Monday, March 15, 2010

YouTube/Google Restricts Racial Identity Expressions

Two weeks ago, I uploaded a spoken word piece on YouTube that pertained to finding love within myself and my racial identity, self-hatred as a Korean-American, and my unfathomable connection with the VA tech shooter, Seung-Hui Cho. The poem was titled: "To Seung-Hui Cho". The poem was not about condoning or glorifying Seung-Hui but rather how his life and mental health issues found a connection with my own troubled young life. The poem also touched upon mental health issues within Asian Americans, issues that are often ignored by society and their own families. I even put a warning in the description box that the poem would be very controversial and that I could only hope that people would read this with an open mind and heart. This is the poem in written form:

To Seung-Hui Cho
By Edward Hong

To society, he was a lunatic and a monster.
To his parents, he was their only boy.
To me, he was my brother,
The brother I never had.

Self-hatred defined my Korean identity.
Because if we are to suffer
The uncontrollable rages of our fathers,
The hesitant silences of our mothers,
The sounds of chink and gook by strangers,
Then I do not want to be Korean,
I do not want to be Asian,
I do not want this yellow skin,
I do not want this yellow sin.

Because of this self-hatred,
Hatred that made me hate the world,
I could not help but feel connected with Seung-Hui.
If he is indeed a monster,
Then am I a monster as well?

As I delved deeper into his life
And saw how his intertwined with mine,
As my world grew darker and overshadowed with his,
Am I any different from my silent brother?

So I had to look deeper within myself
And there, I found something so simple within myself:
I have too much love to be driven to such despair.
I must learn to love myself and live out my life,
So I can give my love to the people around me.

I have a choice in how I want my story to be told.
I can be ashamed of my ugly past,
And inflict it on the world
Or I can accept it and let it be told,
Let something ugly be turned
Into something beautiful.

Now, I am proud of my Korean heritage,
The heritage that I once despised.
Proud enough that labels and stereotypes,
They cannot define who I am,
And who I want to be.

Thank you for helping me find love in myself.
Thank you Seung-Hui,
My silent brother.

After two weeks in, YouTube sends me this email:

YouTube | Broadcast Yourself™

Regarding your account: eddlyhong
The following video(s) from your account have been disabled for violation of the YouTube Community Guidelines:
  • To Seung Hui Cho (Spoken Word) - (eddlyhong)
Your account has received one Community Guidelines warning strike, which will expire in six months. Additional violations may result in the temporary disabling of your ability to post content to YouTube and/or the termination of your account.

The YouTube Team

Someone in the YouTube community saw the video, didn't like it, and then flagged it. From there, a flagged video is reviewed by the YouTube staff and in the case the video violates their community guidelines, they remove the video. I was not surprised that my video got flagged but I WAS surprised to see my video removed. Which means it's pretty clear what YouTube's stance is.

I strongly believe that I did nothing wrong and only expressed how I found appreciation and love for myself and my Korean identity. The poem was simply expressing that I found salvation from the unlikeliest of places and because of that, I was in despair because I could somehow relate with the VA tech shooter. I do understand that the victims and family members of the students who lost their lives on that day would not want to hear anybody performing a poem about the man who commit all these heinous acts I was taken aback that one's personal and honest expression about combining the touchy topics of racial identity, mental health issues, and the VA Tech shooting (all explosive on their own) is considered dangerous and harmful to the YouTube community. YouTube says this about freedom of speech:

We encourage free speech and defend everyone's right to express unpopular points of view. But we don't permit hate speech (speech which attacks or demeans a group based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, and sexual orientation/gender identity). - YouTube community guidelines

Considering that I didn't even get a warning before they took down the video, I am wondering whether or not discussions on racial identity, especially the dark and uncomfortable aspects, are even tolerated on YouTube. In this day and age, we respect freedom of speech but why is it that YouTube can't do the same thing?


Anonymous said...

they probably thought you were going to go postal or something like him. but, i'm not sure i understand why you think there were issues with self-hatred with him...

Hai Huynh said...

Keep up the good work. People will hear you, even when others try to keep you quiet.