Opinion: Jimmy Kimmel’s situation reflects American society

Haoran Li

Haoran Li

Haoran Li is a sophomore communications studies major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].

Most Americans recognize Jimmy Kimmel as a comedy host. He can express whatever he wants as long as it is funny enough. However, he has been embroiled in an awkward situation because of absentminded statements made in the “Kid’s Table” segment of his show Oct. 16.

“America owes China a lot of money, $1.3 trillion. How should we pay them back?” Kimmel asked. A boy said, “Shoot cannons all the way over and kill everyone in China.”

“Kill everyone in China? OK, that’s an interesting idea,” Kimmel replied. If the boy said to kill everyone in America, Kimmel might still enjoy his peaceful life. However, some Chinese communities in America and Chinese-Americans were outraged at the suggestion on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

Tens of thousands of Chinese people and Chinese-Americans rallied in cities such as New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and others to protest. One of their signs said, “Apologize For Broadcasting Racial Hatred!” A talk show should be a fun show, but this segment caused rage and demonstrations from Chinese people and Chinese-Americans. It is not only a problem between Chinese people and Kimmel but also a serious issue in American society.

Many American immigrants are Chinese; they were the first Asian people to arrive in America in large numbers. Around 35,000 Asian people settled in America in 1860, most of them were Chinese, according to the 1860 Census. According to the U.S. Department of State, “As the numbers of Chinese laborers increased, so did the strength of anti-Chinese sentiment among other workers in the American economy.” There are around four million Chinese-Americans in America, according to a Centers for Disease Control report in 2011. It is obvious that the demonstrations against ABC and Kimmel are not a single issue but rather one of the problems in American society.

The Chinese communities and Chinese-Americans had such an incredible reaction for two reasons. First of all, there are many Chinese people, even Chinese-Americans, who live in the margin of America mainstream society. Lastly, some Americans still lack an understanding about China and Chinese people, whether they are Chinese people or Chinese-Americans.

People who demonstrated in the streets gave speeches. However, their pronunciation and intonation were really Chinese-English style. Americans can understand them, however, there is a communication gap, and it is a big reason why Chinese-English-style speakers cannot get involved in the American mainstream society. When they cannot make American friends in America, they can only hang out with Chinese people who have the same situation. It is a deteriorating cycle. They can live, can earn money, can buy goods and so on in America, but they live in the margin of American mainstream society. Their reaction to Kimmel’s show was not only their rage about the statement regarding killing everyone in China but also their rage of not being involved in American mainstream society.

This happened because of not only Chinese people and Chinese-Americans’ hypersensitivity but also the lack of understanding between each other. If Kimmel knew more about China and Chinese people, his situation would probably be better now.

America is a melting pot. It also means American society is more complicated than other societies. Chinese people and Chinese-Americans’ demonstrations are just a tiny reflection of deep conflicts in American society. If Americans cared more about these issues and tried to understand immigrants, the issues would be less complex and less serious in American society.