What? What the hell? Where did this come from?
A San Francisco weekly newspaper that bills itself as “The Voice of Asian America” is facing harsh criticism from that very community for publishing a column Friday titled “Why I Hate Blacks.”
In the column, AsianWeek regular contributor Kenneth Eng listed “reasons” to discriminate against African Americans. The piece has been pulled from the newspaper’s Web site, but the print edition of the free paper, owned by the politically influential Fang family, was still available in news racks Monday.
Eng called himself an “Asian supremacist” in January in another installment of the column, which runs under the label “God of the Universe.”
Prominent Asian Americans immediately condemned Eng’s current column.
“The hate is based on ignorance and is very similar to the rationales that the KKK uses against African Americans,” said Henry Der, director for 22 years of Chinese for Affirmative Action and the former state administrator for Emeryville’s schools.
“What gives me the greatest concern was AsianWeek’s judgment in printing such a piece out of context,” Der said. “It is so trite and hateful, it doesn’t speak well for the publication.”
San Francisco NAACP President Amos Brown, who heard about the column from a Chronicle reporter, was speechless at first.
“I can’t believe this,” Brown then said. “I am surprised the Fangs, who have supposedly been involved in interracial-understanding issues, would publish something like this. I am flabbergasted. We can’t afford for these kind of racist flames to be fueled in that kind of setting.”
AsianWeek issued a statement regretting “any offense caused by the one opinion piece,” and Editor in Chief Samson Wong declined further comment.
Editor at large Ted Fang did not return phone calls seeking comment. Members of his family, who are Chinese American, have owned a number of local publications, including AsianWeek and the Independent. They bought the Examiner in 2000 and sold it in 2004.
Ted Fang’s brother James, who is president of the paper, has spent more than a decade on the BART Board of Directors and previously worked as international trade director for former San Francisco Mayor Frank Jordan.
Eng’s “reasons” for hating black people include:
— “Blacks hate us. Every Asian who has ever come across them knows that they take almost every opportunity to hurl racist remarks at us.”
— “Contrary to media depictions, I would argue that blacks are weak-willed. They are the only race that has been enslaved for 300 years.”
— “Blacks are easy to coerce. This is proven by the fact that so many of them, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, tend to be Christians.”
Eng, who is in his early 20s, according to material on the Internet promoting his science fiction writing, started at AsianWeek in November after moving from the East Coast. In 2004, for an online magazine called Down in the Dirt, he wrote about experiencing racism as an Asian American student at New York University after he “expressed my negative views on America, religion and African Americans.”
Other AsianWeek columns of Eng’s — including “Proof That Whites Inherently Hate Us” and “Why I Hate Asians” — have resulted in criticism. In the first, he complained about the scarcity of Asian heroes in the media. In the second, he described Asian Americans as apathetic, brown-nosing and lacking in cultural pride.
Eng could not be reached for comment Monday.
Leaders of the Asian Law Caucus, Asian American Justice Center, Chinese for Affirmative Action and other groups and individuals began circulating a petition Friday calling for the paper to apologize, terminate its relationship with Eng, print an editorial refuting the column and review its editorial policy. The leaders’ statement, issued in Washington, D.C., called the piece “irresponsible journalism, blatantly racist, replete with stereotypes and deeply hurtful to African Americans.”
In its statement, AsianWeek, which has a circulation of 48,505, said it “sincerely regrets any offense caused by the one opinion piece which reflected that author’s personal views. We apologize for any harm or hurt this has caused the African American community. AsianWeek has great respect for all that the African American community has done for Asian Pacific Americans.”
David Lee of the Chinese American Voters Education Committee said Eng’s statement echoes the feelings of some Asian Americans. He said that rather than condemning the paper, black and Asian people should participate in a town hall-style meeting to address tension he said exists between the two communities.
“There is a segment that feels the way Eng does, but the sentiment is underground and not brought to the surface,” Lee said. “If you don’t have a discussion, then I think it allows these types of views to fester and turn into something much more negative. Rather than refute and bury this, we should be calling for a community dialogue to address this.”
The paper said it will announce in this Friday’s edition plans to co-sponsor a town hall-style meeting with the Willie L. Brown Jr. Institute on Politics & Public Service.
“What this controversy points out is the lack of community leadership in addressing the critical and difficult issues of race relations, particularly between Asian Pacific Americans and African Americans,” the paper’s statement said.
San Francisco writer Claire Light, one of several bloggers who wrote about the column over the weekend, said the newspaper in general — and especially Eng’s column — makes her embarrassed to be Asian. She said that “most Asian Americans have never even heard of AsianWeek, much less agree with its editorial decision making.”
Der said the column was offensive not only to African Americans but to everyone — and especially because it was published during Black History Month.
“It is pretty despicable that the piece would do that at this time,” he said. “If we are to talk about race and issues, then there should be a thoughtful presentation of the diverse views on this topic. If they had done that, however offensive, we would at least understand it in the context in the larger community.”
Ling-chi Wang, retired chairman of the ethnic studies department at UC Berkeley, said there is an urgent need for Asian Americans to be aware of the history of this country and know that Asian American gains have come largely as a result of the efforts of black people.
“Personal experiences cannot be generalized,” Wang said. “It is really sad to see the racism sentiment being expressed so publicly. I can’t believe Ted Fang would allow such a column to go to print. It is really offensive and damaging and is not one that contributes to a better understanding of diversity.
“I was very disappointed to see it published, and I’m glad there are people protesting.”