This week I read Lauren Yee’s wonderful Ching Chong Chinaman, and in my research of the play stumbled across a video that blew up the internet in 2011.
Alexandra Wallace a student at UCLA posted a three minute long rant about how disruptive Asians in the library are to her hard work during finals week. She mimics asians on the phone saying, and I quote “ching chong ling long ting tong.” It is quite awful. Her belief that by qualifying her statements with “no offense,” makes what she is saying okay, is laughable. It’s not. It is sheltered and ignorant. NPR writes that “it would have taken Alexandra Wallace several lifetimes to even encounter as many Asian students as she managed to offend in three minutes.”
Then the world was introduced to Jimmy Wong.
Jimmy Wong is a singer-songwriter-actor-youtuber-artist who, after watching Alexandra Wallace’s rant, was sparked to write a song in response. He said in an interview “It helped that I took a couple days before formulating my response to cool down a bit and not write a response based on my initial emotions.” By 2015 his song Ching Chong (means I love you), has been viewed over five million times.
In this internet age, people’s initial responses and unfiltered rants can come back to haunt you. Nothing disappears on the internet and things we think are private, rarely are. But the way the internet spreads like wildfire can work in your advantage. Jimmy Wong’s song went viral, not only raising awareness about this racist rant, but raising the bar in ways to respond to injustice.
The way in which he turned his anger and frustration into something artistic and productive is inspiring. Art is a logical outlet for anger. Humor is such an effective way to reach people. His song, Ching Chong (Means I Love You) is hilarious, honest, ironic and subversive in the very best ways. He lets Alexandra Wallace know that her assumptions about Asian culture are way of base not by yelling or telling her off, but by showing her the amazing, complex human that he is. Leading by example, guiding change with action rather than talk is so important and integral.
Lauren Yee’s Ching Chong Chinaman breaks down our own assumptions about race through in your face, unPC humor to great success. Plays take time and development and lots of people to come to fruition. Anyone can take the time to write and record their own song, or film, in a matter of days. We have iPhones, we have computers, everyone has the tools to respond and distribute their art nowadays.
Yes, responding to this four years later seems a little late to the game, but what Jimmy Wong did still stands as an example to everyone about the power of thoughtful, intelligent responses to the things in the world that make us angry.