The InsiderOne Daily Report

  Tuesday, May 1, 2001

The Ugly Americans

InsiderOne's Michael Goldberg writes: The ugly Americans are back — perhaps they never went away. I was sickened to read in the April 27 San Francisco Chronicle that "one in four Americans has 'strong negative attitudes' toward Chinese Americans, would feel uncomfortable voting for an Asian American for president of the United States, and would disapprove of a family member marrying someone of Asian descent." These were some of the results of a telephone poll conducted by Yankelovich Partners in collaboration with the Anti-Defamation League and the Marttila Communications group. The poll found that 25% of Americans have a "very negative" attitude toward Chinese Americans, and another 49% have a "somewhat negative" attitude. In other words, 74% of Americans are racist. I was horrified, shocked, speechless. How barbaric are we? Apparently we are a nation of racists. Something is fundamentally wrong in the ol' U.S. of A. This country is supposed to be a colossal melting pot, the country where people from all over the world can come and live together. We fought a bloody civil war over the ugly racist attitudes — still alive and well — that were once widespread in the South. And yet, a few weeks ago, while our creepy president halfheartedly tried to salvage U.S.–Chinese relations after our spy plane made an emergency landing on Chinese soil, American cretins, I mean talk-show hosts, "began calling for internment of Chinese Americans and for boycotts of Chinese restaurants," according to the Chronicle. We are in the midst of the New Dark Ages, and yet everyone is acting like it's business as usual. Where is the uproar over these ugly sentiments? "We always knew that there was some negativity out there, but we were startled at the magnitude," Henry Tang, chief executive officer of the Committee of 100, a Chinese American leadership organization that sponsored the survey, told the Chronicle. "These observations are results of many decades ... of stereotyping inside the American society." Having lived in San Francisco for 25 years, and in Santa Cruz and Mill Valley before that, I haven't personally witnessed much racism or anti-Semitism. But I've seen and heard enough. Once, right after Martin Luther King's assassination, I was stabbed in the thigh with a pencil. Years later, someone left an anti-Semitic message on my answering machine. And on another occasion, I walked into a liquor store in the wrong part of Menlo Park only to hear a rather scary-looking dude say, "I smell the stink of a white man." Like most of us, I've heard people say things about particular races that turned my stomach, and I when I did, I didn't hesitate to speak up and call them on their bullshit. Still, for most of my life, living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I've been privileged to be part of a diverse and open-minded community. San Francisco, at least since the mid-'60s, has been a tolerant, almost anything-goes city where no one seems to care about race or one's sexual inclination. In the context of living in a part of the world where many of us see people rather than skin color, the poll results are particularly shocking. Knowing that so many Americans hold such abhorrent views makes me embarrassed to be a U.S. citizen. It makes me want to shout as loud as I can: "I'm not one of them! I don't think like that!"

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Michael Goldberg is the president of He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.

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