Floyd Mayweather Jr. made the bad decision on Sept. 2 to allow himself to be filmed giving a racist rant against boxing rival Manny Pacquiao.
For those not in the know, the African-American Mayweather has been in talks since January to fight the Filipino Pacquiao. After two rounds of failed negotiations between the boxers, a match has yet to be set. So Mayweather decided to berate Pacquiao via Ustream. Rather than just take jabs at Pacquiao's boxing skills, Mayweather made Pacquiao's Asian heritage the focal point of his tirade.
In the video, Mayweather refers to Pacquiao as a "little yellow chump" and brags that he will force Pacquiao to "make me a sushi roll and cook me some rice" after beating him.
Although some Mayweather fans view his diatribe as good ole' trash talk, it's no such thing. It's racist babble filled with nasty stereotypes. I've outlined three of Mayweather's main generalizations about Asians below.
- All Asians Are Alike - Throughout his rant, Mayweather links Pacquiao to Japanese foods such as sushi. Pacquiao, though, is Filipino. The fact that Mayweather never used one anti-Filipino stereotype against Pacquiao indicates that he views Asian ethic groups as interchangeable with each other. This is a common Western stereotype of Asians, most likely seen in Westerners who label any Asian they encounter as "Chinese" or "Japanese."
- Asian Men Aren't Real Men - While insulting Pacquiao, Mayweather took pains to point out that he views his rival as a "girly man." He referred to Pacquiao as a "f____t" at one point and repeatedly as a "midget." At 5 feet 6, Pacquiao isn't very tall but neither is Mayweather, who's 5 feet 8. Given this, it appears that Mayweather's remarks about Pacquiao's stature weren't simple jabs at the Filipino boxing champ's height but challenges to his masculinity. Unfortunately, in popular culture Asian men are frequently portrayed as nerdy and asexual, which is why they're not often cast as romantic leads. Newer films such as "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle" and "Better Luck Tomorrow" depict Asian men in a different light, however.
- It's Funny to Stereotype Asians - The odd thing about the Ustream video of Mayweather is that he laughs throughout it. He clearly finds it funny when he boasts, for example, that he will cook Pacquiao up with "cats and dogs." One reason why anti-Asian racism isn't taken as seriously as, say, anti-Latino racism is that bigots against Asians often express their prejudice in a way designed to get laughs. Mayweather basically admitted as much when he apologized for his racist rant on Sept. 3. "Forgive me for saying what I said. I was just having fun. I didn't really mean it," he explained. But racism isn't "fun." It's hurtful.
Looking at Mayweather's demeanor on the videotape, I doubt that the boxer realized the impact his words would have on Pacquiao, the Filipino community and Asians generally. But just because Mayweather didn't understand that his rant would be considered racist doesn't excuse his conduct. Unfortunately, this isn't the first time someone has delivered a race-based tirade against Pacquiao this year. Radio talk show host Adam Carolla made Pacquiao's ethnicity the basis of a verbal assault against the Pacman in April. What gives?
Racism directed at Asians is just as troublesome as racism directed at other minority groups. Public figures like Mayweather and Carolla need to know that their anti-Asian rants are unacceptable. If you want to hold Mayweather accountable, consider contacting his publicist to demand that he apologize to the Asian community for his offensive remarks.