerve among the entire UCLA community and tens of thousands of others. Her video was thoughtless, hateful, immature and inexcusable…and something that has now become inextricable connected with her identity. The emotional and angry responses of so many people around the world are therefore understandable, yet the threats she and her family have received are not defensible.
We therefore applaud the choice made by Jimmy Wong (@jfwong on Twitter), a 24 year-old singer based in Los Angeles, who decided to create a humorous and actually catchy song & video in response to Wallace’s initial video (Wong’s song is now available for purchase on iTunes with proceeds going to charity.). As NPR notes, “None of this is intended to suggest a future free of bullying or a panacea that helps all the little guys win in the end…. [But] sometimes it’s about being smarter, funnier or more creative.”