|Race Jokes on Radio Not Comical|
By Juan Esparza Loera
©2003 The Fresno Bee
July 21, 2003
KC Chhan escaped years of war in her native Cambodia when she moved with her parents, brother and two sisters to the United States at the age of 11. Today, the 31-year-old Chhan is still trying to escape from the ravages of negative stereotypes about Asians. The soon-to-be English instructor at Fowler High School remembers an ugly incident while growing up near Fort Worth, Texas. While she was sitting with her father on the front porch, a neighbor walked up and unleashed a flurry of expletives at the two, claiming they had stolen his dog and eaten it.
"We told him we didn't eat his dog," she says. "We don't eat dogs or cats."
The next day, the neighbor showed up to say his dog had come back home. He also apologized, but the damage had been done.
"It was terrible, terrible. My father was just shocked," Chhan remembers.
A few weeks ago, Chhan was shocked when disc jockeys on KSEQ "Q97" 97.1-FM's morning program called a Southeast Asian woman's house and tried to get her to talk about cooking or eating a dog or cat. Another Q97 prankster called an Asian restaurant and asked, "Do you put MSG in your food?" The woman said no. The caller then asked, "Do you put DOG in your food?"
"It was obvious that the people called felt utterly insulted by the comments and racial stereotype casting," says Chhan. "I couldn't and can't believe that these kinds of things still happen today."
What a disc jockey thinks will generate laughs isn't always funny to another person, especially when negative stereotypes are being thrown around in an area with such ethnic diversity.
Chhan remembers hearing as a child such comments on the radio while on the school bus and trying to hide from view to avoid classmates' taunts. "We didn't dare show our faces. I don't want my kids to go through that," says Chhan, now the mother of a 5-year-old son and a 9-month-old daughter.
Chhan isn't alone in her outrage. Others have sent e-mails and made telephone calls to radio stations chastising them for being insensitive to the Southeast Asian community. They rightfully want an on-air apology and are willing to boycott the offending radio stations. (My calls to the radio station and corporate owner Buckley Radio were not returned.)
Jacquie Fargano called Q97's manager to complain. She said he admitted to her that his station's morning show aired that content, but he claimed it "wasn't offensive."
The ball is in the radio station's court. There is a fine line between freedom of speech and freedom to be stupid and offensive.Quote this article on your site