- Mr. Mastel,
Since I moved to Virginia in June I have been a frequent listener of both 100.5 and 92.9 FM radio stations. Coming back from a trip to DC on Sunday night, I flipped my radio to 100.5 FM, where I was unexpectedly treated to the most hideously racist programming I have ever heard.
It's one thing to program a joke transition over to "classic Chinese hits" for the weekend. It is completely another to turn that joke into one long excuse to fill the airwaves with racist stereotypes and blatant cultural appropriation. The music itself was watered-down, inauthentic Westernized derivatives of Asian sounds. Then when the break arrived, instead of actual musical credits or a real musical program with DJs discussing the music, there was just a station promo:
"Made in China - exclusively for Hampton Roads!"
Do you know what kind of message it sends to have (badly inauthentic and derivative) music from another culture followed up with no credit either for the performers or composers, followed by "Made in (X country) exclusively for (America)"? I was appalled and offended by this. I kept listening, hoping for something that would explain or justify what I was hearing. Instead I heard this:
"No rock - just wok!"I counted 11 such jokes made at the expense of Asians and Asian Americans before I stopped listening in disgust. Above all, I was appalled to hear your letter to the listeners, in which you sanctioned the use of these racist jokes and horrible stereotypes by celebrating the fictional move to the "intensively researched" new programming.
"Classic Chinese hits - you listen now, and an hour later you're hungry for more!"
"Everybody's doing it! *gong noise* So hop on the rickshaw!"
"Bang a gong! it's Kung Pao time!"
Obviously, starting with the music itself, which was about as authentic as mall food is to actual Chinese cuisine, there was no research involved here. If you'd done the research, maybe you'd've realized that "made in China" is problematic because of the degradation of Chinese people by the western corporations who exploit Chinese workers. Maybe you'd've realized that a rickshaw is not only a racist stereotype, but a symbol of the powerful wielding their power over the powerless, a throwback to imperialism in Southeast Asia and other parts of the world. Maybe you'd've realized that there's a long cultural tradition in the west of inauthentically Asian, stereotyped music itself being used to mock and stereotype Asians, from the Charlie Chan soundtrack to the Gong Show.
And even the gag itself, pretending to switch over to some type of non-mainstream music genre, presented straightforwardly, would have been fine, cute, even. But by a) failing to actually credit the music you were using and b) pairing said programming up with deliberately offensive and stereotypical imagery of Chinese culture, you sent a message to the real listeners of your weekend programming that China, Chinese culture, Chinese people, and Chinese music aren't legitimate. We shouldn't take them seriously; they're just here to entertain Americans. You said it yourself - they're "made in China, exclusively for Hampton Roads."
Yellowworld.org, a site devoted to raising political consciousness and awareness of Asian issues around the world, had this to say about a similar issue of discrimination in 2002: "When humor is dependent upon demeaning an entire group of people, it ceases to be fun. Racism is never fun."
Until Max Media publicly apologizes for this demeaning, degrading, and appallingly insensitive treatment of a thousands-year-old culture, and additionally, until you put apology into action by firing whoever was responsible for coming up with this ill-judged and offensive idea, I will not be listening to 92.9 or 100.5 FM. I will be contacting the Media Action Network for Asian Americans, a national organization dedicated to "monitoring the media and advocating balanced, sensitive, and positive coverage and portrayals of Asian Americans."
I think that if anything can be said about the terrible joke you attempted to play this weekend, it is that it was anything but balanced, sensitive, and positive.
I await your response.
-- (my real name)
So, yeah. It's been half a day and I still haven't heard anything back from them, so screw waiting. I am contacting MANAA; is there anyone else that I should contact about this?
News Links about the programming (I have yet to find any direct mention of the content):
- Kung Pao FM - the "official website".
(Note that the evidence on the website of Chinese pop artists like Faye Wong was not actually what was being played on the radio station. Everyone I talked to who heard the station over the weekend says that, like me, they heard only instrumental music with no accreditation and no DJ-ing.)
- Virginia Pilot Article from 4/24/09 about the switch: "Radio station WXMM flips from rock to ... Chinese music?"
- 4/27/09 Pilot article about the (possible) publicity stunt: "WXMM cuts Chinese music for something 'Hot' "
- blog article from 4/27/09 including the "tongue-in-cheek" press release apologizing for the format switch: "Kung Pao gets chopped for Hot hits"
Contact Info for Max Media:
- Eric Mastel is the President of the Radio Division. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org
- The company phone number is: 757-437-9800
- The radio station's phone number is (757) 473-1005