August 15, 2018

Open Letter to The Walt Disney Company: Why Do You Tolerate Homophobic and Racist Slurs?

Asian Americans for generations have had to deal with stereotypes, jokes and slurs from people like Rinder, who think they are clever and funny, but in fact just reveal their insensitivity, cluelessness and underlying racism.

August 15, 2018

Ben Sherwood
President Disney-ABC TV Group

Dear Mr. Sherwood,

Mike Rinder, the co-host of a show on the A&E Network, half owned by The Walt Disney Company, openly mocked my Asian name, me and my heritage by calling me “The Chan Man” on a blog he writes.

It’s not the first time Mike Rinder has printed this racist slur. I don’t even know the man, yet he’s mocked my name at least five times in the last few months in a blog he writes, spreading hate about my religion. (That’s another story for another day.)

I am a proud Asian American. I was born in Hong Kong, but at age three, moved to the United States with my family, later becoming an American citizen and successful business owner. I have a thick skin. My issue with Rinder calling me “Chan Man” (which, I have discovered, is also a homophobic slur) is less about me than it is about how much I detest all forms of bigotry and anyone who mocks Asian Americans.

Asian Americans for generations have had to deal with stereotypes, jokes and slurs from people like Rinder, who think they are clever and funny, but in fact just reveal their insensitivity, cluelessness and underlying racism. Mocking an Asian American’s name is tantamount to mocking their heritage and who they are. It’s the kind of insult an obnoxious bully hurls at someone on a schoolyard, and such ignorance and insensitivity is simply unacceptable in society today.

But what I especially can’t comprehend is how Disney would condone such behavior in one of its on­-air personalities, allowing him to slur someone’s name and reputation in this manner, and why there are no repercussions for someone who casts bigotry at Asian Americans. I would expect that, of all companies, Disney would be particularly sensitive to this kind of racism.

After all, Disney is the company behind Mulan and The Joy Luck Club, the one that brought Disneyland to Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo. Its show, Andi Mack, on the Disney Channel is about a multi­-generational Asian American family.

Just two years ago, Disney’s ABC network aired the 2016 Oscars, which were widely criticized for stereotypical jokes made at the expense of Asian Americans, leading to a public apology. Was a lesson not learned here?

How can a seemingly enlightened company like Disney tolerate someone working at one of its networks, who persists in taunting an Asian American whom he doesn’t even know, by making fun of his name? It makes no sense.

Disney right now is about to ask its shareholders to approve buying Fox. A big part of the reason for this deal is so they can expand their reach and power in Asia. Before that happens, maybe they should make sure that they are doing everything right when it comes to being sensitive to Asian Americans and respecting their dignity. There is no place for anyone at Disney or A&E who spreads homophobic and racist slurs.

I earnestly ask you to dismiss Mike Rinder from your employ and send a message that you, too, won’t put up with such disgustingly offensive conduct.

Sincerely,

Michael Chan
Columbus, Ohio

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