The role of racism

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

One big group of Vang’s, Hmong family of 24″

Do these lyrics sound familiar to you? These are some of the lyrics in the song 30 Hmongs in a House sung by an employee named Steve-O on a popular Twin-Cities radio station, KDWB, in April of this year. It was aired on the Dave Ryan in the Morning Show a segment called ‘American Idiots’. I was appalled that something like this was allowed to be aired live on the radio for the public to hear. I was offended by the lyrics. The song later goes on to say “Hmongs get pregnant early, first baby at 16. Seven kids by 23, like sardines they live, packed in a two- room house with kids”. These remarks were not only racist, but they over exaggerated, stereotypical and are sexist about Hmong culture and people. As a radio station, I honestly believe that they and the media have a major impact on society. It can alter people’s perception of different groups of people. When “30 Hmongs in a House” was aired, the stereotypes and racist remarks from the song encouraged people to perceive and label the Hmong just as the song had.

Racism has always been a sensitive topic. The fact that Steve-O wrote these racist lyrics about the Hmong community can be justified that racism is still a very sensitive issue. Many may wonder if KDWB would have been condemned as bad as they did if a Hmong person had written the lyrics rather than Steve-O, who is a Caucasian male. Even though someone is Hmong, this does not give that person the right to go on the air and use the same or similar lyrics. Just because someone is a part of a certain ethnic group does not give that person the right to ridicule his/her own ethnic group and not suffer any criticism from their community. Had a Hmong person gone on KDWB, wrote and sang “30 Hmongs in a House” this person would have had met more retaliation from the Hmong community than what Steve-O has and is experiencing.

Not only has the radio become a mainstream resource for our entertainment and provide important informational, it along with television, computers and cell phones have swayed the public’s perception of things. They brainwash us to favor things like fashion and food brands. Different social classes and statuses, along with stereotypes can easily be manipulated by the media as well. In movies and T.V. shows, we are all trained to think that Caucasians are superior; they are respected, educated and wealthier, whereas African Americans and other minorities are usually portrayed as gangsters, to be fearful of, and uneducated. Asians are always portrayed as passive, smart, yet naïve. So many perceptions have been skewed because of the media.

I myself have fallen into this trap of stereotypes and media influence. Even though I know that it’s wrong, I join in and laugh when my friends make jokes about other races. At that moment, the only thing that goes through my mind is that the jokes are funny; they’re funny because they’re true. What I don’t realize is that I’ve just put a label on a race of people; whether they are true or not. What I don’t realize is that jokes like that are not as humorous as they seem and could potentially offend people. If I were to put myself into the position of an outsider or someone of the race that was being ridiculed, I would think that those people were immature and close-minded.

Through the media’s influence, I find myself unconsciously acting the way the media has taught me. When I see a Caucasian person, I immediately think that they are well-off. When I see an African American, I am somewhat filled with fear. I may sound close-minded and naïve by my way of thinking, but this is what I have witnessed and what I have learned from the media. My way of thinking is the product of the media’s influence, and I am following the examples that I don’t want to be. Though I don’t want to seem racist, it could be considered racist.

To make racist or stereotypical comments about a group of people is no different than walking on thin ice. We create jokes and stereotypes about different groups of people because we are not part of that group; we find it humorous. It isn’t until we ourselves receive the same blow to our culture that we find these jokes and stereotypes to be harmful and inappropriate. Racism can be overcome if the facts being presented are factual. It becomes racist when what transpired was based solely on stereotypes.

Racism has always been and will always be a sensitive topic. Many people say that the most appropriate method to solve racism is to approach it head on, but racism is an issue that cannot be solved overnight. It can be solved when there is no judgment of color in the world. This is easier said than done. When public radio shows go on the air to create humor at the expense of an ethnic group, there shouldn’t be any surprise if there is retribution. There are enough media stereotyping ethnic minorities. To have our local radio station be added to the list is disheartening and discouraging. Racist stereotypes cause people to perceive and belittle one another. As Reverend Jesse Jackson said, “Never look down on anybody unless you’re helping them up.” In order for racist actions and words to diminish, we must start changing it. The fight against racism starts with the individuals. We must be able to recognize that what we do and say are not acceptable and deviate from it. If we all start small, we’ll eventually get to somewhere big.