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A Racial Rant Inspires An Internet Balladeer

When an Asian-bashing video caused a stir on YouTube, Jimmy Wong responded in song. (YouTube)

It's the rant that spawned a thousand response videos.

In a YouTube video blog posted earlier this month, UCLA student Alexandra Wallace unloaded a litany of complaints about, as she put it, "these hordes of Asian people that UCLA accepts into our school every year." Wallace said she's especially offended by Asian students who talk on their cellphones in the library while she's trying to study.

That video quickly went viral — and, just as quickly, Wallace took it down. Later, she sent an apology to the campus newspaper, saying she had received death threats and was withdrawing from UCLA.

The videos created in response run the gamut — some bigoted, some earnest, some funny. But one of them stuck out: a musical retort with a catchy chorus, created by 23-year-old actor and musician Jimmy Wong.

Wong's response video, "Ching Chong! Asians in the Library Song," only took him about 10 hours to write, record and edit — but he says he waited a few days before starting. As he tells All Things Considered host Melissa Block, the song benefited from his patience.

"I was pretty offended at first, but then I realized that this is just someone going on a rant — we've all done it before," Wong says. "My visceral reaction to the video would not have been as appropriate."

"Appropriate" is how he says he hopes the final product turned out. The tone of the song, despite a few sharper jabs about Wallace's "pounds of makeup" and "big brain," is light and funny, which Wong says suited the situation best.

"Sending death threats to someone isn't an eye for an eye. [Wallace] never openly said, 'We should get rid of you,' " Wong says. "She complained about things and she was clearly racist, but she never really was hostile."

Wong says he hasn't heard from Wallace but is still holding out hope for a phone call — mainly to say there are no hard feelings.

"I would like to tell her that I totally forgive her," Wong says. "I would love to meet for coffee and give her a big hug."

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Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

It's the video rant that spawned a thousand YouTube responses.

(Soundbite of video blog)

Ms. ALEXANDRA WALLACE: The problem is these hordes of Asian people that UCLA accepts into our school every single year, which is fine...

BLOCK: But not really fine, as UCLA student Alexandra Wallace went on in that video blog she posted earlier this month. She spewed a bunch of complaints, among them Asians who don't use American manners, as she put it. Wallace said she's especially offended by Asian students who talk on their cell phones in the library while she's trying to study.

(Soundbite of video blog)

Ms. WALLACE: All of a sudden when I'm about to, like, reach an epiphany, overhear from somewhere: Oh. Ching chong, ling long, ting tong. Oh.

BLOCK: That video quickly went viral - and, just as quickly, Wallace took it down. Later, she sent an apology to the campus newspaper, saying she had received death threats and was withdrawing from UCLA.

The videos created in response run the gamut - some bigoted, some earnest, some funny. And there's this one with a catchy chorus from 23-year-old actor and musician Jimmy Wong.

(Soundbite of song, "Ching Chong! Asians in the Library Song")

Mr. JIMMY WONG (Actor and Musician): (Singing) I pick up my phone and say ching chong. It means I love you. Ling long, I really want you. Ting tong, I really don't know what that means.

FOGARTY: Jimmy Wong's YouTube video has more than 2 million views now, and he joins me from L.A. to talk about it.

Jimmy, when you first saw Alexandra Wallace's "Asians in the Library" video blog, what did you think?

Mr. WONG: I was pretty offended at first, but then I realized that...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. WONG: ...this is just someone going on a rant, and we've all done it before.

BLOCK: And why not turn it into a song?

Mr. WONG: Yeah. Exactly. I'm glad, though, I took a couple of days to write it instead of doing it right after the effect, because it probably - the song might have ended up being a whole different beast altogether.

BLOCK: You think it might have been a bit sharper?

Mr. WONG: The blade was still very sharp. My visceral reaction right - to the video would not have been as appropriate, I don't think.

BLOCK: You know, it is light and funny, but there are moments when you are clearly, you know, sticking the knife in just a little bit...

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: ...talking about her underneath her pounds of makeup.

(Soundbite of song, "Ching Chong! Asians in the Library Song")

Mr. WONG: (Singing) And underneath the pounds of makeup and your baby blue eyes, oh, oh.

BLOCK: So how would you describe the tone of what you ended up with?

Mr. WONG: It's got - I think it's sharp wit, if anything. In the same way that Alexandra Wallace didn't really - you know, she complained about things, and she was clearly racist, but she never really was hostile. And so I never want to have that same tone in my response because that wouldn't be appropriate, I think.

BLOCK: Have you heard from Alexandra Wallace by any chance?

Mr. WONG: No. It's one thing that I really wish that I would just get a call one day, and it would be her.

BLOCK: What would you want to hear her say?

Mr. WONG: I don't know, actually. I think anything would be great at this point. I would like to say - tell her that I totally forgive her, and I would love to meet for coffee and give her a big hug.

(Soundbite of song, "Ching Chong! Asians in the Library Song")

Mr. WONG: (Singing) Ching chong, it's never ending. Ling long, my head is spinning. Ting tong, still don't know what that means.

BLOCK: Yeah. I've been wondering whether this ching chong, ling long, ting tong is kind of going to enter the lexicon now. It's going to be...

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: ...a shorthand for something.

Mr. WONG: I've been receiving a lot of emails and replies on Twitter that have been saying that, you know, oh, my husband and I love your song so much. Every morning, I wake up and say, honey, I ching chong you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: What do you do with that inspiration? I don't know.

Mr. WONG: I think it's absolutely great. You destroy the power that racism has by turning it into something positive like this. And so I hope that it remains to be funny and enlightening at the same time. And if people want to use it in their everyday speech, I mean, I'm more than happy to support that.

BLOCK: I've been talking with the actor and musician Jimmy Wong. His video "Ching Chong! Asians in the Library Song" is on YouTube.

Jimmy, thanks so much.

Mr. WONG: Thank you.

(Soundbite of song, "Ching Chong! Asians in the Library Song")

Mr. WONG: (Singing) I hope one day you can meet my mother, my brother, sisters, grandmothers, grandpas and cousins. Oh, oh.

BLOCK: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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