Rosie O'Donnell needs to meet with Asian American and immigrant community groups right away to learn about our history of struggle for language rights and equality in the US. O'Donnell's insensitive 'chingchong' comments on national TV have touched off a firestorm of anger and frustration from many Asian American organizations and Chinese groups globally as well.
But is Rosie really the problem?
Or are her recent comments merely the tip of a bigger iceberg of historical language discrimination and English-Only-ism that spread in the 1980's with the passage of California's Proposition 63 [a conservative 'wedge-initiative' which declared English as the Official Language of California] and has intensified since September 11th, 2001 in border areas like Arizona and many parts of the US Southwest. But the anti-immigrant and language intolerance has also become national as well, like it was in the 80's when our Prop 63 passed. This past May 18th the US Senate as a part of the draconian anti-immigrant legislation added an English-Only ammendment sponsored by Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) which passed by a 63-34 vote, largely along party lines. See Jim Crawford's excellent analysis of English Only and language policies.
Reporter Vanessa Hua covers the issue in this morning's SF Chronicle from a community perspective: Asian American advocates decry parody by TV's O'Donnell . And, beyond the demands for an apology by some, San Francisco Schools are proactively promoting bilingualism and multiculturalism as one of the means to combating ignorance of discrimination and language rights struggles in the US:
On Tuesday, the San Francisco school board passed a resolution stating that the district valued multilingualism, and it established a task force to develop a long-term plan to encourage opportunities for all students to learn more than one language. Such policies challenge the ignorance of comedians like O'Donnell, school board member Eric Mar said Wednesday.
Her remarks are a "put-down of Chinese and various immigrants," Mar said. "There's a whole history of subordinating people who are immigrants."
Asian Americans Must Resist Wedge Initiatives and Divide and Conquer Tactics to Harm Alliances we have built with other communities - But despite our proactive efforts to deal with the larger issues, racist and right-wing organizations and talk show hosts like neocon Michelle Malkin seem to be taking advantage of O'Donnell's ignorance too in trying to drive further wedges between the gay community and Asian Americans. It seems to me that we must continute to challenge O'Donnell's insensitivity and urge her to meet with our organizations while also resisting calculated political efforts to divide us from other communities.