Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Don't Blame the Actress

A Huffington Post article yesterday morning reported that Lawrence O’Donnell had a lot to say about former Michigan Representative Pete Hoekstra’s blatantly racist and xenophobic Super Bowl ad. You can replay the ad here.

On his Monday night television show, O’Donnell replayed the ad, and the Huffington Post reports that he also said, "It's one thing for Pete Hoekstra to buy 30 seconds of television time to tell us, if he can in clear English...what troubles him about this country's relationship with China. But it is quite another for him to hire an actor to do his dirty work for him."

Then the Huffington Post went on to say that O’Donnell “harshly criticized the actress for playing a character in a political ad that cast her as a racial stereotype, and said he would like to know ‘what exactly she was thinking.’

I agree that it is unfortunate that the young Asian actress took the job. I think that the focus of all discussions about the ad must be on Hoekstra and his racism and not on the actress' complicity. Hoekstra had the economic power to offer a job that the actress took.

When individuals like the actress participate in their own oppression due to racism, they haven't yet learned to look at systems of oppression and are only thinking in terms of me, the individual, which is, of course, the American value and meme.

Perhaps the actress regrets taking the role now. She probably didn’t envision that she would be the subject of criticism from so many people, including on-air commentators, for accepting a paying acting job. But we must place the blame for the egregious racism of the ad and the accompanying Website squarely on Hoekstra and not deflect any of it onto the actress.

Hoekstra’s campaign has already tried the ploy of playing victim by claiming that this entire racist campaign is satire and that those of us who are calling attention to his racism and xenophobia just don’t get it. Hoekstra’s spokesman Paul Ciaramitaro is quoted as saying “I think the viewer of an ad is going to recognize satire” in a story.

Spreading the blame to the actress or feeling sorry for Hoekstra reaping what he has sown are deflections from the focus on his racism and his unsuitability for a Senate seat. It is unacceptable to denigrate Asians by portraying us speaking broken English and inciting fear and hatred of China and Chinese people as the ones to blame for the ills of the American economy. The economic story is so much more complex than that. 

1 comment:


Many thanks to Phil Yu, Angry Asian Man (at, for keeping everyone updated on this story. Apparently, the actress in the Hoekstra ad, Lisa Chan, has issued an apology on her Facebook page for her involvement in this racist and xenophobic ad.