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Voice Mail From a 'Concerned American'

Professor with Asian name shares voice mail she received -- full of inaccuracies and bigotry -- as one story of the impact of anti-Chinese and anti-immigrant rhetoric.

July 2, 2018
 
Istockphoto.com/Peter Pal

The voice mail Karen Fang received last week alarmed her -- and alarmed many others when she shared it on social media.

The caller, who identified herself as a "concerned American," was apparently trying to reach someone else at the University of Houston, where Fang is a professor of English. It's unclear who the target was, but presumably someone else with an Asian last name, whom the caller assumed had no right to teach or be in the United States. The caller said she was reaching out after having learned that the professor she wanted to reach had been educated in Shanghai. (Fang's degrees are from the University of Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins University.)

The caller says she is a "loyal citizen of the United States" who was alerting Fang (or whomever the real intended recipient of the call was) that she had called the president's office at Houston to report her concerns that these Asian professors may not be legally in the United States. The caller asked how the person she thought Fang was could "be a permanent fixture" at a public university. "How can you teach loyalty or promote patriotism?" the caller asked.

People in universities, especially those educated abroad, are "wanting to make us a global country," when "we're not going to be a part of a global society," the caller said. "We're not going to be assimilated into a pagan and Communist nation," the caller added. "We are a Christian nation."

Fang shared the message on her Twitter account, and you can hear the recording here.

In a series of tweets, Fang described her feelings about receiving the voice mail.

Many academics and others responded to Fang's postings, noting that they too experience such comments, and experience them more now than in the recent past.

A spokesman for the University of Houston confirmed that people there had received the voice mail, and he expressed frustration over its content.

"It’s ignorant and unfortunate," he said. "UH is the second most diverse public research institution in the country. We are proud of the culture we continue to build that celebrates that diversity, and that diversity is essential in preparing our students to succeed in a global economy. Those on the receiving end of the message have been assured that they have the university’s support."

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