Opinion: when Watters goes bad

A recent piece by 
Fox News’ Jesse Watters is beyond disrespectful writes editor-in-chief Megan Lin.

screenshot of the report in question on Fox News

A recent piece by Fox News’ Jesse Watters is beyond disrespectful writes editor-in-chief Megan Lin.

Comedy is meant to make people laugh, to lighten the burdens that every human carries while they fight through the hardships of life. Comedy is also used as a means to convey a much bigger issue or to satirically comment on a controversial topic. But when is that line between comedy and blatant disrespect crossed?

Fox News’ Jesse Watters recently made a trip to New York City’s Chinatown to ask Chinese-Americans about the presidential election and relations between the U.S. and China. The five minute segment seemed like it had a good intention to find out the seldom reported opinions of Chinese-Americans, until Watters turned the interviews into a bully fest.

Within the first few seconds, he asks two women if he should bow in greeting. It’s like he’s never met another person in his life before. Watters continues, bluntly asking a street vendor if he was selling stolen watches.

As if these remarks weren’t enough, he interviews an elderly woman and man, who clearly don’t know how to speak English. When the seniors don’t answer his question and instead space out, the video cuts to an old movie clip, where the girl on screen is screaming, “Speak, speak, why don’t you speak?!”

When some of his interviewees speak with a light accent, Watters felt the need to insert subtitles at the bottom of the screen like they were actually speaking a foreign language. He asks a woman, “Can you guys take care of North Korea for us?” He should have put subtitles in for his lines too, because I rewinded the video about fifty times because I thought I heard that wrong.

At this point in the segment, it’s obvious that the purpose of the video is not to gather the political opinions of Chinese-Americans. Watters makes it crystal clear that he’s using racial stereotypes to make fun of Chinese people. Apparently he thinks it’s hilarious to mock elders and bluntly accuse all Chinese people to be petty thieves.

But it doesn’t stop at the shameless disrespect; Watters lumps various East Asian cultures into one category. He visits a taekwondo school, and mockingly spars with the teacher, who is entirely serious, and references clips from “Karate Kid.” He then asks a stranger on the street if he knows karate. In a shop, he flails nunchucks around in an attempt to be entertaining.

Last time I checked, the video was supposed to be about getting insight from Chinese-Americans about the upcoming election and foreign relations. Watters is making a fool of himself in a taekwondo school, which is South Korean, and there’s clearly a South Korean flag shown on the wall. Karate originated from Okinawa, which is a part of Japan. I had no clue that South Koreans, the Japanese, and the Chinese are all the same people. I guess being from the same general area of the globe makes everyone in East Asia the same race, according to Watters. The lack of sensitivity and outright disregard is almost pitiful.

Towards the end, Watters sits down with host Bill O’Reilly. The two discuss the answers that Watters received, and O’Reilly points out a man that had reacted negatively. Watters said the man was “one of many” that “hated” him and laughs while commenting, “They’re such a polite people — they won’t walk away or tell me to get out of here.”

To a Chinese-American like myself, the segment was nothing but a racist form of media that not only violated basic journalism ethics, but also a basic level of respect for another human being. It’s disgusting. It’s 2016.

Fox and Watters are clearly either astonishingly ignorant or astonishingly insolent. Even the show’s host recognized that the segment was inevitably “going to get letters.” O’Reilly even expressed surprise in the responders’ awareness of American political events, as if Chinatown is China itself. I’ve been to Chinatown multiple times, and it’s nothing like China. With the video  so clearly offensive, what motivated Fox to even let it air?

Which brings me to the bigger issue. America seems to have developed a scorn for its minorities, which marinates itself in racist stereotypes. Unbelievably, some of the commenters on the video actually defended Watters, saying that the outrage was an oversensitive reaction and that people should stop trying to be “politically correct.”

Honestly, what does being politically correct have anything to do with condemning outright discrimination? Then, is ignoring the video and laughing at it the “correct” thing to do?

I imagine that if it had been a Chinese reporter asking the questions in a foreign language to white elders, people would also defend the reporter and accuse the public of an overreaction to something that was meant to be “in good fun.” Right?

There were also comments supposedly made by Chinese-Americans that the video was not offensive. Perhaps it wasn’t offensive to some people, but I’m quite sure that the idea that a select few may not have cared does not justify the shameless disrespect Watters promotes.

It is because of these defenses that stereotypes continue to be utilized in a way that is demeaning of other cultures. By allowing media like Watters’ and Fox’s to continue, the people are reinforcing the sweeping generalizations that are being made about the diverse ethnic groups in America.

It’s incredibly disturbing to imagine that these notions have been incorporated into the average American mind as facts. Heinous acts carried out by a miniscule portion of the population of a race does not represent the ideals of the entire group. I find it hard to comprehend why society can’t even seem to utilize basic logic in this fashion.

Even more so, it’s difficult to grasp why the majority seems to hold a double standard for minorities. Many supposedly support minorities seeking equality, but then immediately turn around and ridicule their culture and brush it off, citing good-natured humor even when no one else is laughing. And yet, when minority groups play a “white joke,” the latter cries reverse racism.

Again, I’m not going to be the hypocrite and generalize the entire white population to be discriminative. I fully understand that Jesse Watters and Fox News do not represent the views of all whites. I’m well aware that many white people are tired of a couple of their own damaging their reputation as a group, and it’s a feeling that all races have felt and are continuing to feel.

However, the country is more than ready to improve domestic racial relations, but is being held back by immature “adults” who think other cultures’ people are toys that can be abused without consequences. They seem to forget that you don’t get to decide what offends other people and what doesn’t.