By WENYAN DENG ’15
On Oct. 16, ABC aired comedian Jimmy Kimmel’s skit “Kid’s Table,” in which children are asked to debate contemporary political issues. During the skit, Kimmel asked a group of children what the United States should do to solve its debt problem with China. When one child responded to the question with the suggestion of killing everyone in China, Kimmel responded with, “Kill everyone in China? OK, that’s an interesting idea.” Later on, Kimmel asked, “Should we allow the Chinese to live?”
ABC apologized on Oct. 28 and again on Nov. 8. The White House condemned the show, and Kimmel himself also apologized. Despite these apologies, Chinese and Chinese-American protesters continue to demand Kimmel’s resignation. On Nov. 9, more than 1,000 people gathered outside ABC’s Burbank, Calif. headquarters, demanding that ABC fire Kimmel. Some people argue that the protestors are pushing their demands too far and taking the issue too seriously, while others attribute the Chinese refusal or inability to let go of the issue to cultural differences. However, firing Mr. Kimmel is the least ABC can do to show that its apologies are sincere and respond properly to this issue.
Many people are asking the Chinese and Chinese-Americans to simply let go of the issue, and some are unsure why the Chinese are taking the words said jokingly by a child and a TV host so seriously. The sensitivity of the issue stems partially from the long history of imperialistic injustice China has suffered at the hands of Western powers. But a bigger reason behind the Chinese protestors’ demands is that regardless of three apologies by ABC and Jimmy Kimmel, the program demonstrated outright, blatant and intolerable racism that cannot be excused by any cultural differences between China and America.
A second White House petition contextualized the issue by asking: “What would Martin Luther King say if a TV host asks ‘Should we allow the African American to live’ for joking?” If a TV host did ask this, regardless of whether the question was asked jokingly, he or she would almost certainly be fired immediately and face severe public censure.
So why is it that when such a comment is directed at the Chinese, it is deemed unreasonable and an overreaction to demand the resignation of the TV host? Telling the Chinese to accept less than full justice is tantamount to implicit racism.
The Chinese and Chinese-Americans have every right to demand Kimmel’s resignation without pushing the issue too far. Certainly, the Chinese Communist Party is exploiting the issue for its own political purposes by continuously broadcasting the issue and demanding an apology with “a sincere attitude,” to quote Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang, from ABC. However, regardless of whether the issue is being utilized by the Chinese government as a tool to arouse anti-foreign sentiment, the issue itself reveals a graver problem of implicit racism harbored against Chinese and Chinese-Americans, and an unvoiced fear of China’s rise as a new world power.
Wenyan Deng is a junior studying International Relations. She was born in Beijing and lives in Hong Kong. Follow her on Twitter @wenyandeng.