If you were to do a Google search for “Asians Sleeping in the Library,” you would come across a blog that features, well, pictures of Asian students across the globe asleep in libraries, meant to pay homage to their hard work and diligence. If you were, however, to accidentally leave out the very important “sleeping” part of the search, you would instead come across a disgustingly unapologetic video of UCLA student Alexandra Wallace, meant to “poke fun” (definitely a euphemism) at perceived Asian manners and customs.
The video, which was originally posted on March 11, was promptly taken down, but not before causing quite a commotion. It featured Wallace ranting about the lack of respect on the part of Asian students who take phone calls in the library. “The problem is these hordes of Asian people that UCLA accepts into our school every single year, which is fine. But if you’re going to come to UCLA then use American manners,” she says. She goes on to describe a “typical” weekend at school for her, seeing entire Asian families (parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, etc.) running around dorm rooms doing laundry and cooking food. Wallace then talks about her experience studying in libraries, where she apparently reaches an epiphany every time she does her political science work. Her comments, of course, would not be complete without a reference to the Japanese earthquake and her flawless re-enactment of someone speaking on the phone: “Ohhhh! Ching chong, ling long, ting tong! Ohhhh!”
Various negative comments on the video made Wallace think twice about the video. Unfortunately, taking it down was not enough to save poor girl. Multiple groups had already copied her video and spread it to the rest of the world. Perhaps more interesting than the video itself,though, were the varied responses it received. It, of course, ignited a firestorm of parodies, remixes, and equally angry rants against her. Asian Advocacy groups and blogs, like “Disgrasian,” demanded that UCLA administration take punitive action; internet memes were created almost immediately; websites have leaked photos of a bikini shoot Wallace did; YouTube artist Jimmy wrote a song in which he translates what “Ching chong, ling long, ting tong really means,” and so on.
While no one has come out in full support of what Wallace said, reactions have been very different among individuals. When I interviewed non-Asian students here at Princeton there seemed to be a general consensus that Wallace is an idiot who should never have been allowed near the internet. Senior Aku Ammah-Tagoe said, “
I couldn’t watch past the ‘ching-chong’ point; it was pretty brutal. I almost don’t think it’s worth reacting to, because it seems impossible that any “right-thinking” person would agree with her.” Interestingly, I found that, generally, the Asian community on campus was not as furious. Senior Joe Jung told me he “was less indignant than amused,” adding, “but I obviously object to her views.” “I thought it was a ridiculous but a humorous video. I didn’t take this video very seriously,” stated freshman Isabelle Song. Most of the Asian students I spoke to had similar responses, while non-Asian students were much angrier. Apparently this is not the case at UCLA.
I spoke to a friend (currently a junior) and asked how the UCLA community was holding up in the face of Wallace’s infamy. “My initial response was that I thought it was a joke. When I realized she was serious, I felt embarrassed for my school,” she said, going to explain that many Asian students were having a hard time coping—some had even required counseling. According to her, some of her non-Asian friends “didn’t really care” because they weren’t being targeted in the video. One even went so far as to say that “Wallace had suffered enough, and [they] should just let it go.”
Once the video went viral, Wallace apologized in the school newspaper, The Daily Bruin, and removed her contact information from the university’s system, having received threats (including death threats) via phone and email. Since then, UCLA administrators issued official statements against Wallace’s opinions, promising to look into whether or not the video violated any school rules, but condemning those who attacked her.
Rumor has it, “Asians in the Library” was meant to be the first of many in what Wallace had hoped would be her new video blog. What a shame. I’m sure that would have been a very enlightening blog.