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SuChin Pak recalls racist incident working at MTV News

·Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
·3 min read
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  • SuChin Pak
    Korean American journalist

SuChin Pak, a fixture at MTV for more than a decade, says that a white male executive once used an ethnic slur while talking about her behind her back in the workplace.

Amid the mass shooting in Atlanta killing six Asian women, as well as increased anti-Asian hate crimes during the pandemic, the former MTV News correspondent, 44, detailed a racist incident she experienced at the newsroom there.

“Years ago, when I was a news correspondent at MTV, I overheard a colleague of mine, while watching me do the news that evening, tell a room full of people that I looked like a ‘me sucky sucky love you long time’ whore,” Pak wrote, a line that originated in Stanley Kubrick's 1987 film Full Metal Jacket in a scene showing a Vietnamese prostitute approaching a U.S. soldier. “I was young, afraid as usual to cause a fuss or be seen as difficult or too ‘sensitive,’ being the only female in the newsroom so I didn’t say anything in the moment.”

However, the next day, Pak — the first Asian face of MTV, who covered awards shows, conducted interviews and hosted specials — realized that he said it in a room full of people, including other women “who somehow now think subconsciously or consciously that this kind of [misogynistic] violent, racist language could be overlooked and dismissed and that worse, that someone like me would just swallow it and shrink into the small space that I was allowed to occupy.”

As a result, “I fought to have this person removed,” she said.

At first, Pak stopped coming to work and refused Viacom’s (now ViacomCBS) efforts to mediate. She said it “dragged on for months,” and not “because I had an agenda or even courage, I just had this sinking feeling in my gut that I had to do this. It’s the kind of sinking feeling though that doesn’t give you strength or bravery, it was the kind that kept me in bed for a month, crying, scared and uncertain about everything.”

Pak, who was born in South Korea and moved to California at age 5, now realizes that “there was a fire, an anger, a burning rage that kept me on the course.” She also hired a lawyer “who believed that I could not walk back into a place that harbored this kind of hate.”

And so she took on that man, whom she didn’t identify, who she said tried to “shrink me down to submission and silence." She said a “last attempt was made at ‘reconciliation’ as if that was even appropriate.” The “white male executive” wrote her a letter as a “final gesture” — and also to remind her once again “that someone’s livelihood was on the line, that I was somehow responsible for that.”

She never opened the letter.

Pak, who left the network in 2008, says she keeps that story close as a reminder “that my dignity is something that can never be bargained with.”

She went on to say she knows that Asians have long been “the butt of jokes, but these jokes are not to be dealt with lightly. These jokes are just the timid veneer that hide violence, hate, [misogyny], racism and white supremacy. Our grandparents, our elders, our brothers and sisters are being spit on, punched, shot, attacked and murdered while these ‘jokes’ are being spit in our faces. Be angry. Be f***ing enraged. And then do something to repair this damage. Read, donate, volunteer, share and hold one another as we find our way through this pain.”

A rep for ViacomCBS has not yet responded to Yahoo Entertainment's request for comment.

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