Last Tuesday’s Rafu Shimpo (7/9) carried a story which I found troubling. It reports a concern by the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) regarding a front-page headline in The Chicago Sun Times involving the Asiana Airlines plane crash. The headline read, “Fright 214.”
Bobby Caina Calvan, chair of the AAJA MediaWatch committee, called the editor of The Sun Times and complained about the use of the R/L Asian language stereotype. The editor apologized, saying the offense was unintentional, and that he did not realize this play on words could be seen as offensive.
Calvan’s comment was that part of the reason such a headline would slip by the copy desk is the typical lack of racial diversity in the newspaper’s copy room.
Angry Asian Man blogger Phil Yu noted that the aircraft was Asian-owned. The two who perished in the crash were Chinese, and the ship was piloted by a Korean. Considering the tragedy of the deaths, Yu called the headline insensitive at the very least.
Comments posted on the Internet in response to the apology have been negative: One says there has been too much hand-wringing about minor issues and people need to stop being so sensitive.
Twitter postings have included openly racist comments, playing on the stereotype of Asians being bad drivers. One said, “Of course the Korean plane crashed. Asians can’t drive. What makes them think they can drive a plane?”
Nikkei View blogger Gil Asakawa wrote: “There will probably always be idiotic people in the U.S. who are normal most of the time, then turn into racist haters when there is a tragedy in the world that involves people of color.”
Asakawa goes on to take up the reaction of one blogger after the earthquake/tsunami in Japan two years ago. The blogger claimed the tragedy was God’s revenge for Pearl Harbor. Asakawa says that racism is still alive and well under the cover of political correctness.
Just yesterday, Thursday, I ran into a group of folks that included JACCC CEO Leslie Ito, Bill Watanabe and Soji Kashiwagi in front of the JACCC. They were there, with others, to plan for a four-day program in early August commemorating the tragedies of Hiroshima/Nagasaki. The flyer they were passing out stated the theme: “Remembering Sadako: Folding for Peace.” Sadako was a young survivor of Hiroshima remembered for trying to fold 1,000 origami cranes.
Thinking once more about Hiroshima/Nagasaki caused me to consider how our annihilation of over 100,000 Japanese set the stage for a devaluation of Asian lives. Might this tragedy, 68 years ago, been the start of a mindset that would make light of the crash, on July 6, of Flight 214?
Phil Shigekuni writes from San Fernando Valley and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.