Remember a few weeks ago when GOP hopeful Pete Hoekstra aired a shockingly racist ad during the Superbowl? The actress in that ad has now come forward and apologized, saying that she regrets having participated at all.
The spot featured what was supposed to be a Chinese woman riding a bicycle through a rice paddy while wearing a straw hat on her back. In broken English, she thanks Hoekstra’s opponent “Michigan Senator Debbie Spend-it-Now” for spending too much money and thereby (somehow) stimulating the Chinese economy.
“Your economy get very weak. Ours get very good,” says the character, who has now been identified as Lisa Chan, a recent college graudate and aspiring actress. She posted a full apology on her Facebook fan page, taking responsibility for the racism in that ad that she admits to have perpetuated.
“I am deeply sorry for any pain that the character I portrayed brought to my communities. As a recent college grad who has spent time working to improve communities and empower those without a voice, this role is not in any way representative of who I am. It was absolutely a mistake on my part and one that, over time, I hope can be forgiven. I feel horrible about my participation and I am determined to resolve my actions.”
This is a total mess, but it’s hard for me to point fingers at this young lady. I don’t know how she didn’t realize that the commercial was racist trash, and that’s worth apologizing for.
However, I can’t help but think of black actors and actresses who have struggled to build careers in spite of the overwhelming predominance of stereotypical roles. How different is the character in this commercial from the jive-talking street thug, the bossy heavyset maid, or the welfare mother addicted to drugs, all stereotypes that black actors still fight to avoid playing? We have a hard time pointing fingers at actors who take those roles to pay the bills, so shouldn’t we feel likewise about the same struggles of Asian-American actors?