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International students deal with social media racism

July 23, 2012

It happens frequently. Steve Tzeng will walk down Grand River Avenue on weekend nights and will have to deal with racial slurs and comments about his Asian ethnicity.

Although it’s not something he can ever get used to, it’s something he has learned to absorb so he can move on — until the next time it happens.

Three incidents of racial slurs against Asians were reported in the last year, Chinese Faculty Club president John Jiang said.

“There seems to be a big (divide between) international students and other students on campus,” Tzeng said.

Last week, Tzeng was shocked to learn of a Twitter account named @MSU_Token_Asian, with a “bio” reading “I Come To MSU For Bettah Lifestyle.”

The Asian Pacific American Student Organization, or APASO, began posting about the issue with comments saying “it still demonstrates the growing anti-Asian sentiment at MSU.” Tzeng, a supply chain management senior is APASO’s former co-president.

The owner of the Twitter account was unable to be contacted and the account has since been deleted.

Although Tzeng said accounts such as this further divide students by promoting stereotypes, computer engineering junior Xinye Ji said stereotypical jokes such as these can sometimes be funny.

“It really shouldn’t be acceptable, but when it happens you can only ignore it and laugh,” said Ji, who immigrated to the U.S. from China as a child.

Ji said there is a problem with prejudice and racism against Asians and has heard many students say that Asian students should “Go back to China.”

Jiang said his group, Spartans for a Global Tomorrow, works to bridge the gap between international students and American-born students, and gives students tips to avoid issues, such as not buying expensive cars that may be targeted.

“Students are afraid to report this,” Jiang said. “We have over 3,000 (Chinese) students now enrolled at MSU … a lot of Chinese students, they do want to have American friends but somehow they don’t know how.”

Tzeng said having a separate building for the Multicultural Center would help.

Although Jiang said steps are being taken to encourage cultural integrations, he still sometimes becomes upset or saddened by racial incidents against Asians on campus or around town.
“It’s alarming,” Jiang said. “This is not the MSU I know.”

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