Comments deserving of harsh rebuking

    “”The Asians are killing our tour. Absolutely killing it ‹ their lack of emotion, their refusal to speak English when they can speak English,”” said professional golfer Jan Stephenson in an interview for Golf Magazine’s November issue.

    This sort of remark is sure to have received vast media coverage as well as public outrage, right? Wrong. In fact, several prejudiced comments like these made by Stephenson received relatively little scrutiny and hardly any media attention. Unjust generalizations of the Asian race and culture made by this long-time professional female golfer were ultimately ignored. Shocking.

    Stephenson had no hesitation in sharing her ever-perceptive observations. “”Our tour is predominantly international and the majority of them are Asian. They’ve taken it over.”” Taken over, eh? It looks like someone feels a bit threatened. Of the top six players on the money list last week, four were Asian. But according to Stephenson, Asians are “”killing”” the Ladies Professional Golf Assocation tour. Perhaps someone ought to mention to Stephenson that, in reality, according to the LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw, “”attendance, TV viewership, Web site traffic and purses are up.””

    Asians are not damaging women’s golf ‹ they are making it remarkably better. Se Ri Pak is just one example of a successful and beneficial Asian player on the LPGA. She has claimed several victories including McDonald’s LPGA Championship and the U.S. Women’s Open.

    Stephenson argued that to increase publicity of the LPGA tour, women need to “”promote sex appeal. It’s a fact of life.”” Since when is promoting sex appeal a fact of life? Stephenson’s attempt to invalidate the entire women’s movement is another issue altogether.

    Rush Limbaugh’s arguably racist statements about the media’s coverage of black athletes such as Donovan McNabb were fiercely criticized while Stephenson’s comments on Asians went largely unchallenged. There must be some explanation for this.

    Such discriminatory comments made by Stephenson must have obviously received some sort of punishment, right? Wrong again. After a few words of rebuke from Votaw, Stephenson apologized. But that’s all. Life continued as usual and she played in her tournament that very weekend.

    Sure, she received some criticism from other golfers, but that is not enough. There were no major news headlines, no specials on television. Nothing.

    This sort of a blind-eye reaction to blatant bigotry is unacceptable. The reaction to Stephenson’s statements, or lack thereof, might be attiributed to cultural and psychological factors.

    John D. Skrentny, a sociology professor at UCSD offers one legitimate explanation regarding the nonresponsiveness of the media and the people to the discriminatory comments made by Stephenson.

    “”Because some Asian Americans have done well in university and professional school admissions, and have generated high incomes as a result, many, and perhaps most, Americans view Asian Americans as a group that has done well and does not face discrimination,”” Stephenson said. “”They therefore do not respond to criticism of this group as they do when someone in the media criticizes or says something racist about African Americans.””

    Many Americans simply do not expect to see discrimination against Asians. Part of the world view is that Asians are accepted; they are not the target of prejudice. If the media fails to cover such a story or neglects to give much attention to discriminatory comments like those of Stephenson, then it is unlikely that people will find out about it, let alone respond to it.

    Psychological studies can also prove helpful in understanding the comparatively nonresponsiveness of Asians themselves. When groups have been mistreated and abused ,they can, at times, become extremely vigilant and sensitive to criticism ‹ naturally. The advantage of this type of behavior is that it can protect the person from criticism or discrimination in the future.

    On the other hand, someone who has not suffered high amounts of racism or discrimination may not be sensitive to it or even recognize it as such. Cultural research on emotional expressiveness has shown that certain cultures, such as the Asian culture, tend to underemphasize the open expression of emotion. There is greater value placed upon ideas of harmony and consequently, conflict avoidance. This is part of the cultural dynamic ‹ it cannot be characterized as either positive or negative.

    This may be one factor that might contribute to why there was not a prominent public reaction or expression against the comments of Stephenson.

    Whatever the reason is for those statements by Stephenson sliding by under the radar, one thing holds true. Failure to recognize and respond to discrimination of this sort is inexcusable. It should not matter which group of people are discriminated against. Racism is racism. Discrimination is discrimination ‹ regardless of the culture.

    A specific race should not determine what is constituted as newsworthy and what is not. It is not only the job of the people to recognize prejudice and its negative effects, but perhaps more importantly, it is the job of the media to understand that any racism is harmful racism. Whether it be against Asians, Caucasians or Hispanics, racism must not be ignored just because the particular culture has not necessarily borne the brunt of discrimination in the past.

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