Hmong community and supporters protest outside the St. Louis Park studios on April 15, 2011. Leaders from TakeAction Minnesota and supporting organizations rallied after the cold morning march and then leaders went into the studio where they received a verbal agreement to a meeting that was scheduled later this week. (AAP photos by Tom LaVenture)
AAP staff report
With national rights groups joining the Hmong community’s outrage over racist remarks from a morning radio show, and more corporate advertisers pulling from the radio station KDWB, it has now issued third apology and agreed to meet with leaders about the issue.
KDWB came under fire following the airing of an impromptu parody song, “30 Hmongs in a House,” as part of a call in segment on the Dave Ryan in the Morning Show, where a performer makes up lyrics on the spot to the tune of popular songs. The lyrics to the call to sing a song about 30 Hmong in a house aired on March 22, and community responded that it perpetuated negative stereotypes of the Hmong community caused public outrage.
When the station claimed that its Hmong listeners understood the context of the program, TakeAction Minnesota’s Hmong Organizing Program organized a “Rally Against Racism” last Friday morning outside KDWB in St. Louis Park. More than 200 people participated and it concluded with a delegation of nine individuals entering the building to request a meeting with station manager Rob Morris and leaders of Clear Channel Communications.
The meeting was denied but local media coverage and phone calls to radio sponsors resulting in the loss of advertising led to three on air apologies and an agreement to a meeting this week.
TakeAction Minnesota’s Hmong Organizing Program posted demands that include Clear Channel and KDWB establishing policy to prohibit offensive anti-ethnic and racist commentary. The also demanded that it require annual diversity training for employees; community service in the Hmong community; and programming to educate listeners about the Hmong. They also demanded the firing of host Steve LaTart (Steve-O).
The KDWB apology which aired this week and is online has two on-air personalities and the station manager describing the Hmong community as some of the station’s most loyal listeners and that they were “very sorry for any offense the song caused, and that it was not the intent to hurt feelings.”
The show’s leader, Dave Ryan, added that he was concerned that the two previous apologies were not taken as sincere and that this third apology was to emphasize the sincerity.
The apology, however, stopped short of addressing the program content issues and of the TakeAction Minnesota demands. Instead, the station called for a “productive and civil dialogue.”
Hmong National Development, Inc., a subsidiary of Hmong American Partnership, and over 50 other local and national supporting organizations issued a joint letter to Clear Channel this week, calling on John Hogan, Clear Channel President/CEO, to instruct local Twin Cities affiliate KDWB to meet with Hmong community leaders and address the recent airing of a racist, sexist and classist portrayal of Hmong Americans.
HND and its allies request that Clear Channel ensure that KDWB are in adherence with Clear Channel’s Code of Business Ethics and Conduct, as well as FCC regulations, which sanction local stations airing obscene or indecent programming as defined by contemporary community standards. The local and national organizations highlight that the radio piece masks issues of systemic inequality and structural barriers that have historically marginalized communities of color.
HND reports that within 24 hours Clear Channel and KDWB responded to its letter and agreed to schedule a May 4th meeting with leaders and representatives from organizations from the Hmong community.
“KDWB has expressed that they welcome the recommendations of HND as to which leaders and what organizations will be invited. KDWB has also extended an invitation to HND to play a vital role in the development of its future programming and policies,” said the HDN statement.
Bao Vang, President and CEO of HND, stated in the letter that the goal would be to “engage the Hmong community through various initiatives to solicit feedback regarding how best to integrate socially just, racially inclusive, and culturally relevant content out onto the airwaves.”
“We look forward to a mutual dialogue with KDWB that we hope will start the healing process for our community in a proactive, respectful manner,” Vang stated.