5 Racist Responses to the Asiana Airlines Crash

Investigators are trying to sort out what happened in the July 6th crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 in San Francisco. But one thing the accident — which has so far led to the death of three Chinese teenagers and injured more than 180 — has made too clear is that racist views about Asians remain entrenched in U.S. society.

1. Comments about Asians as “bad drivers”

Just after the Asiana Airlines flight crash-landed, some thought it a fitting moment to resurrect an outdated stereotype about Asians as bad drivers.”Of course the Korean plane crashed. Asians can’t drive, what makes them think they can fly a plane?” was one comment reported on the Tumblr Public Shaming.

2. References to Asians’ appearance

Among the responses collected on Public Shaming were some that resuscitated yet another ugly stereotype about Asians’ physiology: ”Dayum asians cant drive… nd now they cant fly???bf*ckin chinks! Open ur eyes mof*ckers!” Another individual perpetuated the same ignorance by writing that the airplane “probably had an Asian pilot and that he was squinting so much he couldn’t see the runway.”

3. Chicago newspaper mocks Asian accents

The Chicago Sun-Times found itself at the center of a controversy after publishing the headline “Fright 214″ for a story about the Asiana crash. The wording “‘perpetuated the oft-used stereotype of an Asian accent,” says the Asian American Journalists Association. While Chicago paper’s editor apologized for offending anybody, he still noted that it simply hadn’t occurred to them “that the play on words could be construed as offensive.”

4. Racist names for pilots

Asiana Airlines threatened to sue Fox News affiliate KTVU after one of its announcers read out racist Asian names for the pilots. The names were provided to KTVU by a summer intern from the National Transportation Safety Board; he or she is no longer with the agency.

Simply reading the names (which included “Sum Ting Wong,” “Ho Lee Fuk,” and “Bang Ding Ow”) out loud would have alerted (you hope) KTVU that the names were a prank of the most juvenile sort. A person with knowledge of Asian culture and language would have recognized that “Sum” and “Bang” are not surnames in Mandarin or Korean (and they would have detected the stereotype of an Asian accent in the Chicago Sun-Times’ headline). KTVU’s racist faux points to the need for more instruction about Asian names, languages and culture.

5. Assumptions about South Korea’s “hierarchical” culture “blamed” for the crash

After the airplane crashed in San Francisco, a few U.S. news outlets rushed to assume that “South Korea’s hierarchical culture might have played a role in the accident” as  write on Poynter.orgCNNCNBC, the Washington Post and The Times were among those who reviewed previous crashes of South Korean planes and then specifically asked if “the country’s strictly hierarchical corporate culture inhibited a trainee pilot from questioning his trainer,” the Los Angeles Times says.

As one person wrote on the web, “it is too early in the investigation to blame South Korean culture, before even the black box data analysis has come out.”

Just days before the Asiana crash, the American Society of News Editors released its newsroom census. Minority employees now make up 12.37 percent of all newsroom employees, a figure that is slightly up from last year and certainly a trend in the right direction, as the responses to the Asiana Airlines crash very much reveal.

Having more diversity in newsrooms could very likely have prevented not only KTVU’s serious misstep but led news outlets to realize when they were reinforcing long-outdated racist attitudes. With the U.S. on its way to becoming a true multiethnic society, the need for a greater minority presence in newsrooms is imperative, to provide thoughtful, informed coverage about events here in the U.S. and around the world.

Photo from Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim V1 years ago

thanks for the article.

Helga G.
Helga Ganguly4 years ago

Personally,I really think this is being blown out of proportion to take focus from the right coast to the left coast. I live in the South Bay, and my first thought upon hearing of the crash, was,we're going to have another story of heroism when a plane that large crashes and there are only 2 (later 3) fatalities.As for 12% minorities in Newsrooms,please check the figures in the Bay area. I think it's more like 50%. You must be adding Iowa in there .San Francisco-we have the largest China town.We have Latino Mayors,Mayors from India, Gay Pride parades, and the rest of the country making fun of us. But one thing we don't have is a lack of minorities.

Lisa D.
Lisa D4 years ago

It only shows how stupid they are.

This was a tragedy! Lives were lost, families are in mourning.
How would you feel if someone you knew was on that plane?

Neil A.
Neil A4 years ago

There are too many stupid racists in the USA, just realise why there are 20% good there are maybe 80 % nuts & biased.

trina firey
Trina D. firey4 years ago

Discriminatory statements negatively reflect upon the people who speak them. Inability to accept differences in others is associated with ignorant, uneducated & classless people. Their remarks do not warrant our attention and are not worthy of our time

Walter G.
Walter G4 years ago

Gee, I don't believe I've ever heard of reactions similar to that referring to US crashes. It just goes to show how bigoted some sectors of our population have become. That goes for any race in the US one can name. The country is badly divided along religious and racial lines now, far worse than the highly touted “Race Relations of the late 60s and 70s.” It is so nice to live among people as I do here who value an individual for their actions not how they look.

Veronica C.
Veronica C4 years ago

3. Chicago newspaper mocks Asian accents

They did not! It was NOT meant that way. People who saw that were looking for trouble.

Tim C.
Tim C4 years ago


Carole R.
Carole R4 years ago