Brandon Choe/ KPCC
Members of the Asian Pacific Coalition from UCLA and USC convened to “end the targeting of people of color, especially the often ignored racism against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders.” This town hall meeting was organized weeks after both schools received identical copies of racist fliers aimed at the Asian-Pacific Islander community.
The mystery of who recently mailed racist and sexist fliers to Asian-American organizations at UCLA and USC may never be solved, but students from both campuses say they are working to make sure it never happens again.
More than 120 people attended a town hall meeting Wednesday night to discuss identical fliers sent to each school. Racist and sexist language, laced with expletives, was mainly used to attack Asian-American women for dating white men.
"The objectification of Asian women’s bodies was very apparent in that Asian racist flier," said UCLA student Jazz Kiang. "And those are things that people in our community suffer from on a daily basis."
The Los Angeles Police Department is investigating the incidents along with campus police from both schools, said spokesman Cmdr. Andy Smith, but so far there have been no breaks to report.
Several students noted a similar situation at UCLA in 2012. A sign using some of the same racial and sexual slurs was posted outside the Vietnamese Student Union.
Uyen Hoang, director of UCLA’s Asian Pacific Coalition, said she was disturbed by how some view Asian-American women.
"Asian women are very sexualized and they want it, and we’re just objects, right?” Hoang said.
She said this stereotype endures throughout popular culture. Take a demeaning line that originated in the 1987 movie Full Metal Jacket (from the scene in which American GI’s are approached by a Vietnamese prostitute) and was further popularized by the rap band 2 Live Crew. It's still tossed around today.
"Here on campus — a lot of people are like, 'Girl, me love you long time,'" Hoang said.
UCLA students at the meeting said the flier was the latest in a series of incidents on campus that have created a hostile climate for Asian-Americans.
Repeatedly mentioned was a YouTube rant posted in 2011 by a white UCLA student named Alexandra Wallace. She said Asian students in the library lacked manners and mocked them for the way they talked. "Ooooh Ching Chong Ling Long Ting Tong, Ooohhhhh," she said.
"Alexandra Wallace’s viral video Asians in the library illustrated the toxicity at the UCLA campus," said student Anh Nguyen.
Wallace left the school of her own accord. Some speakers at the meeting, which also included leaders from student groups for Latinos, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders and African-Americans, said they didn’t think the UCLA administration responded speedily or decisively enough to racist incidents.
Maria Blandizzi, director of student services initiatives, said that administrators "try to be as responsive as possible to every incident that comes to our attention."
Blandizzi, who was at the meeting along with several other administrators, did agree with students, however, that the school could do a better job of responding to their concerns.
”We have a lot of very passionate administrators so everyone jumps in at different points of the conversation to figure out how best to resolve this," Blandizzi said. "Maybe it’s not that there’s a lack of response. It’s just maybe the need to coordinate more thoroughly."
Students had a list of specific demands for the school, including more minority faculty hires and the creation of a multicultural center for minority students to have a "safe space;" and a requirement that students take classes that teach about diversity.
Neyamatullah Akbar, president of the schools’ Muslim Students Association, asked how many more racist incidents need to happen on campus before the school develops a diversity requirement. He said now is the time.
"What it will show that UCLA as an institution will take a stand and actually prioritize some of the problems that the students are facing," Akbar said.
One of the issues that students say they face is overcoming stereotypes and biases — even within their own communities.
USC student leader Andy Su said he knows Asian-American men who stereotype Asian-American women as only dating white guys.
“Controlling what women are allowed and not allowed to do — taking their agency away — is not what the Asian-Pacific American identity is about," Su said.