How much blame does the Asian actress in Hoekstra’s ad deserve?

Yesterday, on his MSNBC show, Lawrence O’Donnell called out the “100% Chinese” actress who appears in that incredibly racist anti-Debbie Stabenow ad of Pete Hoekstra’s that we’ve been discussing. After asking his audience to help identify the actress, O’Donnell offered the following… “I’ve done things in show business… that I’m not proud of,” he said, “but I’ve never done anything that I’m ashamed of.” He then went on to ask his fellow members of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) to pledge not to follow in this young woman’s footsteps by contributing toward the creation of such pieces…. And it got me wondering just how much of the blame should be attributed to this woman, who, as O’Donnell noted, likely very much needed the $800 or so that a half-day shoot like this paid. I’d like to think that, if I were a starving actor, desperate for any paid work, that I’d be able to walk away from projects that I found personally distasteful, but, the reality is, people do all kinds of things to put food on the table. Just look at all of the Arab American actors working in Hollywood these days, playing terrorists. (Speaking of which, who remembers this political ad from Florida?) I know that O’Donnell was looking for an interesting angle on the story, and I agree that this woman made a poor choice, that she’ll likely regret later in life, but I’m finding it hard to place too much blame to her when there are so many other individuals more deserving of the criticism. And I think O’Donnell, who, I might add, plays a lawyer that represents polygamists on the HBO series Big Love, comes across as kind of a judgmental prick here.

On a side note, O’Donnell raised an interesting question in his commentary… Why did Hoekstra decide to put this ad out himself, when he could have had a Super PAC do it, and avoid the scrutiny and charges of racism?

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  1. Lynne
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    Although I think it would be good if every member of an oppressed group would refuse to participate in things that oppress them, ultimately they are not the problem so I don’t see the value of focusing on them.

    As for why Hoekstra put the ad out himself. My guess is that he had no idea that anyone would consider that racist. Even here in the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area, I have been shocked by how cluelessly racist so many people are. They just don’t see it.

  2. Edward
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    I was going to say it’s like when people hold Leni Riefenstahl responsible, at least in some small part, for the atrocities of Hitler, but that’s not really a good metaphor, seeing as how she was a friend of Hitler’s, and a supporter of the Nazi party. All this women did was read the lines given to her, and then go home. It’s not like she’s plotting with Hoekstra to take over the Senate.

    I think it’s worth noting that there’s a long, not-so-proud history in this country of the oppressed being hired to shuck, jive, bulge out their eyes, talk “chinky” and do any number of other offensive things in the service of “the man”. I agree with O’Donnell that it’s ultimately corrosive to the soul of the individual being hired to do such things, but it does seem a bit disingenuous coming from a successful individual, who, if I’m not mistaken, was born wealthy and graduated from Harvard.

  3. Bob
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    More than anything the ad is just dumb and incredibly corny. I don’t really understand how a shameless politician like Hoekstra is a horrible racist but the actress gets a pass. She auditioned for a job that portrayed her own heritage in an ugly manner, and took money to do it. And she deserves less criticism than O’Donnell?

  4. Posted February 8, 2012 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    The actress is likely American. Her accent is flawless, though she clearly reads her lines as written.

    What’s interesting to me about this ad is the level of ignorance of the issues that Hoekstra displays. Or, perhaps, he is, in fact, not ignorant and merely wants to play on (and encourage) the ignorance of the electorate.

  5. Mr. X
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    When Hoekstra referred to her being “100 percent” Chinese, he was referring to her heritage. I’m not sure why he thought that was important to share. Maybe he thinks that people are upset with him because they think it’s a white actress made-up to look Chinese. He couldn’t possibly be that out of touch, could he?

  6. pete
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    My son is Asian and I have no problem with the ad. My sons Asian side of the family dont have any problem with the ad. I think the only ones that have a problem with the ad are white liberals, at least thats the only group so far that I see who appose the ad.

  7. Posted February 8, 2012 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Well, he can’t be a racist, because he’s a Republican, the party which stands for the emancipation of the enslaved.

  8. K2
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Permalink


    You must not read the news. Several Asian American groups have expressed displeasure over the ad. And, here in Washtenaw County, Chinese American Republican Alicia Ping has come out against the ad, saying that she would no longer support Hoekstra’s campaign.

  9. pete
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    K2 Republican Alicia Ping came out against the ad for her own advancement. Like I said I’m on the edge of the Asian community because I have family ties and not one Asian that I know has a problem with this ad, in fact they are more concerned with the way the “White Liberals” are using them for their own advancement. Most Asians I know are hard working conservatives no matter the age. Show me one Asian who ins’t polically motivated who stands against this ad and I will reconsider by views. I can tell most commentors here are white liberals by what they type, just saying. Not one person commenting here has addressed what is racist about the ad, in fact most comments here are racist in the fact that are speaking for people they know nothing of. I keep hearing its racist because she speaks in broken english, where most 99% of the Asians I know who were born elsewhere speak in broken english an they dont feel that is a handicap at all.

  10. Mr. X
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    How can you say that Asians don’t find the ad offensive?

    Still, the ad has drawn the ire of Asian-American groups in Michigan. The Michigan chapter of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote group’s said it was “deeply disappointed” by Hoekstra’s message.

    “No elected official or candidate for office, regardless of political affiliation, should use stereotypical imagery or language,” the group said in a statement on their website. “The use of these stereotypes is counter to the progress our country has made over past decades to encourage respect for all communities.”

    The same group has also said, “It is very disturbing that Mr. Hoekstra’s campaign chose to use harmful and negative stereotypes that intrinsically encourage anti-Asian sentiment.”,0,3276696.story

  11. EOS
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Would the ad be considered less racist if it featured Kwai Chang Caine played by David Carradine? Just asking.

  12. pete
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Mr. x what does this mean “The use of these stereotypes is counter to the progress our country has made over past decades to encourage respect for all communities.” What “stereotypes” is he talking about? And Why of all the Asian people I know not one is offended, granted they aren’t part of a “Asian-American groups”, in fact they have never even heard of this group, so who are they speaking for?

  13. Mr. X
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    My in-laws are Chinese, and they don’t belong to any “group”, as though that would disqualify them from having an opinion on the subject. And, believe it or not, they find the ad offensive. They were living here in Michigan when Vincent Chin was murdered in Detroit, and they know the potential for violence that comes with scapegoating.

    Why is it so hard for you to believe that Asians would find it offensive to see an actress peddling through a rice paddy, pretending to speak in broken English?

    Would you be shocked to know that some black people find stereotypes like these offensive? (see video)

  14. Mr. X
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Someone left a comment in another thread directing people to an article written by Bruce Reyes-Chow. I think you might want to check it out.

    Here’s some of what he has to say.

    After I watched this video, my immediate reaction was anger . . . flavored with a few choice expletives. I have since moved to sadness. While Hoekstra’s use of Chinese sounding music, a broken-English script and a coolie hat certainly brings Asianfying to a new low, this is not the only time that we have seen this anti-China rhetoric being used irresponsibility during this election season. Case in point, a person claiming to be a Ron Paul supporter, accused then presidential candidate, John Huntsman, of having “Chinese values” and not “American Values” because of his adopted Asian children. Hoekstra is not blazing any new trails here . . . he either doesn’t understand the implications of this ad . . . or he doesn’t care.

    Now I have no problem with passionate debates on politics and culture and I know that political campaigns can get “dirty,” but the running of this ad only goes to show the insensitivity to issues of race in today’s world. We, as a society, must be better than this and no public official should tolerate as part of his/her campaign. The fact that this is a candidate from MICHIGAN, precisely where Vincent Chin was killed, makes this even worse. Vincent Chin’s death took place in a highly-charged anti-Japan atmosphere that lead to his brutal beating and death. I fear that with public officials encouraging this kind of rhetoric, it is only a matter of time before someone, fueled by today’s anti-China outrage, will inflict violence upon someone else.

  15. Mr. X
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    So, first you say that no Asian Americans are upset by this. Then, when you’re shown that several groups have condemned the ad, you say that no individual Asian Americans are upset by it. You claim that it’s just their “groups” that are complaining, because they have something to gain politically by being upset. Then, when it’s brought to your attention that an individual Chinese American, Alicia Ping, came out against the ad, you say that her opinion doesn’t count, as she’s just saying it “her own advancement.” Now, when I tell you that I have Chinese relatives who are bothered by the piece, I suspect your response will be that their opinions don’t matter due to the fact that they’re Democrats, or some such bullshit. I think it’s pretty clear that you’re not willing to consider the fact that anti-Chinese racism is real. I also think it’s pretty clear that I’ve spent way too much time with you than you deserve. I feel sorry for your “Asian son.”

  16. pete
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    Political gaming by a bunch of white liberals, nothing more. Like I said I live around more asians then whites and have heard nothing of this, why is that? Most speak broken english and not one feels thay have a thing to worry about. Now if they lived in Deroit I could understand their fear. Not one of my Asian family member has ever had a problem with discrimation. Very weird you find all these people that do have problems. You are racist race baiter pure and simple.

  17. pete
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    Mr. x dont feel sorry for my “Asian Son” hes doing very well thank you, private school with a 3.78 GPA, and has never experenced racism in his life, it too bad your “Chinese relatives” have not enjoyed the same life as my son. I guess thats why I find what you say hard to believe, because my son and his Asian side of the family dont see any racism at all, sure they’ve been teased but that happens to ALL kids growing up, and they are spread out from Ypsi to K-zoo. I feel sorry for your “Chinese relatives” that they are still scared because of something (Vincent Chin was murdered in Detroit) that happened more then 30 years ago, I hope they get over that some day. Where are your “Chinese relatives” living that they have this problem? Just want to know so we dont go there.

  18. Posted February 8, 2012 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    A Jew with sidelocks standing in front of the wailing wall, bragging in Yiddish-accented English about how Jews were infiltrating the US. While music from “Fiddler on the Roof” is playing in the background. And he talks about how Israel is conning the US into doing its bidding. And there are anti-Semitic symbols scrolling in the background.

    Do you suppose that Jewish Americans wouldn’t have reason to be upset? Do you suppose that Jewish Americans wouldn’t feel singled out for their ethnic identity?

  19. Posted February 8, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Permalink


    You,your family and all of your acquaintances are very fortunate to have never experienced any racist or exclusionary behavior in your lives.

    Cherish your good fortune but please don’t belittle others who aren’t so lucky.

  20. Posted February 9, 2012 at 1:05 am | Permalink

    “Just look at all of the Arab American actors working in Hollywood these days, playing terrorists”

    Hardly. Because of Arab Muslims terrorists on 9/11 it became politically correct to portray terrorists as Whites, preferably neo nazis and White supremacists, eg Sum of All Fears which was rewritten to remove the Arab Muslim terrorists from the book.

  21. Posted February 9, 2012 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    For those who are ignorant of the reference to Vincent Chin
    Vincent Jen Chin[1] (simplified Chinese: 陈果仁 Chén Guǒrén; traditional Chinese: 陳果仁; May 18, 1955 – June 23, 1982) was a Chinese American beaten to death in June 1982 in the United States, in the Detroit, Michigan enclave of Highland Park by Chrysler plant superintendent Ronald Ebens, with the help of his stepson, Michael Nitz. The murder generated public outrage over the lenient sentencing the two men originally received in a plea bargain, as the attack, which included blows to the head from a baseball bat, possessed many attributes consistent with hate crimes. Many of the layoffs in Detroit’s auto industry, including Nitz’s in 1979, had been due to the increasing market share of Japanese automakers, leading to allegations that Chinese American Vincent Chin received racially charged comments before his death.[2] The case became a rallying point for the Asian American community, and Ebens and Nitz were put on trial for violating Chin’s civil rights. Because the subsequent Federal prosecution was a result of public pressure from a coalition of many Asian ethnic organizations, Vincent Chin’s murder is often considered the beginning of a pan-ethnic Asian American movement.[3]

  22. ytownwf
    Posted February 9, 2012 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    pete, don’t argue with these idiots. It’s not worth your time. They just want you to have the same insecurities and white guilt as they do.

  23. pete
    Posted February 9, 2012 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    wobblie I’m so glad the Chinese Americans dont suffer the same voilence the rest of are exposed to, white and black Americans are killed DAILY in Detroit for the last 30 years and noone seems to care.
    ytownwf I can see whats going on here, I just have a problem with Liberals throwing out the race card everytime they dont get their way, they say we have a race problem because one Chinese American was killed 30 years ago but have nothing to say about the whites and blacks that are killed DAILY in Detroit, not one word! I would say that is pure evil.

  24. Posted February 9, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Pete , it is killing people because of their race that made Chin’s incident “racist”. That and the Judge letting the murders go because “they are not criminal types”. But your ignorance of racism is pretty obvious. Since your ignorance is obvious, you probably don’t realize when people shit on you or your family members because they hate people who are not white.
    The same ignorance that caused Chin’s death just manifested itself again in one of the northern suburbs concerning Sikhs. Ignorant racist think they are Muslim, and since it now ok to hate Muslims’ they thought it would be fun to vandalize a Sikh temple, much like Chin’s murderers thought they were killing a Jap (and those of us who lived here at the time remember some racist cheering his death as a blow against Asian imports). I am glad that Asian-Americans usually strife for higher education because its a good thing some one in your family will have some education since you clearly enjoy being ignorant.

  25. pete
    Posted February 9, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    wobblie since when is it “OK” to hate Muslims? Since when is it “OK” to hate anyone? And I dont think that ad is fueling hate towards China or any other Asians. The ad is being used by white liberals to fuel their own agenda, thats where your ignorance comes in, cause for some reason you think everyone but you is stupid, we see whats going on. The Asians are doing very well in this country, have little to no hate directed towards them, an example being you have to go back 30 years to find something. Like I said before wheres your disgust with the murders that happen everyday in Detroit, wheres your disgust with the high drop out rate of Detroit. These people are hurting, not the Asians. But again that does nothing to further your agenda because the people who are destoying Detroit are…… wait for it…….DEMOCRATS!

  26. kjc
    Posted February 9, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    “The Asians are doing very well in this country, have little to no hate directed towards them, an example being you have to go back 30 years to find something.”

    lemme guess, you’re a white dude.

  27. Posted February 9, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    “The Asians”

  28. Burt Reynolds
    Posted February 9, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    I keep waiting for Pete to make a mistake and start talking about his “Oriental” family.

  29. pete
    Posted February 9, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    So no disgust with what is going on in Detroit? Only disgust towards a not so bright Hoekstra, that really only hurt himself. Your caring is very shallow, which is no suprise since you never really cared in the first place. Its always the ones who claim to care the most that see peoples skin color, and not the character

  30. Burt Reynolds
    Posted February 9, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    pete, the topic of this post is the Hoekstra ad.

  31. pete
    Posted February 9, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Burt no its not, and it never was about the ad.

  32. Lynne
    Posted February 9, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Yeah. Expressing a concern about the Hoekstra ad in a post about the Hoekstra ad hardly means that someone isn’t also concerned about violence in Detroit.

    I also think it is hilarious that pete, who is clearly very partisan in his views, is accusing anyone who thinks the ad was racist of only thinking that because they are Democrats. But that is just as likely to be because of the partisan blinders conservatives wear. Let me ask you this. If Democrats or other liberals only find this ad racist because of their politics, why don’t they find all ads by right wing candidates to be racist? Why are we just talking about *this* ad?

    At any rate, I might also add that as someone who tends to vote for Democrats and who tends to contribute to the campaigns of Democrats, I don’t really mind being associated with them. I also don’t consider it an insult when someone accuses me of essentially being more sensitive to race issues than they are. I consider it a good thing to have some sensitivity about things like race even if that often means confronting my own racism. I don’t have much guilt about most racism though because I try to do things to lessen it in our society. When I do feel guilt, it is totally because of things I have done or thought that are racist. It isn’t guilt I feel when I recognize that being white carries with it a lot of privileges. I don’t even feel especially guilty knowing that I’ve benefited from that kind of privilege because it is impossible to avoid. So if you think that I see racism in that ad because of some kind of white guilt, you would be mistaken. I just don’t like to see racism.

  33. Posted February 9, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    Wow, so this post about the ad was never really about the ad at all, but actually about something else.

    This post was actually about Detroit, so pete is bummed because people haven’t picked up on the secret lingo?

    I’m really confused here though I will never believe anything again.

    For example, this door in front of me. It really isn’t a door, but a wall with an agenda. It’s actually just trying to further its own career as a wall by disguising itself as a door.

    Or how about these students here. They aren’t really students, since they are in groups and groups always have some secret motives we don’t know about. Perhaps they are actually squirrels.

    Not to mention that they might be Democrats. I don’t think I’ve heard them say anything about Detroit yet, so they must not care at all about Detroit. In fact, I would assume that they want all of Detroit to die, given that they haven’t said anything about Detroit at all.

  34. Brainless
    Posted February 9, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    Back on topic: The guy in the clip (and a whole bunch of other people) really are a bunch of dicks for the whole “Whadda ya think about that actress, huh, huh? Whadda ya think…” angle. Like some fat fuck jowly old man talking to everybody like they’re idiots isn’t enough to focus on.

    Thank you all for leaving starving artists alone. By the way: This is why they have an actors union (and any other union for that matter). The union at least helps people with some minimum protection (and a minimum salary) when they have to make a tough choice like working for a dick or doing something unsavory or dangerous. This woman had to make a choice between eating and not eating. Period. Everyone wants to inject all these politics into it, but that’s because they’re a bunch of partisan douchebags. Today, she eats. End of story.

  35. tom mast
    Posted February 9, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    So I have been hiding this ad from my officemate/labmate, who is Chinese (born, raised, is here on a temporary visa). After reading the discussion here I decided to get her opinion. Like Petes relatives she thought it was ‘reasonable’ that the girl wouldn’t speak English perfectly. I asked her about the straw hat, rice fields, gong, dragon, etc. She said that these were ‘old things’. I asked her if she was offended. She said ‘No.’. Adding: “Many Americans have misperceptions about China.” When I asked her if it was OK for a politician to purposely use those misperceptions to get elected to Congress. She did not think that was ‘right’ and then asked ‘is that why the girl did not speak correctly?”.

    Oh and when certain members of this board get the Visteon plant up-and-running again (cuz they are such capable capitalists yearning to employ their fellow Michigander) let me know, my angel investor fund has fifty bones in it.

  36. kjc
    Posted February 9, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    The guy in the clip (and a whole bunch of other people) really are a bunch of dicks for the whole “Whadda ya think about that actress, huh, huh? Whadda ya think…” angle.


  37. Posted February 9, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    I have lived abroad and been a foreigner.

    Honestly, stupid representations of America in the Japanese media do not offend me. Sometimes they offend my intelligence, but mostly they make me feel badly for the people who produce them.

    However, right wing Japanese politicians (and they are legion) who use “the foreigner problem” (crimes by foreigners, foreigners taking jobs, foreigners taking Japanese women) as a wedge issue to get elected offend me deeply.

    In this ad, Hoekstra falls into the latter category.

  38. Mr. O
    Posted February 9, 2012 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    Does anyone else find it interesting that we’re having this conversation about anti-Asian racism not existing, just a few days after out interim city manager was asked to step down for having made anti-Asian racist comments?

    I think that’s what the elites would call irony.

  39. Brainless
    Posted February 10, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    “…city manager was asked to step down for having made anti-Asian racist comments?”

    Another jowly old man talking to everybody like they’re idiots.

  40. Posted February 11, 2012 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    jowls come naturally to us old white men, it like being bald. It is what sets us apart. So don’t get down on him for having jowls, its the attitude behind the face that is the problem.

  41. Demetrius
    Posted February 15, 2012 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    It appears that the “Asian Actress” who did the ad regrets having done it.

  42. Posted February 15, 2012 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    …Chan is a recent graduate of University of California-Berkeley with a sociology degree who last year named herself Miss Napa Valley USA in order to enter the 2012 Miss California competition…

    Can you just name yourself Miss Napa Valley?

    Sounds like Emperor Norton.

    [Thanks for the link, Demitrius.]

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  1. […] ad that set this whole thing in motion, if you haven’t yet, you might want to check out our last thread on the subject. There are some really incredible comments. In particular, I’d suggest reading through the […]

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