Alexandra Wallace, the UCLA junior whose racist rant about Asian-American students made headlines this weekend, has apologized. But she's reportedly receiving threats.
The Daily Bruin confirms that Wallace was the speaker on the offensive video, something that was still in some doubt as of yesterday morning. It also confirms that the video, wherein Wallace complain about "hordes of Asian people" and (apparently unaware of the irony) suggests that they learn manners, was no joke or hoax. Wallace has issued an apology, stating,
Clearly the original video posted by me was inappropriate. I cannot explain what possessed me to approach the subject as I did, and if I could undo it, I would. I'd like to offer my apology to the entire UCLA campus. For those who cannot find it within them to accept my apology, I understand.
As apologies for inexcusable acts go, it could be worse — at least she doesn't say "I'm sorry you were offended." However, it's not really her "approach" that's the problem, it's her views themselves, and the apology doesn't seem to reflect a full understanding of this. And many are apparently dissatisfied with Wallace's expression of contrition — the Bruin says she contacted UCLA police Sunday, saying she'd received threats. A police spokesperson could not confirm whether any of these were death threats — but dean of students Robert Naples said, "If she's received a death threat, I find that as deplorable as her original YouTube video. If this is the response of students on campus, we've got a lot of work to do."
Of course, it's unclear whether Wallace's life was ever threatened — but death threats, or at least the rumor of them, have become almost a stock response in the aftermath of any public bad behavior. And then there's the inevitable reaction to those threats, a backlash in favor of the original offender. Says poli sci professor Phil Gussin, "What Wallace did was hurtful and inexcusable, but the response has been far more egregious. She made a big mistake, and she knows it, but … they responded with greater levels of intolerance." It's hard to tell whether he's referring to specific responses, or if he has inside information not known to the police. But his comment does play right in to a cycle that's become all too common in the age of viral videos and blog posts: offensive statement, public condemnation, threats, public condemnation of threats, rinse, repeat.
In all this, it's easy for the real issues to get lost. No, threats aren't an acceptable response to racist language (nor, while we're at it, is sexism). And yes, Wallace deserves police protection if she's in danger. But we shouldn't allow discussion of Wallace's video to devolve into yet another conversation about our society's rampant incivility. Her comments were racist, and racism needs to be addressed on its own, not lumped together with responses to racism into a general slurry of "intolerance," which makes it impossible to see the real issues at hand. Reactions to Wallace's screed — both at the university and in the media — need to focus on racial prejudice and ways to remedy that. The way Wallace has been treated since its release is really a separate issue.