(Threat of) Violence begets Apologies; Alexandra Wallace Says Sorry for Racist Youtube Rant

UCLA student posts racist rant about Asians on Youtube—–> Student receives barrage of death threats——> Scared for life, student makes apology fast and gets it published in the school newspaper—–> Pissed UCLA student organizations and Chancellor respond with vigor…but so far no ACTION has been taken to reprimand the third-year student, Alexandra Wallace.

via Colorlines:

The university has not taken any action against Wallace at this time. Robert Naples, associate vice chancellor and dean of students, told the Daily Bruin that officials are examining the video, the student code of conduct and Wallace’s First Amendment rights.

“(Wallace) has made judgments about a certain race, and people have made judgments about her, but we’ve got to make the correct judgments in the dean’s office, and in order to do that we need to know everything first,” Naples told the school paper.

So what does it mean if Wallace does not get reprimanded? More importantly, what will it mean if UCLA doesn’t get their act together?

Some biting words of “advice” from Jorge Rivas on how Wallace’s next video stunt can lead to change over at UCLA:

Regardless, here’s a suggestion for Wallace’s next viral video: Redeem yourself by apologizing and telling your viewers who you don’t see on campus. For instance, in the 2009-2010 school year, UCLA had a total of 25,611 undergraduate students enrolled. Only 112 of them were American Indian. And only 951 of them were black. Maybe you can get your school to do something about that. Good luck on your political science final.


And like the Asian American Studies Department and Center at UCLA said in an issued response to Wallace’s rant, the real problem is UCLA’s shirked responsibilities to diversify their campus, not this one young girl’s 5 minute claim to bigotry-fame:

As the only University of California campus without a diversity requirement, UCLA surely needs to implement a diversity requirement that will expose every student to the task of living civilly with people of different origins, backgrounds, orientations, and beliefs, whether they are born here or come from abroad.

*Tangential but related question…Can one ever genuine apologize enough for (and move on from) bigoted remarks?


Naima "Nai" Ramos-Chapman is the Associate Editor at Campus Progress, a dancer with Taurus Broadhurst Dance in D.C., and an aspiring visual artist (she doodles). Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @Naimaramchap.
  • Chispa

    And this girl gets to postpone her finals? WTF?

  • ACLS

    Certainly. But only if you’ve actually learned something. Given the whirlwind she stirred up, you can’t really pretend she’s a better person for this now, but if she meditated on this and gave you a mournful apology ten years from now, I hope you’d accept it.

    And I said my share of incredibly stupid things in my youth that I would find abhorrent today. Like Wallace, I just didn’t know any better. But I’ve worked very hard to educate and improve myself. Hopefully she’ll do the same.

    • Good Will

      Thumbs up for your comments.

  • Naima

    Yea I definitely believe there is room for growth, I guess I always view the rush to apologies after tons of backlash to be more of an automatic reflex…like the apology a kid might give to another if the teacher reprimands them sternly…The teacher, the student, the victimized student knows the exchange is only done to rush on to the next thing. This, like all other media/blog blitz exchanges force apologies without time for introspection. Nature of the beast…but yea, hope Wallace will give her comments some thought.

  • Naima, sorry but I gotta vigorously disagree with the thought behind these statements:

    “but so far no ACTION has been taken to reprimand the third-year student, Alexandra Wallace.”

    “So what does it mean if Wallace does not get reprimanded? More importantly, what will it mean if UCLA doesn’t get their act together?”

    Wallace is a student at a university. Not a professor, not staff, she does not hold an official position (to my knowledge) at the uni. What, exactly, should she be reprimanded for? What should UCLA’s reaction be? Besides mind-control, I do not see anything the uni should do in this case. It would be REALLY weird if a student got in university trouble for a video like this. I mean, what should a uni do if a student puts out a ‘white she-devils are stealing all the good black men’ video?

    And I feel a little strange that more isn’t being made out of the death threats she received. I mean, a woman is being threatened for speaking her (albeit stupid) mind, and that is not an issue? What woulda happened had a man said this, you think he woulda been threatened with death? Change the race too, and see the what the vitriol would be like.

    There is a lot to parse here, but I don’t think you went about it the right way.

    • “And I feel a little strange that more isn’t being made out of the death threats she received.”

      What proof do you have that “more isn’t being made” out of the death threats? I’m sure that pursuant to university policy, UCLA campus police are taking the threats seriously.

      Now if you want the public to back off of her because she’s received these threats, then you’re going against your own “Freedom of Speech means the right to say what you want” argument. She had the right to say the bigoted things she said, she has the right to be protected from any kind of threat as a result, but the public doesn’t have to lay off of her, or feel sorry for her if her statements put her in danger. That was her choice, and the resulting threats don’t diminish the sting of her insults.

      Also, I’m not sure if Wallace lives in university housing, but if she does then she probably signed a student conduct agreement. In that case, there is probably reason for her to be reprimanded, or even kicked out of housing for creating a hostile environment for her neighbors.

      • Last salvo, Naima, and then I’ll shut up, I promise!

        “What proof do you have that “more isn’t being made” out of the death threats? I’m sure that pursuant to university policy, UCLA campus police are taking the threats seriously.”

        I was referring to what I felt was Naima’s lack of… concern(?) over the death threats. I do not know what happened, I do not know about the threats themselves, but I should have made that more clear. I do not know what the uni is doing about the threats, or whether they were part of an elaborate ploy to get Wallace sympathy and a cushy internship at Fox News, but being threatened with death over her comments should raise some eyebrows amongst us.

        I should also have made clearer that I am going for the very narrow idea of Freedom of Speech in my argument that Wallace should not be punished BY THE UNIVERSITY for her words. I have no problem with people getting pissed at her and shouting her down. I have no problem with people glaring at her when she walks into the library. I have no problem with people making her feel uncomfortable with her voicing her ideas. I DO have a problem with the university getting involved. Let me repeat: there is a difference between the idea that you can say what you want with no reprecussions whatsoever and you can say what you feel without being disciplined by your parent institution. I am not arguing for the former.

        I am not familiar with university law, but explain to me whether a signed student code of conduct form for someone who lives in a dorm, in any university, would their ass in trouble for a video like this. And I doubt she lives on campus, with her neighbors bringing in their relatives and all. I sincerely hope that no university would punish a student for making a video like this, and leave the public to put people like Wallace in their place.

        As per Naima’s point about the school’s lackluster attempts at racial diversity, I have no argument against that. For the idea that the university should do more, I do disagree, but now that she has clarified her position I guess we could debate whether schools SHOULD punish stuff like this (and I consider her video fairly innocuous: no threats, no call to action, no epithets, no Yellow Peril) at another time.

        To add to this, back in skool some people wanted to set up an Asian-American Studies department. One of the things they couched their arguments on was the ‘Dennys Incident’, were a few years back some Asian kids went to Dennys and got beat up because of their race. Now, they said an AAS department would help prevent such violence from occuring in the future, which made no sense to me because it’s not like people who want to beat up Asians also take AAS classes for fun. Sometimes bad stuff happens and an institution cannot make radical changes to prevent it from happening in the future. A video like this is REALLY not that big a deal to me. I can whip out some stuff from Chinese Fenqing too, which does call for action (and occasionally ethnic-cleansing) but I don’t let that get to me either.

        • tony

          Winslowalrob, are you Asian? If not, then why would this video be a big deal to you anyway? I am Asian and I have no idea why this video warrants death threats, which are certainly disproportionate. I also agree that it’s not the university’s place to take disciplinary action.

          But I find disturbing that defenses of the right to make a video like this often seem to degenerate into defenses of the video itself, which your post ends up doing.

          I also find it problematic that the discussion of the death threats has drowned out the very real problems that exist in white-Asian relations, which this video is frankly more an expression of, than an embodiment of. The reason we can’t have a very productive discussion of the death threats (besides all agreeing that it’s a serious problem) is that we have no idea who were making them, why, their nature and veracity. Besides agreeing that death threats in general are inappropriate, we can do nothing but speculate. Therefore, making the discussion all about the response takes away an opportunity to discuss a dimension of race relations that is very rarely discussed.

          This young woman is at one of the top public Poli Sci departments in the country, with a stellar reputation, in one of the most diverse states in the country, with the highest Asian population. And an Asian student percentage of 37%. She is studying Political Science, the major that is supposed to give students the most understanding of the political realities around them, including racial and ethnic background. She is a junior in the spring semester, meaning that she is five semesters into the school. Meaning that she has had five semesters of studying for finals already. And this reaction is only coming out now? I am really curious to see how segregated is the student body at UCLA. If in a school like UCLA, with a 30-something % of Asian students, and a 30-something % of white students, in a liberal atmosphere, with young people at an age of life where they are supposed to be exploring new dimensions, cannot reach a woman like Alexandra Wallace with basic racial tolerance, what society on earth can?

          You credibility is shot by saying the video is innocuous. I do not agree that the video was “innocuous” at all; and I don’t see any other Asians saying it was innocuous. Of course, if you are not Asian it may be “innocuous” to you, because you are not the target of the insidious and widespread racial stereotypes that it perpetuated.

          Also, in case you didn’t know, this video was supposed to be part of a blog and a larger media campaign on a similar theme, according to news reports. If so it wouldn’t fall outside the boundaries of a popular culture where Asians are often the butt of jokes if they do exist.

          Finally, things that happen in other countries do not excuse what happened here. Asians in America are not Chinese Fenqing. Just because there are fascists in China, it does not mean that there is some moral equivalence where it is open season on Asian Americans. Most of us don’t have the luxury of ultranationalism. We are struggling to hold onto our identity as it is in a larger culture that does not really acknowledge our existence. I have to say that I am ESPECIALLY hurt that a Westerner who has apparently lived and taught and been taught in China and obviously has some knowledge of Chinese culture as well as an overall impressive educational background, would miss the point here. It reminds me of the wikileaks revelations about Kevin Rudd’s remarks on going to war with China.

  • April

    Yeah, I have to agree with Winslowalrob that it wouldn’t really be appropriate for the university to take disciplinary action against her. Universities have to support freedom of speech, for better or worse. They can’t be in the business of policing thoughts. (The only exception I see is if such speech encouraged violence, e.g. chanting pro-rape slogans. Yes, sadly, this has happened at my alma mater.) There were two similar incidents at Yale with campus publications when I was there. We held forums to discuss what was problematic about the incidents, and I recall in both cases that some of my friends wanted the university to establish a set of standards for publications regarding race. That suggestion, IMO, was also problematic. Race is a very complex topic, and discussions around it are often painful. There are plenty of discussions and comments made in good faith that could be read/heard/seen as inflammatory. (Recent example: Jalen Rose’s “Uncle Tom” comment.) I think determining offensiveness, as opposed to, say, plagiarism, is way too subjective to trigger disciplinary action. Furthermore, a reprimand from the university would do nothing to address the circumstances, outlined by Rivas, and underlying views that would lead a student to post such a video. It would only encourage students who harbor racist views to keep quiet–until they slip up, of course. And then you have a vicious cycle.

  • tcat888

    Winslowalrob and April,
    You are using freedom of speech as excuse to defend Alexandra Wallace racist comment. That’s also very biased and as an American I don’t believe our country’s Freedom of Speech serves that purpose. The dean of UCLA also said, people can not use Freedom of Speech to demean other races.
    I also believe the university should do something about the students Wallace’s racist rant. What she said and the mocking behavior she did in the video is a hateful insult to other race. If there is no consequence, then what does that tell others?

  • Tcat,
    I respectfully disagree. Freedom of Speech means the right to say what you want without the coercive or legal apparatus of the state inhibiting that right. Other people can argue with you, shout you down, et al, but a private citizen can say what they want with generally no legal consequences. Now, we get into a grayer area when involving a university, but unless she is professionally affiliated with the university the university cannot touch her. Nor should it. Now, if she was working for the university she should be sacked, but that’s not the case. The popular opposition to her voice (sans the alleged death threats) also did a great job in making her see… if not the error in her ways, at least not to voice such opinions out loud.

    Now, had she said Asian peoples phones should be confiscated, or that they should be put into camps, then that crosses into a desire for action, which freedom of speech does not always cover. The university would have had every legal right (meaning they would not get the pants sued off them) to punish her if she was calling for action. But she did not, hence Freedom of Speech.

    Trust me, freedom of speech is pretty awesome, and whatever problems you might face in the cultural sphere, the fact that you will not get arrested for saying crazy-ass s@#$ speaks for a good society.

  • Naima

    “So what does it mean if Wallace does not get reprimanded? More importantly, what will it mean if UCLA doesn’t get their act together?”

    In case some were wondering I was definitely attempting to point out that the structural lack of diversity on the campus was more at fault here than the racist rants of this young college student. Next time I will be less sparse with my OWN actual comments instead of leaving them open to various interpretations…

    As in ACTION…I do expect something to be done about her statements but not so as extreme that she should be kicked off of campus…what good really would that do? I would suggest some boot camp sensitivity training. I would rather see Wallace learn from her mistakes and perhaps give UCLA a chance to have a discussion about why she felt that her message would be welcomed by her collegiate collegues.Freedom of speech protects everyone, and Wallace,only from the governments ability to suppress her right to say whatever she’d like but it does not leave her comment unpublishable. If she has violated the school’s rules of conduct she should be reprimanded, is she hasn’t let the chips fall where they may.

    As for the death threats they are in no means a justified response to her ignorance, and I only reported the fact to demonstrate that many racist ranters rush to apologize to save face without recognizing why what they did was hurtful. She did not post the video and immediately say to herself “Shit, I messed up I should post an apology on Youtube right away!” Instead it took threats of violence (which again I do not condone) to initiate “remorse.” Michale Richards (Cosmo Kramer via Seinfeld), Dr. Laura and now Wallace all fall into that I’m-sorry-I-got-caught-ish that usually follows after intense community/media backlash. I hope that eventually that “sorry” means something down the line.

    Thanks for the great discussion.