U.C.L.A. student's video rant against Asians fuels firestorm

  • When Alexandra Wallace recorded her rant about Asian students using cellphones in the library at the University of California, she was alone.
When Alexandra Wallace recorded her rant about Asian students using cellphones in the library at the University of California, Los Angeles, she was alone, speaking to her computer.

But since she posted the three-minute video to YouTube, Ms. Wallace, a third-year political science student at U.C.L.A., has achieved a sudden, unwelcome celebrity: her video has been viewed by millions of people, and she has become the subject of nationwide condemnation and the catalyst of a debate about racial intolerance and free speech.

"Please expel this ignorant woman immediately," Kiki Gyrle wrote on Facebook, where there are many posts about Ms. Wallace, some too profane to print. "Tolerating such discourse of hate and racism is now being construed as policy to condone such tirades."

In the video, Ms. Wallace complains about Asian students in the school library using their cellphones to call family members after the tsunami in Japan. At one point, she mimics people speaking an Asian language.

"The problem is these hordes of Asian people that U.C.L.A. accepts into our school every single year, which is fine," Ms. Wallace said in the video. "But if you're going to come to U.C.L.A., then use American manners."

Robert Hernandez, a professor of Internet journalism at the University of Southern California, said Ms. Wallace's story served as a reminder of the need to be aware of your "digital footprint" in the Internet age. "People feel a false sense of privacy on the Internet that isn't there," he said.

Ms. Wallace has removed her video from YouTube, and issued an apology to the U.C.L.A. student newspaper. She could not be reached for comment.

Still, others have reposted the video online, along with parodies, remixes and responses, and diatribes against Ms. Wallace have continued. She has also received threats by phone and e-mail.

On Monday, U.C.L.A.'s chancellor, Gene Block, released a statement that deemed the video "thoughtless and hurtful" and called for a more civil discourse. Officials said the university was looking into possible disciplinary action against Ms. Wallace.

Mr. Block's Facebook page has become a hotbed of comments about the video, some attacking Ms. Wallace and Mr. Block.

"While in front of the computer, it's easier to make comments or threats anonymously," Professor Hernandez said. "And people fall into the same kind of behavior they're condemning." 

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