In 2011, Junior Alexandra Wallace, a student at UCLA and frequent “vlogger” (a person who creates videos of themselves discussing random topics) posted a vlog titled “Asians in the Library”. The video was 2:52 minutes long and was posted on a Friday afternoon, the same Friday there was a tsunami happening in Asia. To sum up the video, Alexandra rants about the Asians on UCLA’s campus not using “American manners” in the libraries during finals week and being disrespectful talking on cell phones while others are studying.
Some of her words were: “If you’re going to come to UCLA, learn American manners…all the Asians that live in the apartments around me bring their Moms, Dads, brothers, sisters, Aunts, Uncles, Grandmas, and Grandpas, and cousins and everybody that they brought along from Asia with them come here on the weekends to do their laundry, buy their groceries and cook their food for the week…you will always see old Asians wandering around this apartment complex every weekend because they don’t teach their kids to fend for themselves.”
Alexandra continues to rant (by stereotyping Asians) that they don’t know how to follow “American manners” like not talking on their cell phones in the library. Alexandra explains that she’s a Political Science major and will be studying furiously in the library and hear Asians talking on the phone “ching chung ling lung ting tung”. She follows by saying, “Being the nice, polite, American girl that my Mama raised me to be, I’ll just say ‘shh’…then it’s the same thing five minutes later, checking on all their family from the tsunami thing. I mean I know that sounds horrible like I feel bad for all the people effected by the tsunami, but if you’re gonna go call your address book, you might as well go outside because if something is wrong you might really freak out and you’re in the library where everyone’s quiet.”
Her exact words extracted from the video include: “You know I’m not the most politically correct person, so don’t take this offensively.” The video is clearly racist against Asians, especially when she pokes fun at the Chinese language when she pretends to be on the phone. Right after posting it, it quickly started an uproar on YouTube, where she then removed it but not before angry users copied the video and began reposting. Though she wanted the video never to be seen again, it didn’t stop millions of people watching the reposted video.
Alexandra emailed an apology to the UCLA student newspaper and said, “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.” People began making memes and parody videos making fun of Alexandra and her “valley girl” ways with blonde hair and push up bra.
People began making memes, hateful Facebook accounts and multiple parody videos making fun of Alexandra and her “valley girl” ways with blonde hair and push up bra, speaking with multiple “likes”.
(Alexandra Wallace meme)
Time went on and Alexandra received numerous death threats via email and telephone so the police department advised her to take safety precautions. Alexandra’s professor said: “She made a big mistake, and she knows it, but…they (UCLA students) responded with greater levels of tolerance”. Alexandra later sent out the letter saying she will no longer be attending the University.
Below is the full letter:
“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.”
When critically analyzing this event, one can see the many racist remarks throughout the video. Alexandra may not have seemed to come off as racist, but indeed she did. While watching the video I was reminded of learning about racism in class. Today, many people believe we live in a “post-race” society, yet racism is still very present. Alexandra is a prime example of someone using racist remarks in society today, saying “I’ve only seen Asians on their phones in the library”. This is racist and stereotypical because surely Asians are not the only race to ever have used their phones in libraries.
Another term evident in the video is abstract liberalism which uses ideas like “equal opportunity” and “choice” to explain racial matters so that whites can appear “reasonable” and even “moral” while opposing almost all practical approaches to deal with de facto racial inequality. An example of this is when people say things like, “I’m not racist, because I have a black best friend.” I noticed abstract liberalism throughout the video because Alexandra opens up the video saying, “You guys know I’m not really politically correct…I don’t mean this towards my friends, I mean it towards random people I don’t even know.” She uses abstract liberalism by justifying her words because she claims it doesn’t include her friends.
Also, the term cultural racism is prominent throughout the video. Cultural racism is culturally based justifications for discrimination, such as “blacks don’t value education” and “Mexicans have too many babies” to explain racial inequalities today (Bonilla-Silva 40). It blames the victim using stereotypes, which is exactly what Alexa explains when she says “Asians can’t fend for themselves…they never learned American manners.” Alexandra uses cultural racism by saying that all Asians aren’t independent and can’t cook or do their own laundry for themselves, but really this is just how she feels about a small group of Asians in her apartment complex.
The topic of privilege is evident in the video also. Privilege is a right or immunity granted a peculiar benefit, advantage of favor (Gay). Alexandra doesn’t understand the privilege she had being a Political Science major at a great university like UCLA. Her privilege was taken as a consequence of the video, even though she took it down soon. She decided to leave the university, resulting in no longer getting an education and working towards her Political Science degree.
Lastly, I noticed minimization of racism in Alexandra’s video. Minimization of racism refers to the idea that many whites believe that race and racism no longer affect minorities’ lives today and allows them to disregard racial motivations for various actions. (Bonilla-Silva 29). In more or less words, it is something as simple as racism not being a factor because whites say it isn’t. This is similar to when Alexandra says, “The problem is the hoards of Asian people UCLA accepts into our school every year, which is fine…” Alexandra goes on saying all the problems that these Asians cause, but tries justifying it by saying that UCLA isn’t to blame, because they can accept as many Asians as they want.
In conclusion, I believe the video was not meant to be as racist as it sounded and that it was just a college student ranting. And I’m sure Alexandra didn’t mean for any of it to sound as bad as it did, and though I’m sure the video didn’t ruin her life, I know it was her choice to leave the University because she was so embarrassed. She wouldn’t have deleted the video in the first place if she didn’t think it was racist, so she knew what she did was wrong and tried to correct her mistake and delete the video forever, but social media easily gets out of control and things get reposted and are public forever.
Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo. Racism Without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America. 3rd Ed. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2010. Print.
Gay, Roxane. “Peculiar Benefits .” The Rumpus. N.p., 1 Jan 2014. Web. 2 Mar 2014. <http://therumpus.net/2012/05/peculiar-benefits/>.
Laessig, Gavon. “Buzzfeed.” . N.p., 14 Mar 2011. Web. 2 Mar 2014. <http://www.buzzfeed.com/gavon/alexandra-wallace>.
“Mail Online.” Daily Mail. N.p., 15 03 2011. Web. 2 Mar 2014. <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1366132/Alexandra-Wallace-YouTube-racist-Asian-rant-day-Japan-tsunami.html>.
Parkinson-Morgan, Kate. “Alexandra Wallace apologizes, announces she will no longer attend UCLA .” Daily Brun [Los Angeles] 11 03 2011, Timestamp n. pag. Web. 2 Mar. 2014. <http://dailybruin.com/2011/03/18/alexandra_wallace_apologizes_announces_she_will_no_longer_attend_ucla/>.