Racist Video Goes Viral at UCLA

Racism online takes new forms, as I’ve written here before, and it gets joined with centuries-old forms of racism. The latest example of cyber racism on a college campus is playing out right now at UCLA. Alexandra Wallace, a white female student, posted a video online that made fun of her Asian classmates, and the video has gone viral. Here’s a short video (1:38) from MSNBC / The Grio explaining the story:

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Clearly, this is the kind of thing that Ms. Wallace felt comfortable saying in the “backstage” to an audience that she imagined to be filled with like-minded, white friends. Remarkably, what she failed to consider is that other people in the “frontstage” would hear, see and be appalled at her clueless display of racism.

Now, the many students are calling for Ms. Wallace’s expulsion from UCLA and administrators at that institution will have to decide what kinds of repercussions, if any, she should have to deal with. What do you think? Should Ms. Wallace be expelled? Punished in some other way? Or, is this just a function of living in the U.S. and she should be able to say what she thinks?


  1. AaronCohen

    She complained about Asians talking on their cell phones in the library although yes, she could have put it a bit more diplomatically.

    “many students are calling for Ms. Wallace’s expulsion from UCLA”

    It’s even worse than that. The Daily Bruin reports that she has received numerous death threats, which Robert Naples, associate vice chancellor and dean of students, finds “as deplorable as her original YouTube video.”

    Really, Dr. Naples? Death threats are as deplorable as her voicing her opinion and mocking Asian accents?

    >she should be able to say what she thinks?

    It’s called living in a free society.

  2. Seattle in Texas

    In watching some of the responses to this video on Youtube, it reminded me how much this society is in denial and how deeply colorblind racism has been embedded into current society, at least on the West Coast. The responses were mostly denial of any problems with racism and distancing themselves (and white society) and isolating this incident to an individual act that’s not representative of the larger community(s) of any color, especially white. The student in the video is a product of her/our society. Rather than embarrassment, distancing, and denial, it seems as though this could be a great opportunity for reflection, critical thinking, and honest conversations not just among the student body, but among the larger society. Just sort of my thoughts on this.

  3. Tessa and Kimberley

    Thank you Jessie for this post. This time, my students found your post before I did and appreciated it so much that about a half dozen of them came to my office (at different times) to show me the YouTube clip & your comments.

    “Online media tools provoke controversy on campuses across Canada” was published as result of the UCLA student’s video (it was published online in the “Daily Brew”). I am unsure how interesting that online article will be for you, but its author discusses how at least three different Canadian campuses have recently “been forced to contend with issues related to different forms of online communication.”

    The article can be found at: http://ca.news.yahoo.com/blogs/dailybrew/online-media-tools-provoke-controversy-campuses-across-canada-20110317-113032-823.html

    Thanks again for your exceptional posts Jessie.

    All the best from Canada…

  4. Tessa and Kimberley

    P.S. Jessie, I forgot to mention that your post lead my students to search for additional examples of cyber racism.

    Other such examples they located include: http://www.bvblackspin.com/2011/03/02/racist-hip-hop-video-by-stuyvesant-hs-students-causes-a-major-st/.

    The article begins as follows: “A group of white students, who some believe are from Stuyvesant High School in New York, have gotten the Internet up in arms.”

    The article ends with: “Watch the unfortunate video here.”

    The article is dated 2 March 2011.

    Thanks again for all your hard work. I am guessing you already wrote a post about this example, but somehow we missed it on RacismReview; if so, so sorry to have missed it.

  5. mordy

    She shouldn’t be expelled. We’ve long extended the right of free speech to bigots and idiots. I first read about it in the NY Times on 3/16. What struck me even more than the idiocy of the comment, was this observation cited in the article:

    “Robert Hernandez, a professor of Internet journalism at the University of Southern California, said Ms. Wallace’s story served as a reminder of the need to be aware of your “digital footprint” in the Internet age. “People feel a false sense of privacy on the Internet that isn’t there,” he said.”

    He seems to be suggesting that as long as backstage remains backstage, all is ok in the world. Baffling.

    • AaronCohen

      It’s interesting to me that while so many voices condemn Wallace, I have yet to hear hear anyone dispute the accuracy of her observations.
      And for all the people out there who preach “tolerance,” I’m still waiting to hear condemnations of the death threats made against Wallace.

      • Joe

        There are many discussions of the Asian stereotypes in her white framed tirade. See the book by Chou and Feagin, The Myth of the Model Minority, or Claire Jean Kim’s Bitter Fruit. She presents Asians as foreign and a “horde,” the old racist anti-immigrant notion that even the language signals. And whites are at least as likely to ignore others with loud talking on cell phones, so what is the business of singling out Asian Americans. I for one certainly have condemned the death threats to her because of her racial stereotyping. She has a legal right to say what she wants, but that does not make it just or accurate. The larger issue is how a white junior at UCLA in social science has gotten to this point without even a simple course in Stereotyping 101. this suggests how primitive US education is on dealing with very old racist stereotypes, almost all of them created by whites long ago

        • Seattle in Texas

          Joe, in survey results of a study that was conducted at a West Coast university I had seen several unsolicited negative comments by white students who were required to take a [D] (diversity) course of their choosing as a part of their curriculum requirement, required of all students throughout the university, to graduate with their bachelor’s degree. The responses were bitter and rather resentful implying they were nothing but a waste of their time. While I agree all students should be required to take a [D] course to graduate, I lack confidence in the impact they have on many students, the greater college setting, and society. I guess I wonder what other ways there might be, in addition to courses, that can be done to help excel the learning process and experience with regard social inequality for white students in particular, and even many professors…. Many take courses or go through some sort of work shop just as a way to go through the motions to meet some sort of requirements but don’t take nothing away. Some do of course, but many don’t and if they do, it’s only learning “how to play the game” all the better. And it seems that the greater the strides are to move towards equality the greater the resistance and backlash is by many, be it at the individual or social levels…. What to do….

    • Joe

      Good point on the backsage. Again, the white racist framing of people of color too often seems to be acceptable to most whites as long as they are ‘polite’ in public…..


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