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Asian Students Angered Over "Racist" Cartoon

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By Cheryl Brown

Asian students at UCR are upset by what they call a racist cartoon, that ran in the Highlander, the university’s student newspaper.

The cartoon depicts an Asian Teaching Assistant standing in front of a classroom speaking in broken English with two White students in the foreground asking each other, "Where did all the English speaking grad students go?"

Liking it to the Oakland Ebonics issue a few years ago, Emilio Virata, Jr, Director of Asian Pacific Student Programs said, "there are a set of assumptions of what a lecturer ought to sound like." He continued, "The cartoon was a racist depiction of 150 years ago when the railroad workers would be depicted with their head back and mouth open speaking something that people didn’t understand," he said.

He did agree there is a problem at UCR with the TA’s speaking different dialects. Kahlil Ford, Editor in Chief of the Highlander said there is a perceived problem with the teaching assistants.

"There are varying levels of English proficiency and people in certain majors have concerns. If it were Spanish in a Spanish class that would be ok but the cartoon depicts students in Economics class and they (people in those majors) have deep concerns that they can’t understand the lecturers.”

Virata said, “it is not soley the TA, it is the classroom dynamics. Is the student prepared when they come to class? The real issue is, are they able to establish a strong connection?," said Virata.

One unnamed source said that the issue was brought to a head by a Sociology graduate students. "I don’t think that is the way [the cartoon should have been taken] and it’s sad. We can never seem to get beyond race," said the source, who sympathized with the issue.

"People felt hurt. There is a issue. They (students) hesitated at first but the feelings of stereotypes and offensiveness came up. They thought they were being over sensitive so we have had dialogue and discussion," said Virata.

"In the context of a classroom you have to understand the instruction," said Ford.
Ford did admit that the issue could have been handled more journalistically in an editorial. He understood the dynamics of the cartoon.

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