During a recent segment conducted by Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, Jesse Watters (of Watters’ World) went out to New York’s own Chinatown in order to ask Chinese-Americans about their opinions on the presidential elections. This being due to the first presidential debate in which China was mentioned twelve times, mostly in a negative way, by Republican candidate Donald Trump. It was thought to be a segment in which would portray the Chinese perspective over political opinions and at the same time, also portray slight sarcasm all in good fun. But as it turned out, the segment became a horrible attempt at comedy sarcasm. Instead, many Chinese-Americans took offense and became deeply insulted by the way Jesse Watters carried out his interviews.
For starters, Watters began by asking people rhetorical questions based on racial stereotype. For instance, he approaches a man selling wristwatches from a cart and asks him, “I like these watches, are they hot?” meaning if the watches are counterfeit. Afterwards, the question was immediately followed by a Mr. Miyagi clip from the Karate Kid stating “J.C. Penney 3.98 ha-ha-ha.” Then, Watters interviews a young girl by asking her if everything is now made in China followed by another male individual asking him if he knew karate. But that did not stop there. Watters also approached individuals who were not proficient with the English language whatsoever. He asked those questions such as “Donald Trump has beating up on China how does that make you feel?” Some were able to slightly respond with strong heavy accents while others did not respond at all and the segment made a mockery of the situation. Even, Watters had the audacity to ask “is it the year of the dragon…the rabbit?”
In response, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah reflected on the matter with a small segment conducted by non-other than Senior Media Correspondent Ronny Chieng. During the segment, Mr. Chieng responded by calling the Fox News’ Segment a “garbage attempt at comedy.”
For him, it did not stop there. With means to take a stand against such mockery, Mr. Chieng made sure to straighten the facts. First, he pointed out that if Fox wanted to get China’s opinion on the presidential debates, they should send reporters to the country and not New York’s Chinatown. As retaliation he states:
“Chinatown is nothing like China, they got nothing to do with each other. That’s like if they brought up women’s right so I decide to go over to Fox News to get some opinions.”
Second, Chieng pointed out that if they were to be racist, make sure to get the stereotypes correctly. Karate is not a Chinese martial art, it is Japanese and it is not to be practiced in a Tae Kwon Do studio which is Korean. Above all, he states that if they want to target Chinese people for comedy, make fun of China’s high pollution or the fact that they sensor most of the internet.
But in order to take a further stand, Mr. Chieng decided to go down to Chinatown himself in order to uncover what the people REALLY thought about the current presidential elections. As result, it turned out that majority of Chinese-Americans have genuine knowledge and thoughts about the elections. Towards many, America is a land that welcomes and respects immigrants but the current elections has unmasked an ugly side in which they do not recognize. Also, some describe just how important it is for the U.S. to maintain great relations with China and how Donald Trump is now calling the country an adversary instead of a friend. Of all, there was an individual who understood American politics enough to watch a protest vote. In fact, he called both candidates “garbage” and wanted to write his own candidate in, Alfred E. Neuman.
Aside from Ronny Chieng, the Asian American Journalist Association (AAJA) also had something to say despite the controversial segment. The association called the segment “rude, offensive, mocking, derogatory and damaging” and demanded an apology from Fox News.
The question still stands, “How was the segment even allowed to be aired on the News? Especially Fox News?” and “Why did Fox think it was okay to indirectly insult the intelligence of a foreign culture?”
Well, according to Jesse Watters, his man-on-the-streets interviews are meant to be taken as something called “tongue-in-cheeks.” A figure of speech for which Watters uses to imply political humor intended to be a light piece thus not taken seriously. This is what Jesse Watters is mainly known for doing. But what he failed miserably to do is his homework before even attempting to make political humor based on a foreign culture. Not that it’s right to even make fun of someone else’s culture to begin with.
Despite the matter, The O’Reilly Factor’s Chinatown segment has proven that no matter where Asian-American individuals reside on the conservative-liberal spectrum, they are still viewed as perpetual foreigners within their own country. This doesn’t just speak on behalf of Asian-Americans only. It also speaks on behalf of Latino-Americans, African-Americans, as well as other minorities.
One may ask themselves “Why was this particular segment so unsettling?” According to Christopher Peak, a writer for the blog Quartz, it is not the first time tired, racist, or reductive stereotypes about Asian-Americans have made it within American media. Yet, this particular segment struck a sensitive spot. Probably due to the demagogic slanders caused by Republican candidate Donald Trump towards minorities, especially after targeting China during the presidential debates. Perhaps all this has instigated sense of urgency within the Asian community to take a stand against such mockery demanding respect towards their culture and traditions.
When it comes to racism and discrimination, there is no justification. In fact, that is when neutrality must be set aside in order to lean towards the truth. That is exactly what Senior Media Correspondent Ronny Chieng did. As a Chinese-American himself, of course he is not going to let some ignorant individual insult the intelligence of his cultural ethnicity. Supposedly, we are currently living a “Post-Racial America” but with all the speculations recently created, it doesn’t quite feel that way for minorities.
Hopefully, after sparking such controversial remarks, the American media will think twice from now on before broadcasting any horrible segment such as this one. They need to ensure fair and accurate coverage of not just Asian-Americans only but also Latino-Americans, African-Americans as well as other minorities. Within the media, they need to prevent this type of coverage from ever emerging again in the future.
Peak, Christopher. “Asian Stereotypes Persist across America Because We Are Still Viewed as Foreigners in Our Own Land.” Quartz. WordPress.com, 7 Oct. 2016. Web. 15 Oct. 2016. <http://qz.com/803042/fox-news-and-jesse-watters-chinatown-segment-asian-american-stereotypes-persist-in-america/>.
Thorne, Will. “Fox News Host Expresses Regret Over Controversial Chinatown Segment.” Variety. WordPress.com, 5 Oct. 2016. Web. 15 Oct. 2016. <http://variety.com/2016/tv/news/jesse-watters-chinatown-fox-news-racism-apology-1201879165/>.
Yee, Lawrence. “‘O’Reilly Factor’ Producer to Meet With Asian Journalists Following Controversial Chinatown Segment.” Variety. WordPress.com, 12 Oct. 2016. Web. 15 Oct. 2016. <http://variety.com/2016/tv/news/watters-world-chinatown-segment-oreilly-factor-asian-american-journalist-association-1201886956/>.