Monday, February 7th, 2005

Hot 97: Why Asian Americans Are Pissed And What We Should Do About It

We have so little room in American society for intelligent discussions about racism, difference, and what a better world could look like. Sometimes you get so angry at the way things are that a catalytic moment comes along and allows you to pour it all out. Half-formed discussions are forced to the surface, with caustic intensity.

The tsunami song was moronically, even horrifically bad. But I think even more rankling to many Asian Americans was an exchange that followed the airing of the song one morning two weeks ago when morning show personality Minya “Miss Info” Oh voiced an objection. The host Miss Jones retorted: “You feel superior, probably because you’re Asian.” Co-host Todd Lynn added that he would start shooting Asians.

Asian Americans first have to recognize that some African Americans see some truth in Miss Jones’ comeback. The station has received many calls of support for Miss Jones. And often we maintain what UC Irvine Professor Jared Sexton calls “racial innocence”, a disinterest in recognizing and addressing the fact that real and material differences do exist between African Americans and Asian Americans.

To be real, though, it’s not always the case that Asians are “above” Blacks; the differences are complicated, often localized, historic in nature, and deserving of very careful, nuanced thought. It’s the peculiarly pernicious strength of white racism that it always seems to find ways to turn such differences into points of conflict. We need to be real about these differences, recognize and respect them, and join to bridge them, otherwise they tend to gather and explode. This is the lesson that many of us who remember the 1992 Los Angeles riots learned.

Back then, Asian American thinkers like Mari Matsuda and Sumi Cho were warning us that “racist love” for a perceived model minority was making it possible that Asians could become a “racial bourgeoisie”, that we might in fact become a source of reversal to the movement for racial justice. (Michelle Malkin and Dinesh D’Souza, report for duty.) At the same time, some African American so-called community leaders unfairly and irresponsibly painted us as scavengers and brutes. The tragic result was an all-too real body count in inner cities across the U.S.—African Americans, usually customers, on one side, and Korean and Southeast Asian American, usually storekeepers, on the other—lives taken because of moronic, horrific ideas.

Things have thankfully changed for the better in many places. In particular, Asian American community organizations such as CAAAV in the Bronx and KIWA in Los Angeles have worked hard to fight issues of police brutality and worker exploitation, and to institute interracial community and labor organizing strategies that win rights for Blacks, Latinos, and Asians. But the Hot 97 incident makes many of us worry that we’ve gone backwards. Miss Jones’ acting “superior” accusation and Todd Lynn’s “killing Asians” reaction were absolutely no joke.

Still, although Miss Jones is misled, she is not the criminal. Although Todd Lynn is a creep, he is not the criminal. Point the finger where it belongs.

As the Bush II-Cheney war-and-tax-cuts economy displaces millions of poor folk and people of color, racial tensions are sadly back on the rise, just as they were during the 80s under Reagan-Bush I. These conflicts divert us from dealing with the real problem: a racist, imperialist agenda to redistribute the wealth of the world to America’s richest, and create more insecurity for everyone else. Our media contributes to the problem by shutting down voices that illuminate and propping up voices that denigrate. Outgoing FCC chair Michael Powell pushed for media deregulation that further narrowed the diversity of voices available to us.

Unfortunately, people who are supposedly on our side are also part of the problem. New York City Councilman John Liu has proposed forcing Hot 97′s parent Emmis Communications to donate $10 million to tsunami relief, instead of the $1 million they have promised. (NOTE: THIS IS A CORRECTION. IN AN EARLIER ARTICLE I INCORRECTLY STATED THAT ASIAN MEDIA WATCH HAD MADE THIS DEMAND AND THAT LIU HEADED THE ORGANIZATION. ASIAN MEDIA WATCH IS SUPPORTIVE OF THE CALL BUT IS NOT RUN BY LIU.) But while more money to aid victims of the tsunami is certainly a good idea, the strategy does nothing to address the real problems of the media. Worse, it opens up some very real dangers for Asian Americans.

Asian Americans have constantly been misused and exploited by right-wingers, most notably in the efforts to shut down affirmative action and in the closing of real debate over urban policy before and after the riots. Liu’s call for an increased penalty falls a little too neatly in line with the post-Nipplegate cultural conservative agenda to more heavily police the media and limit voices to those that fit their far-right politics. Given an opening, cult-cons would be all too happy to exploit Asian American concerns to destroy what’s left of hip-hop, progressive, and community radio.

More to the point, calling for Emmis to donate more money is something like a Howard Stern solution—you don’t like what I do, go ahead and fine me! Just as removing producers or personalities rarely changes the way a station sounds, penalties also clearly fail to force any substantive programming changes.

The real deal is that media monopolies have destroyed diversity of voice and diversity of programming, shutting down community affairs shows, firing beloved personalities, and dumbing down what we get on the airwaves. Urban radio is an extreme example of these trends—we get it worse than other communities because media monopolies believe we deserve less.

So forget the Stern solution. We don’t need more money. We need to demand diversity and balance and intelligence. We want media justice.

Asian Americans must join with African Americans, Latinos, and hip-hop generation heads who are pushing for a moral and just stand—one which calls for both full representation of the diversity of our voices and full responsibility to serve our communities.

The stakes are high. Numerically, if we come together, we form a progressive majority. This was the promise of the Rainbow Coalition and the New York City mayoral candidacy of David Dinkins in the late 80s. Dinkins was indeed elected, but as Claire Jean Kim has noted, his progressive majority was knocked sideways by the long Flatbush boycott that divided Blacks and Asians, and it never recovered. The hip-hop generation cannot afford to make the same mistakes.

That’s my rant.

DJ Kuttin Kandi, Afrika Bambaataa and Universal Zulu Nation, and a number of other prominent hip-hop activists have begun coming together to organize a Hip-Hop Coalition to push for media justice. For more information, contact DJ Kuttin Kandi at kuttinkandi@aol.com.

posted by @ 12:19 am | 29 Comments



29 Responses to “Hot 97: Why Asian Americans Are Pissed And What We Should Do About It”

  1. Jeff says:

    Getting lots of deep responses on this. This one’s from W. Jelani Cobb, prof at Spelman, and it’s reposted with his permission:

    Jeff:

    I hear you re: the bigger media trends afoot, but I would be hesitant to place Jones in so benign a category as simply misled. One of my concerns has long been that there are a lot of media personalities who have so little understanding of the power of their medium that it is akin to the proverbial three year-old with a loaded handgun. It’s like they see no connection between their cultural output and the real (violent) actions that their words facilitate.

    It was an idiotically reductive cop out for her to claim that someone being offended by that song had to have an ethnic superiority complex. (How would she explain my reaction to it — though I suppose my position would somehow qualify me as some variety of sell-out.) Same goes for Todd Lynn. Those same black people supporting them would lose their minds if a white personality said anything remotely approaching that kind of bigotry.

    Jones & Lynn represent a sad, ironic, and ultimately tragic consequence of the civil rights movements — in winning the right to drink from the same fountains, a whole lot of us have now gone on to sip the same kool-aid.

    Jelani C.

  2. Jeff says:

    This is from John Beam, a longtime NYC education activist and organizer:

    Appreciated your rant.  One point of difference I can’t in conscience let slide. 

    “Although Todd Lynn is a creep, he is not the criminal. Point the finger where it belongs.” 

    Absent some clearer revolutionary context that a pop radio certainly doesn’t represent or a situation of physical self-defense, threatening to shoot someone is always anti-progressive, especially when the threat is clearly framed in racial [and one might speculate gender?]  terms.  Yes, we shouldn’t let ourselves be distracted from the main issues, but neither should he be distracting us…Values at some point have to be personal.   He may not be the cause of the problem, but his behavior is a manifestation of it that should be resisted.  Just because someone catches a disease somewhere else doesn’t give him the right to let his lesions drip on other people.

    Be well,

    John

  3. Anonymous says:

    Does a ban on racism reduce racism?

    Does a ban on profanity reduce profanity?

  4. ronnie brown says:

    people of color…black folk in particular have NEVER demanded of white folk to explain their racist pathology…Whites reserve the right to analyze the intellectual/social fitness of everyone else ( The Bell Curve, eugenics, etc.), to label everyone else (“at-risk”, “model minority”,etc.) to set the terms of debate on any discussion on race…White people are the proverbial bully on the block we are AFRAID to confront. We rip into each other with a fury out of frustration we can’t look into the eye of our colonizer and pull his card…his favor, his approval mean to much to us…white folk reward those who avoid any talk about unity…Asians, Latinos, are not making alliances with Black people out of fear and raw self-interest.

    In other words: If you want the King’s favor, you do the King’s bidding!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Ronnie… EVERYONE should “analyze the intellectual/social fitness of everyone else.” And we should definitely cross race lines when we do it. It seems to me the popularity of racism has its roots in people NOT “analyzing intellectual and social fitness”.

    You mention that, “…black folk in particular have NEVER demanded of white folk to explain their racist pathology”. I would like to point out that Black people have often made the most perceptive and incisive observations about racism amongst white people. I almost always learn more about racism from non-whites. It’s called perspective. If I wanted to fully comprehend the earth… I would go to the moon.

    Also, IMHWO (In my humble White opinion) I think this Tsunami campaign is a little overzealous. I think it is great that everyone knows about the Tsunami Song. That is awesome. I’ve been hearing about these awful things on NYC radio for a long time. But I think the tone of this campaign — the vindictiveness and the desire to see punishment — is sad. Pardon my throwback language… but love, not hate, is the answer. ;)

    _eric

  6. ronnie brown says:

    Eric, Black folk have resisted and overcome the more violent forms of white supremacy/racism, but we’ve never mounted a sustained counter to what motivates white folk’s racist compulsions. We have yet to fully come to grips with the emotional/psychological traumas of our slave/jim crow experience…we are not free in the mind. the opinions and approval of white folk still occupy too large a place in our psyche…and that goes for other people of color as well. i don’t expect you to comprehend this fully, so i don’t hold this against you…but i will say this, the difference between you and i is that you think LOVE conquers all…my thing is…without justice, there will be no peace, hence no love.

  7. Jeff says:

    This from Art McGee at amcgee@angryblackman.org:

    —(quoting my stuff:) So forget the Stern solution. We don’t need more money. We need to demand diversity and balance and intelligence. We want media justice.

    Asian Americans must join with African Americans, Latinos, and hip-hop generation heads who are pushing for a moral and just stand — one which calls for both full representation of the diversity of our voices and full
    responsibility to serve our communities.—

    I agree 100% about the need to address the systemic
    and structural problems with our Undemocratic, White
    Supremacist, Capitalist, and Patriarchal media system, but
    I’m not as quick to let handkerchief-head Negroes like Miss
    Jones off the hook so quickly. As an Asian, Jeff can’t get
    ugly on a Negro like I can, but I am about to rhetorically
    slap all the barely detectable Black off the despicable and
    pathetic entity known as “Miss Jones.” Since she’s doing the
    “white” man’s bidding, helping to divide Black people from
    our potential allies, she will have no further use for the
    precious signification of Black identity, so I’m doing a
    factory recall. There is simply no excuse for either playing
    the song, or getting hostile when someone self-evidently
    took offense. I wish that everytime some disingenuous and
    duplicitous Negro tried to play the “race card” by invoking
    and referencing the conditions of the truly oppressed, that
    their head would explode like in “Scanners.” Boom! Wouldn’t
    that be nice. Whether it’s Michael Jackson, OJ Simpson, Mike
    Tyson, Condoleeza Rice, Miss Jones, or some other elitist
    coon, there are always those who try to lay claim to a
    legacy that they have forfeited access to by their actions.
    The fact that more Black people aren’t up in arms about the
    incident and that some even support Jones shows the depths
    to which many of my people have fallen, having lost their
    way on the true revolutionary path they were once on. The
    struggle for Black Liberation was supposed to be the
    beachhead that led to the liberation of all the world’s
    peoples from oppression, not some cynical poker chip that
    idiots like Jones could use for snappy comebacks. Black
    people were once the guardians of the nation’s moral
    conscience, but now many have become little more than
    willing whores for the Devil. To add insult to inanity,
    Jones is the same hypocrite who had the audacity to get
    upset when a similarly cruel stunt was played on Hot97 after
    the R&B singer Aaliyah Dana Haughton died in a plane crash:

    Hot 97 Has Got To Go
    http://www.manhunt.com/features/html/162.html

    The pertinent excerpt:

    “If you haven’t heard yet: Monday morning (August 27), when
    the popular “shock jock” of the “Star and Buc Wild Show
    Featuring Miss Jones” (on Emmis Broadcasting’s WQHT Hot 97,
    the top urban/hip hop/R&B station in New York) informed his
    listeners of Aaliyah’s death, he then, in an attempt to be
    funny, played an audio clip/sound effect of a plane crashing
    – complete with a woman screaming right before the “crash
    and burn” explosion. Co-Host Miss Jones, totally fed up,
    goes off on him, curses at him (live/on-air) and storms out.
    For the remainder of the show, Star not only reminds the
    audience that he is “The Hater” and that this is “his” show,
    but he also proceeds to play the sound effect at least four
    more times — in adamant, shameless defiance to anyone who
    couldn’t appreciate his so-called humor.”

    Can you believe it? I guess to Jones hate is OK as long as
    it’s not directed at someone you like. This is why Pork Chop
    Nationalism is as bad for you as real Pork. It clogs your
    ability to think and feel in the same way that pork clogs
    your arteries. Boy, sometimes I can really understand how
    Chris Rock feels, when referencing real Black people vs.
    simulacra, only my vitriol would be directed at the elites,
    the perpetrators of the oppressive conditions we find
    ourselves in, instead of it’s victims. Yeah, I wish I could
    join the Ku Klux Klan and then I would do a drive-by from
    California to New York on these bourgeois retards who have
    Black skin, but a soul as white as Pat Boone.

    That’s the end of my rant, for now. Oh, and no need to
    remove the shoe from Miss Jones’ ass, I’m done with that
    pair.

    Art

  8. Anonymous says:

    Ronnie… thanks for the comments. Yeah, i hear what you are saying about mental slavery. That is one of the few things I actually don’t have one of my quick impulsive answers for. It’s like those statistics about pedophiles, and how 90% of pedophiles were abused themselves. There are no easy answers for that one.

    With regard to justic vs. peace… I don’t believe love conquers anything. And that is my point. Justice, to me, is simply another political authority. I don’t believe in the notion of absolute justice or some sort of absolute morality. In that sense, justice is just a new authority. To me, the love thing is mostly about how people can find peace within themselves. Because with or without justice… there will still be a lack of peace. IMHWO. ;)

  9. Anonymous says:

    that was me…

    _eric

  10. ronnie brown says:

    Well E, instead of offering snappy IMPULSIVE answers to complex questions, why not cut to the chase and tell me how the teeming masses are going to accomplish the task of finding “peace within themselves”????

    …now if you could actually answer the question, you would be considered the greatest social scientist of all times!

  11. Anonymous says:

    death

    ;)

  12. Anonymous says:

    well, i guess it’s different for everyone. for myself…

    0. surviving (food and shelter)
    1. learning from mistakes
    2. forgiving my trespassers
    3. accepting death
    4. laughing
    5. being connected with people who are at “peace”
    6. feeling appreciated by people I respect
    7. dancing
    8. understanding and accepting the inherent paradoxes of life.

    For that last, most difficult one, I consult the Tao Te Ching. But that’s just me. The Tao Te Ching also says don’t try to change other people.

    _eric

  13. ronnie brown says:

    Eric, not to belittle your spiritual emphasis…but you have essentially put yourself out of the running in terms of offering any real time solutions…What you have is a comfy metaphysical rest stop where engaging your fellow white brethren is not necessary. Leave it to the “gifted” Black people to do all the heavy lifting in regard to confronting racism.

    sigh!…

  14. Anonymous says:

    I guess what I am saying is that finding peace and fighting for justice are often in opposition to each other. That’s one of those paradoxes.

    But maybe helping others to find peace on the inside will raise levels of peace, both within and without. Maybe there is a relationship between finding peace within oneself and learning to accept others.

    If a white person tells me Black people are lazy, I might actually say “What does it matter if black people are lazy?” Whereas another activist might say “Black people aren’t lazy, you racist!” My approach gets at the root of the issue, whereas the other approach deals with symptoms.

    My other main point is that if an activist is uptight, restless, resentful, and antagonistic… they will be less effective in, shall we say, “enlightening” people. I avoid uptight people — activists or otherwise — because I find them unpleasant. And no surprise, racists almost always fall into this category.

    thanks again for your comments.

  15. Anonymous says:


    _eric

  16. adorno says:

    you may want to take a ‘very careful, nuanced’ look at the way in which you perpetuate the innocent minority stereotype by relieving asians of all greater political agency/ambition/possibly iffy motivations…and placing everything but good intentions where it belongs, on white republicans. Sometimes, bro, the ‘macro’ view is just another way of avoiding the question, passing the buck, looking for easy answers.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Blame should be put on those who does the deed and who allowed it. Blaming it on Bush on a political agenda just doesn’t is just sad. It is hypocritical of many African Americans to want equality and the end to racism… but for their own race. Remember the Shaq incident with Yao Ming? Look at “Chingy”! His songs and names utterly mean what it sounds like and it’s OK with all them “black” folks. We live in the 21th century in the age of the internet where information flows freely and I’m sure anyone, regardless, of color understands the underlying principles of right and wrong. Should Asian Americans stand with the African Americans when they don’t even respect us? I’m sorry, but ignorance is not an excuse nor a rational.

  18. ronnie brown says:

    i’ll give anonymous the benefit of the doubt and assume he/she does not mean that the African-American quest for full inclusion/equal treatment in society is somehow rendered invalid because of the ignorant comments of a particular INDIVIDUAL or INDIVIDUALS.

  19. Anonymous says:

    No one has put themselves in the other person’s shoes and said, “Exactly how would that feel if someone said that to me?” No one knows what it feels like to be Asian unless they’re Asian, just as an Asian wouldn’t know what it feels like to be Black in America. And while Caucasians speculate what to do with it in their big cushy boardrooms thinking that they have an idea of what minorities go through in society, they haven’t a clue. Except perhaps Jane Elliot http://www.janeelliott.com/. If anybody had put in any thought into anything … the idea would’ve never seen the light of day.

  20. ronnie brown says:

    uh…come again?

    …btw, the link doesn’t work.

  21. Anonymous says:

    It pisses me off that blacks keep complaining about slavery. It’s over, deal with it. I think the Vietnamese are dealing with the fact that over three million of them died by the hands of nigger and cracker. I think the Russians are dealing with the fact that over twenty million of them died by the hands of krauts. DEAL WITH IT, MOVE ON, AND STOP BITCHING. GET A JOB AND LAY OFF THE CRACK.

  22. ronnie brown says:

    only in the realm of cyberspace can anonymous computer jockeys feel safe enough to spout off kindergarten commentary like “get a job” and “lay off the crack”.

    next in line, please!

  23. Jeff says:

    Just want to say this: if you little punks out there aren’t going to identify yourself when you post, don’t fucking post here. Especially if you’re going to be an ignorant shithead. I don’t need the bullshit, and I certainly don’t have the time. So step up and take some responsibility or go be an asshole somewhere else.

  24. todd lynn says:

    if you really care, email the sponsors, advertisers, station, dj and parent company responsible for this racist b.s. below for yoru easy cutting and pasting are the current list…let them know how you feel AND spread this list so others can easily email them as well!!

    peace

    —————-
    abarney@apple.com, asnow@sleepysmail.com, BoardofDirectors@Pepsi.com, dacker@sleepysmail.com, dowling@apple.com, fcook@apple.com, hot97@hot97.com, ir@emmis.com, jdimick@hot97.emmis.com, jsmulyan@emmis.com, jsteele@emmis.com, jwright@emmis.com, khealey@emmis.com, lancome@us.loreal.com, missjones@missjones.net, ppinsker@wwortv.com, programming@wwortv.com, rcummings@emmis.com, rhornaday@emmis.com, service@sleepys.com, shop@lancome-usa.com, Timothy_Tyler@lordandtaylor.com, wilder@apple.com
    —————-

    it aint ova!

  25. Anonymous says:

    Dear Sir/Madam:

    Miss Jones and her morning crew are clearly the “criminal.” The finger should be pointed directly to them and not to history. Athough our past experiences and historical events are undeniably tied to our behaviors/perceptions, Miss Jone’s airing of the “tsunami song” does not stem from historical racial tensions between African Americans and Asian Americans. It is on a personal level, and not historical. Miss Jone’s behaviors are deeply rooted from her feelings of insecurity, self-hatred and frustration. Her comment to Miss Info, “You feel superior, probably because you’re Asian,” speaks volumes about Miss Jone’s feelings inadequacy and powerlessness. To blame society and to portray Miss Jones as an example of our history gone wrong is clearly a misperception. Our history does not give us the right to dehumanize over 300,000 dead tsunami victims and use racial slurs. Yes, we are tied by our past, but we are not paralyzed by it. Everyone has a choice! All people of color and ethnicity have experienced past prejudices and injustice. I don’t hear them singing the “tsunami song.”

  26. Anonymous says:

    Miss Jones is not the culprit. I believe the underlying issue is white controlled media. Take for example the LA riots in 1991. Rodney King was beaten and 4 white officers were on trial. Yet on ABC, the video of the Korean grocer who shot a 13 year old black girl was replayed daily as much as 3 times in a row during a news cast. The video was violent. I have never seen a person actually shot on tv, but ABC showed the clip in its entirety. THis was the most incendieary video I had ever seen.

    What blacks and asians fail to see is how white controlled media and power manipulate seemingly minor events to divert angry away from whites.

    White people enslaved blacks, white people killed off the indians; whites in power place immigrants who cannot speak english in the middle of Compton to open liquor stores on every block.

    Blacks like Miss Jones see a problem with Asians. But if you look close enough, it’s your old slavemaster enemy who is pitting black against other races by way of poverty and institutional racism.

  27. ronnie brown says:

    …that’s why it’s called DIVIDE and conquer!

  28. J.Rodriguez says:

    Miss Jones is the culprit in this case. Of course, all minorities experience institutionalized white racism at place of work, through media and so on. That goes without saying. That is not the case with Miss Jones and hot 97. She was not beatened unjustly like Rodney King nor was she shot violently over a few dollars. In Miss Jone’s case, she and her crew had a choice. She chose to sing willingly about dead “sreaming ch–nks,drowning Africans, child slavery and b-tches. In this case, it was a few ignorant people who should have known better. Asians have a problem with someone like Miss Jones. She is a racist period! To simply point the finger at whites is missing the point! What made it worse was that Emmiss profited over their ignorance and stupidity. She gave the whites a bone to chew on. It appears to me that Miss Jones was the one who imployed the Divide and Conquer strategy.

  29. Anonymous says:

    I am of Asian-Indian descent.
    I love all non-white people but I
    have always hated white motherfuckers!
    I want to see all people of color coming together on a common platform of love and fight against the evil and much hated white man!!

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