Alexandra Wallace’s YouTube video elicits strong campus response
When Alexandra Wallace, the now infamous UCLA student responsible for the “Asians in the Library” YouTube rant, posted her racist tirade and it blew up overnight, my brothers’ reactions were largely jubilant. After all, stupidity is hilarious, and there are some quality Auto-Tune remixes floating around. Plus, the nation’s sweeping yet immediate recognition of her words as out of line feels like something of a victory for an Asian-interest group like Lambda Phi Epsilon. “Ohhh! Ching chong ling long” is no longer socially acceptable, and we should be proud of that.
But while Asians across the Internet and here at home responded almost entirely with humor, I couldn’t help but sense a real anger in many of the response videos. Some people were just plain mean. And no one admitted that Wallace might possibly have a point with library rudeness.
Why so serious? I wondered, theorizing that perhaps it was just the tsunami comment that did her in. Then, charter brother Lex Su offered this personal insight: “I think every subgroup in our country has a deep, underlying insecurity. For me, as an Asian-American, it’s the feeling that no matter what I do, I will always be a foreigner, a temporary American whose allegiance is to his ancestral homeland. That I was born in the United States (Brooklyn), that I speak perfect English, that I attended American public schools all cannot wash away the perception that I do not belong. Reminders abound: a friend asking whether I’m cheering for the U.S. or the Chinese Olympic team; an elderly lady politely asking me where I’m ‘really from’; an elderly man lauding my people for ‘working hard and showing Americans how it’s done.’ Excuse me, sir, but I’m American. Sorry ma’am, I’m really from Brooklyn.”
This girl is not a racist because she’s annoyed by family visits or cell phone usage. Do we not reserve our funniest burns and most honest criticism for those with whom we share mutual respect? Minorities cannot expect to be treated as equals in society if they stigmatize jokes and critique, and the Asian community’s problem with this girl stems not from the fact that she is critical of her fellow classmates. Wallace erred by crossing the line into jerk territory, incorporating willful ignorance and condescension into her grievances. Her tsunami comment is so mindblowing that it merits its own article. And, come on, “Ting tong”? That’s what’s racist here, not her call-out of inconsiderate Asians. She doesn’t say it, but her tone practically shouts out, “Even if you address these issues, you still aren’t my peers.” That’s why she hit a nerve with the Asian community. As a white kid with cultural privilege, a majority member, I hadn’t quite understood. But I get it now. I get why so many Asian students felt the need to respond. It’s about wanting to belong.
For reasons perhaps not fully justified but certainly understandable, Wallace’s life as she knew it is over — good luck getting hired, kid. What’s worse, she won’t even get the one reasonable concession she wanted in the first place. Who could possibly see her walk into a library and keep his or her mouth shut?