Was It All Just “Gentle Fun?”

by Patricia Luki

A few days ago, I came across a video segment of a morning news show from Fox
News. I am not an avid TV news-watcher, so it was very surprising for me to see this
video went viral on different social media platforms.

 
The show segment is called Watter’s World on a news show called O’Reilly Factor. With
all the spotlights in the world are directed towards the United States’ presidential
election, it is shocking how China was brought up, mostly in a negative way, several
times by one of the candidates. In this segment, Jesse Watters asked people in the
Chinatown area in New York City about their thoughts on the presidential election.
Some of Watters ignorant remarks from the video included (Fox News, 2016):

 
“Am I supposed to bow to say hello?”

 
“Is this the year of the dragon? Rabbit?”

 
“Is everything made in China now? Tell me what’s not made in China. I can’t think of
any”

 
“Do they call Chinese food in China just food?”

 
“Do you have traditional Chinese herbs for performance?”

 
“Do you know karate?”

 

Although some people might find this funny, or at least the producing team thinks it is,
the questions he asked has nothing to do with gathering sample of political opinions
from the Asian American population.

 
In the video, Watters interviewed some people in the area, some of them are elderly or
bystanders who do not really speak English. He went to them anyway and interviewed
them for their political opinions as a joke. You can also see in the video that some of the
people there are offended by his questions; for example, a guy was irritated when
Watters asked to translate a sentence in Chinese but unable to pronounce it back
correctly. However, this did not stop Watters to continue with his “gentle fun” interview.
How is this acceptable?

 
The most infuriating part of the whole segment was O’Reilly’s take on the whole
interview was that most of the people in Chinatown are aware of the political situation in
the United States. O’Reilly mentioned that some people say that the community is very
insulated and does not interact with American politics (Fox News, 2016). I’m not really
sure where he got this information from, but the reality is that most people read or watch
the news! Even people in Indonesia are aware about the political situation in the United
States. Moreover, Watters stated that most people in Chinatown did not know what was
going on. Well, if you’re going to ask questions about Chinese food or traditional
Chinese herbs, you are not going to have their political opinions about the presidential
election, Mr. Watters.

 
Another irritating part of this whole segment was how O’Reilly called this act as “gentle
fun” and “it’s all in good fun” (Fox News, 2016). The way they are poking fun at
stereotypes and getting away with it is just shocking to me. I just couldn’t believe that
this happened on television.

 
Moreover, the way Watters asked these questions implied that these people’s voices
did not matter. By being ignoring the background of the people who he interviewed, and
disregarding the fact that some of these people might be an American citizen who are
eligible to vote, Watters failed to acknowledge that their opinions do matter!

 
In community psychology, Isaac Prilleltensky talked about values in praxis, which
includes respect for diversity (Prilleltensky, 2001). These values state that professionals
working with the field should promote respect and appreciation for diverse social
identities and unique oppressions (Prilleltensky, 2001).

 
I think that Watters’ video segment should be a reminder for all of us, not just future
community psychologists, that poking fun at marginalized populations “gentle fun” and it
should not be acceptable. Psychologists or not, we all should respect for other people’s
diverse social identities and their uniqueness.

 
#UML #commpsych

 

 

Patricia Luki is a graduate student in the Autism Studies program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

 

 
References
Fox News Channel. (2016). Watters’ World: Chinatown edition. Retrieved October 11,
2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJmnLzw8NA4
Prilleltensky, I. (2001). Value-Based Praxis in Community Psychology: Moving Toward
Social Justice and Social Action. American Journal of Community Psychology,
29(5), 747-778. doi:10.1023/a:1010417201918