KDWB listeners say Hmong song was in spirit of the program, others say its racist

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The KDWB morning show, aka the Dave Ryan show, has come under fire for a song parody of the Hmong community. The bit, which reportedly aired Monday, March 22, 2011, has the show leader sounding as though he is nervously laughing at another radio personality singing impromptu lyrics making overtly racist statements about the Hmong community.

According to station management, the comedy bit was a product of the morning program, American Idiots, a segment where personalities put impromptu lyrics to popular songs with the intent to parody and that everyone and everything is a fair target. The songs are based on parody titles submitted via text messages from fans of the show and that someone from the Hmong community texted the title, “Thirty Hmongs In A House” to the personalities for them to come up with a song.

Regular listeners reportedly understand the context of material presented in the format of the program, including Hmong listeners. Management said the programs fan page has several positive comments from Hmong listeners who understand the show and that the negative reaction began when the song clip went viral online.

The lyrics were created on the spot as the tune, “Tears in Heaven” played in the background. The 1991 ballad originally written and performed by legendary Eric Clapton, is a song about the tragic death of his four year old son who fell from a high rise balcony that same year.

The lyrics that were sung on the radio program:

[No room for a couch, cause we sleep on the floor.

One big group of Vang’s; Hmong family of 24.

Kids work in St. Paul; Hang out at the mall.

Cause I know they dwell so well, 30 Hmongs in a house.

Hmongs get pregnant early; first baby at 16.

Seven kids by 23; over the hill by 30.

Like sardines they live; packed in a two-room (unintelligible) house with the kids.

But you know they age quite well. They be Hmongs.]

The official statement of the station management is that,

“KDWB-FM and the Dave Ryan in the Morning Show are very proud that members of the Hmong community are some of our most loyal listeners and fans.”

“Our listeners understand that The Dave Ryan in the Morning show is a comedy show meant to entertain, and that much of its content is parody,” the statement added. “While we’ve received positive feedback from many Hmong listeners who let us know that they found the song in question very humorous, we apologize to anyone we may have inadvertently offended, as this was never our intent.”

The statement was sent from Rob Morris, Operations Manager and Program Director who is also listed as the Listener Advocate. He said he appreciated the support the station continues to receive from all its listeners.

Local Hmong community member Seng Vang learned of the broadcast, listened to the archived song on the station Website, and then brought the issues to the attention of local leadership and media. He said this is not the first time that the Hmong people have been made the subject of inappropriate jokes on the show in one form or another.

The song is still appearing online on YouTube posts and others who re-linked the site at various posts online either to represent it as a racist broadcast or to view it as entertainment.

As the largest ethnic Asian American population in Minnesota, Seng Vang said the Hmong American community can not tolerate this, and is calling for the leader of the show, “Dave O” and his entire crew to be fired immediately.

Vang added that all advertisers on KWDB have been contacted and requested to cease their support for the radio show and the station.

In August 1998, hundreds of Hmong community turned out to publicly protest KQRS morning show commentaries on the Hmong. The comments were reflections on news and events of the Hmong community and essentially offered a message that condemned the culture and called for assimilation.

The KQRS protests resulted in the formation of CAAR (Community Action Against Racism) which developed organizers that are still acting as a watchdog group to quickly spot and respond to misinformation, isolated acts of overt racism and the more subtle institutional racism and injustices of irresponsible media coverage.

As with most similar incidents around the country, much of the anger to that point had been with the lack of response from the station or the mocking response of personalities the protesters felt were using the first amendment as a shield for hate speech.

The effort drew the support of then Sen. Paul Wellstone and then 4th District Congressman Bruce Vento – both since passed on, and after sponsors began to pull from the show the station management issued an apology and had on air personalities undergo sensitivity training.

At the time Ange Hwang, executive director of Asian Media Access, offered support for the community effort to fight racism in the media. She also expressed concern that the outcome not attempt to infringe on First Amendment free speech but rather to effectively encourage stations to exercise self control and to improve program integrity.

KQRS responded by offering to make a financial contribution to the AMA summer media camp. It was refused because the station had not addressed the CAAR demands for an apology, including public notice of incorporating policies against racist language in broadcasts, cultural awareness training and diversity in staff hiring to include APIA.

As for the current issue over the 30 Hmong song on KDWB, Hwang said, “This is not acceptable. After the 1998 KQRS incident, 13 years have passed, and we are still dealing with the same issue of making fun of other ethnicities’ misfortunes.

“Radio stations, such as KQRS and KDWB, who utilize public airwaves to transmit their signals, have a civic responsibility to the quality and standards of their programs,” she said. “Taking advantage of and wielding their power as prominent DJs on a major radio station to perpetuate negative stereotypes such as ‘Hmongs get pregnant early; first baby at 16. Seven kids by 23; over the hill by 30. Like sardines they live; packed in a two-room (unintelligible) house with the kids’, is not funny, and instead, it promotes anti-immigrant sentiments regarding an already disadvantaged community.”

To send a message to KDWB about the broadcast call 651-989-KDWB (studio phone) and 952-417-3000 (office) or write to KDWB at 1600 Utica Avenue South, Suite 400, St. Louis Park, MN 55416. There is also an online comment form on the KDWB Website.

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