Station’s tsunami song ignites protest

The racially charged “Tsunami Song” which mocks tsunami victims, sparked outrage on campus when it aired on a New York City radio station this past week.

The Asian American Students Alliance has collected 590 letters since Monday protesting what it described as a racist radio broadcast. The letters urge that those responsible for the broadcast be fired, and that the Federal Communications Commission levy fines against the radio station. In a meeting Thursday evening, AASA members discussed the progress of their campaign against the song’s creators and made plans to send the petitions to parties involved.

“The author of this song is so distant that he feels that he can make fun of the victims of the tsunami,” said Hao Wang ’07, the chair of AASA’s Political Action and Education Committee. “It shows insensitivity to human suffering and trivializes the tragedy that happened to members of other ethnicities.”

The “Tsunami Song,” which aired in New York City on Jan. 18, was a parody of the 1985 single “We Are the World.” In the song, tsunami victims were referred to with ethnic slurs.

The “Tsunami Song” was written and aired by the staff of Hot 97 WQHT-FM’s “Miss Jones in the Morning” program.

Wang said AASA is demanding that Hot 97 apologize and fire the employees involved in airing the “Tsunami Song,” especially Miss Jones, whose actual name is Tasha Nicole Jones, and who Wang said is “the public face of this controversy.”

In an statement on its Web site posted Feb. 1, Hot 97 announced that it had terminated two employees, suspended three others for two weeks, including Jones, and was diverting their salaries into a $1 million donation to tsunami relief. In the release, station representatives wrote that the “offensive, racially insensitive comments” made on the show were “socially and morally indefensible.”

A spokesperson from Hot 97 declined to comment on the details of the incident.

AASA plans to send the letters it has collected to Hot 97, as well as its owner company, Emmis Communications, and the Federal Communications Commission. Each letter will be sent individually. AASA has also circulated an e-mail and flyers informing students of the broadcast.

Christopher Lapinig ’07, the moderator of AASA, said the organization is also urging the FCC to levy fines on Hot 97 for the profane speech in the broadcast.

“If the FCC would levy fines for the Janet Jackson incident, which didn’t carry the same hurtful connotations as being blatantly racist and insensitive, then there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be able to levy fines on this radio station,” he said.

Lapinig is a staff reporter for the Yale Daily News.

But one student said that though the comments were insensitive, they did not warrant government intervention in free speech.

“When you start levying fees, you start messing around with what people can and can’t say,” Chris Ellington ’08 said. “That’s very dangerous ground.”

A spokeswoman for the FCC would not comment directly upon the “Tsunami Song” because it is currently under investigation, but said that there are strong restrictions on the commission’s ability to regulate programming.

“With certain exceptions, the commission is prohibited by the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, from engaging in activities that may be regarded as program censorship,” she said. “Though we may find something offensive, the commission may not curb expression regarding race, background or religious belief unless it involves a clear and present danger.”

Members of the Asian American Students Alliance gather in the Saybrook College dining hall to discuss their campaign against the originators of the “Tsunami Song.” The song, which was played last month on the New York City radio station Hot 97, contains ethnic slurs and mocks the victims of December’s disaster in South Asia.
Ed Stein
Members of the Asian American Students Alliance gather in the Saybrook College dining hall to discuss their campaign against the originators of the “Tsunami Song.” The song, which was played last month on the New York City radio station Hot 97, contains ethnic slurs and mocks the victims of December’s disaster in South Asia.

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