Thursday, February 21, 2008

Karson's poor choice of words

On Feb. 18, The Campus Press – CU-Boulder's official student online newspaper – ran a column by staff editor Max Karson titled, "If it's war the Asians want..." In it he writes about the reasons why Asians hate Caucasians and why he's tired of being tolerant and wants to declare a war against us.

There hasn't been a worst decision to run a column this bad since Asian Week ran Kenneth Eng's, "Why I hate blacks."

But should it be surprising that Karson is stirring up trouble? This is the same man who made controversial remarks about the Virginia Tech massacre and has a history of pushing the boundaries with his columns.

While his piece is supposed to be a satirical commentary and, seemingly, a response to Felix Im's piece, "A few words on the Asiaphilic plague," it fails to come off that way.

"I know that Asians are not just 'a product of their environment,' and their rudeness is not a 'cultural misunderstanding,'" Karson writes. "They hate us all. And I say it's time we started hating them back ...

"It's time for war."

Karson goes on to explain his three-phase plan to fix our internal rage with a variety of torturous techniques.

Not a good choice of words considering that this ran a day before the Japanese-American Day of Remembrance – Feb. 19 is the anniversary of Executive Order 9066, which suspended civil liberties for those of Japanese descent in the U.S. and resulted in the internment of 120,000 people.

I thought I had figured out what his point was after my first read, but with every subsequent read, it becomes more convoluted and childish. Rather than being humorous, it comes off as a collection of offensive material. The piece perpetuates tired racial stereotypes, portraying Asians as everything from math wizards to being short.

I’m surprised he didn’t mention anything about buck teeth and small penises.

By all means, it is Karson's right to say whatever he wants – the First Amendment grants all of us that right. But as Ben Parker once told his nephew, "With great power comes great responsibility." Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.

Something I saw in many posts was “Why can’t you Asians take a joke?” We can – it just has to be funny. Tired stereotypes are, well, tiring. “How do you see out of those slanted eyes?” Haha, like I haven’t heard that a million times before.

One person commented on the Rocky Mountain News saying that if this had run in The Onion, no one would have noticed. I can't argue with that, but here’s the key factor: The Onion is a satirical paper. It isn't meant to be a source of news – it is a piece of entertainment. The Campus Press is supposed to be a legitimate news organization.

I question the decisions of the editors who were in charge when this story ran. Doesn’t a column that has a strong anti-Asian sentiment raise some red flags? As a former college newspaper editor, and one at both a daily newspaper and an online Asian-American publication, I am flabbergasted by how this was allowed to run. There’s a fine line between clever satire and blatant vulgarity – Karson is miles deep into the latter.

Gil Asakawa has a good piece on this whole matter: Satire or stupidity?

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