Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Ted Turner Apology

March 14, 2007

Background: Last week, CNN founder Ted Turner addressed a major corporate conference in the Bay Area, hosted by the Bay Area Council. Mr. Turner was the keynote lunch speaker, and when asked about the future of alternative fuel use in China, he replied, "The Chinese are very smart people. Have you ever met a dumb Chinaman?" An attendee noted that the audience did not react to the offensive word, and some laughed, including the moderator.

OCA-East Bay Chapter alerted the OCA national office to this incident. The national office sent a letter to Mr. Turner, informing him about the derogatory nature of the word, and its violent history. Mr. Turner's office responded immediately, issuing a statement of apology. Both OCA's original letter and Mr. Turner's response are below.


March 13, 2007

Mr. Ted Turner
One CNN Center

Atlanta, GA 30303

Dear Mr. Turner:

On behalf of OCA, a national Asian Pacific American Organization with 80 chapters and affiliates nation-wide, I am writing to express our dismay at your use of derogatory slang to refer to people of Chinese descent during your address at the Bay Area Council's recent Outlook conference on March 8, 2007.

We received a report from our chapter in the Bay Area that, in answering a question about the use of alternative fuels in China, you used the term "Chinaman." While there is sometimes confusion about the word, it has a loaded meaning in the Asian Pacific American community.

The word gains most of its notoriety from the late nineteenth century, from the time of the California Gold Rush and continental railroad expansion. This was an era in which tensions between white and Chinese laborers ran high; the US Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, a ban on the further immigration of Chinese to the US; and numerous lynchings and other violent attacks on Chinese in the US occurred frequently, including the Chinese Massacre of 1871, when a white mob entered Los Angeles' Chinatown and brutally killed around 20 Chinese residents.

"Chinaman" came to be used to describe people of Chinese descent in an insulting and racist manner, with many negative implications on the character of both the individual and the Chinese people as a whole. A "Chinaman" was inferior to whites, duplicitous and stupid. Today, the word still has derogatory connotations.

We trust that you did not use the word with any racist intent, but we think the use of the term in a public forum, especially one in which the audience included Asian Pacific Americans, was highly inappropriate and offensive.

We hope this letter has been helpful in bringing to light the legacy of violence and racism associated with the word "Chinaman," and we welcome further dialogue with you and your staff. We look forward to your timely response.


Ginny Gong
OCA National President


Statement by Ted Turner:

I sincerely regret my recent comments made at the Bay Area Council's Outlook conference on Thursday, May 8th in San Francisco. As many people know, I do not believe in any form of prejudice or discrimination, and was unaware that the term "Chinaman" was derogatory and hurtful to the Asian Pacific American community. I have the deepest respect for all cultures and have dedicated what time and resources I have to unify this diverse country and world around the common cause of greater peace. Please accept my apology for any anguish my remarks may have caused, as it was not my intention to offend or disrespect anyone.

Hope Chu

Communications Manager :: OCA

1322 18th St NW
Washington DC 20036

fon: 202 223 5500
fax: 202 296 0540

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