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Pet Sins January 2000

Seattle radio station broadcasts minority caricatures

I had been listening to a Seattle radio station which plays current hit music. The DJs are European American. One of them, a white male, would pronounce the name of Ricky Martin with an imitation Latino affectation. Although I am not a Ricky Martin fan, I was a little uncomfortable that he was singled out as an "ethnic" person by having his name pronounced with a fake Spanish accent. Anyway, I thought there wasn't much of a case for me to write in and complain about.

More than 1 person noticed the insensitivity of that station. Another white DJ had criticized this particular radio station. He said their DJs play a lot of black music but have no real interest in catering to the African American community.

Then, the radio station played a parody of the Backstreet Boys hit song "I Want It That Way", changing the refrain "I want it that way" to "We swear we're not gay." Yucky huh? But since the lyrics did not explicitly say being gay was negative, I wasn't sure if there was a case to be made. The notoriously rude DJs were known for verbally bashing listeners who call in. Anyway, angry teenage girls called to complain, and were rudely dismissed.

Some months later they played a mockery of Mambo #5. Combo #5 is a caricature of a Chinese restaurant worker promoting Chinese food in his heavy accent. The original line "talk is cheap" was substituted with "duck is cheap" etc. It is hard to describe the imitation accent on paper but if you hear it, it is VERY tasteless. This piece was the most blatant mockery of a particular minority group I've heard from this station. The Chinese takeout worker with an exaggerated accent is a stereotypical image of Asian Americans.

I cringed as non-Asian callers phoned in to congratulate the DJ on how funny that song is. Clearly, it is still acceptable to openly insult certain minority groups on the airwaves. That was the last straw. I wrote in to the station to complain. That was more than a month ago and they haven't replied. A local Korean American journalist also said that radio station had a long history of bashing Asian Americans.

I never tuned in to that station again.

Seattle listener
1999