Missing the Boat on Limbaugh?


Asian Americans usually never miss the boat. But maybe we have when it comes to Rush Limbaugh. (That would be a big boat, too.)

If you haven’t heard Limbaugh try to sound like your Asian ancestors, that’s good. You’ve been spared the slur.

But to hear it may be different.

Just a few weeks back when Chinese President Hu Jintao came to the U.S., even though American corporations fell over backwards to court the president, Limbaugh went on his show to make fun of Hu’s accent, mocking a joint news conference featuring Hu and President Obama.

Blacks would be outraged if someone resorted so publicly to a pickaninny-sambo slur in the 21st century. (Pass the fried chicken and watermelon while you’re at it.)

But for Asian Americans, 18th century racism still applies.

It’s hard to believe professional entertainers like Rush Limbaugh seem to think that it’s still okay to mock Chinese speech in these modern times. Ching chong jokes are so old school.

Limbaugh’s defenders may invoke the late great comic Sid Caesar. But Caesar’s act was always for gentle laughs, never for political points. Caesar’s famous foreign gibberish act was universal. It didn’t single out a certain race. Limbaugh zeroed in. And he is nothing if not political.

If you still want to be a First Amendment absolutist and defend Limbaugh, great, go ahead. Let’s open debate. Let’s even bring up Saturday Night Live‘s ching chong humor that we pointed out earlier this year. I found it offensive, because it wasn’t necessary to use the accent joke. There was enough satire in the skit. It also mocked policy, making it very different from Limbaugh’s ching chong. Limbaugh didn’t mock free trade and open corporate agreements with China. He was merely making a school yard ad hominem that could easily lead to a dangerous situation.

Just look at the death threats to California State Senator Leland Yee, who was the first to call for Limbaugh to apologize for his antics.

What did it get Yee?

The call to apologize got Yee nasty death threats that were faxed and voice-messaged to the senator’s Sacramento office.

Now reportedly another legislator, State Assemblywoman Grace Meng of New York, says she got similar death threats after speaking out in support of Yee.

The death threats are a disgusting reminder of what happens in our culture when icons like Limbaugh use their platform to give the green-light to followers to swing into action.

After the Tucson killings, I thought we were trying to bury the poisonous rhetoric?

So what’s Limbaugh doing saying “The Chinese will bury us”? Limbaugh’s the only guy for whom reviving the Cold War would be good for his career.

For a full video report, check out this link to Media Matters, which features Yee’s interview with Ed Schultz on MSNBC’s The Ed Show:

After that, let your voice be heard.

If you listen to Limbaugh’s show, you could boycott the advertisers, as Yee has suggested.
But if you don’t listen and can’t name an advertiser or buy any of their products, does it still matter what you do?

Of course it does.

Let Senator Yee know he’s not out there alone in his outrage.

Online petitions have been circulating. Here’s one:

It’s been a few weeks, so maybe the ship has sailed. Maybe not. We’ve often missed the boat when it comes to speaking out for our collective civil rights.

Will this be another time?

Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
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The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.
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