The other shoe is beginning to drop for KDWB.
HealthPartners and AT&T say they didn’t see the humor in the parody song “Thirty Hmongs in a House,” and are pulling their ads from the radio station in St. Louis Park .
“The song about the Hmong community was highly offensive and not consistent for what we stand for,” HealthPartners spokesman Jeff Shelman told me this morning. “We expect our business partners to have many of the same values we have as a company, and until KDWB is in sync with us, we don’t have plans to advertise with them.”
The Minnesota HMO was one of several KDWB advertisers contacted over the weekend by a group calling itself the Coalition Against Racism for Everyone, or CARE. Here’s an excerpt from a form letter the group has emailed to sponors:
Since [sponsor] is not a corporate sponsor of intolerance, I request that you make a statement publically reinforcing [sponsor's] commitment to diversity and peaceful coexistence, distance [sponsor] from the racist actions of KDWB, and immediately discontinue all advertising on KDWB. To do otherwise would communicate support for hate speech in the state of Minnesota.
It is my hope, the hope of the more than 70,000 Hmong Americans in this state, and the hope of a broad coalition of diverse allies that [sponsor] will take a position of leadership on this issue.
KDWB last week apologized to “anyone we may have inadvertently offended, as this was never our intent.”
The tune, performed by KDWB employee Steve-O on Dave Ryan’s morning show, pokes fun at overcrowded living situations and teen pregnancy in the Hmong-American commnity. It was part of a regular feature in which listeners submit song titles — titles that Steve-O then turns into a little ditties that are meant to be funny.
But the CARE coalition’s Dan Hess tells me the song is a symptom of the much larger problem of racial stereotyping.
“I’m not suggesting Steve-O is a race-hater,” Hess says. “But the fact that these images came spewing out of him is indicative of something widely shared in our society, that there are cultural biases we can’t escape.”
Hess directs counseling services at Concordia University in St. Paul. He’s joined by Yee Chang, a well-known community activist whose wife is former state Sen. Mee Moua.
AT&T plans to release a statement later today that characterizes the song as “very demeaning to the Hmong. … We cannot financially support KDWB when it allows discrimination to be included in its broadcast.”
A Hmong friend of mine who tunes into the show regularly tells me that the listener who submitted the song title “Thirty Hmongs in a House” is apparently Hmong. That’s a detail that hasn’t been widely reported as part of this conversation.
Should that change how we view this incident, and whether it’s OK to laugh?