Last week, my social media timelines were blown up with callout posts of popular YouTuber Ricegum’s disgusting actions. After looking further into it, outrageous would be an understatement on how I feel about his travel vlog that took place in my beloved hometown, Hong Kong.
Ricegum, or Brian Le, is a popular internet influencer with more than 10 million subscribers on YouTube. A few weeks ago, he travelled to Hong Kong and filmed a travel vlog with the most disrespectful content. Even though he is an Asian American, he made fun of the stereotype that “Asians eat cats and dogs” by saying things like “Where the meow meow at,” “I am trying to eat some dog meat,” and described a famous street food dish, beef offal, as “dogmeat” and “disgusting.” He also sexually harassed people around the street asking “where the hoes at” and humiliated people around the city by forcing people to eat his half-eaten ice cream on camera. These are only few of the many horrid things he did in Hong Kong; therefore, I feel the immediate need to call out his discriminatory, vile, insulting actions.
Before even going into the harmful Asian stereotypes in the video, Ricegum doesn’t even have basic morality or respect for others. Needless to say that this was broadcasted worldwide with a massive amount of viewers, sexually harassing people on the street and forcing people to eat his half-eaten food were extremely demeaning in the first place. After that, he was even defending himself in his follow up video “Why everyone in China Hates me”, insisting that it was a “joke.” This isn’t a joke. It was never a joke. And if it were one, it was an extremely distasteful one. Not only was he wondering why everyone in Hong Kong is furious, he wasn’t even showing one bit of remorse in his follow up video and continued to be offensive.
Now, for him to joke about the stereotype of his own race that “Asians eat cats and dogs” and to make fun of people’s English proficiency in Hong Kong and Chinese Americans in diaspora is contributing to white supremacy. People of color have been oppressed by white supremacy and told to “go back to their own country” for centuries. The discriminatory words coming out of the mouth of an Asian American is just as harmful and racist to the AAPI community. He needs to recognize the immense effort that was put into fighting against white supremacy and preservation of culture and heritage by activists of color.
While delicate and authentic street food like beef offal defines the urban, traditional, genuine food culture in Hong Kong and other South Asian countries, he referred beef offal at a restaurant as “dog meat” and expressed his disgust. Respecting the culture in a foreign place is the bare minimum he can do, even if he doesn’t appreciate the street food culture. Besides, Hong Kong was actually one of the first places in Asia to outlaw the inhumane practice of “eating dog and cat meat.”
Also, he made fun of people’s English proficiency when they couldn’t communicate with him in English and believed that it is weird that people in Hong Kong don’t speak this “popular” language. He praised the English language and called it “popular,” but failed to acknowledge that colonialism and imperialism are the reasons for the globalization of the English language. Indeed, Hong Kong has adopted English as one of the official languages since British colonial era, and English is still commonly used institutionally along with Cantonese/Traditional Chinese in Hong Kong. His “jokes” are totally illogical and bigot, and he is insensitive to the harm his ignorant actions induce as a person of color.
Not only is he harmful to the AAPI community, it is also oppressive of him to keep referring Hong Kong as China in his videos, especially when Hong Kong Establishment Day Anniversary (July 1st) was right around the corner. Calling my hometown China fails to recognize our resistance for our liberty, our freedom, and our cultures as Hongkongers. For the past 21 years since the sovereignty of Hong Kong was returned to China (PRC) from British colonization, we struggled under China’s oppression and strived to reclaim our Hongkonger identity. The more we try to fight for democracy and autonomous Hong Kong, the more China asserts its paternalistic powers to subjugate us. He needs to check his privileges, because Asian Americans like him are generally more privileged than a lot of native Asians, having more freedom, personal liberties and opportunities in the US. So please don’t label us as China. For future references, don’t identity Taiwan, Macau, Xinjiang, or Tibet as China either.
Hong Kong is arguably one of best metropolitan with delicious food, world-class shopping places, amazing nightlife and some of the most genuine people. These are things that made my fondest memories growing up in Hong Kong and are things I miss so dearly every day living in the Midwest. I have grown to love my Hongkonger identity being away from home, which means I am also here to defend it at all cost.
Ricegum, you are an insult to the AAPI community and the creative community, a contributor to white supremacy, and a walking disgrace to me and my fellow Hongkongers. Own up to your mistakes!