Presidents of Asian American clubs at Harvard, Tufts, and M.I.T. recently sent a letter to NBC television to criticize what they termed "blatant racism" in the season premiere of the prime-time television show "Night Rider".
The students objected to a scene in which the hero, Michael, and his talking car, Kit, called two Chinese hoodlums "overgrown beansprouts" and "eggroll brothers". They requested that NBC send them an apology and remove the episode from the air.
The letter of complaint was written by Conson M. Chou '87, a member of Harvard's Asian-American Association. Chou, who was watching the show with three Asian friends, said they were initially amused, but "you think about it again and it's got racial overtones. The insult went above and beyond the problem of stereotyping."
Chou brought the letter to a meeting of Harvard's Asian-American Association, asking for their support and the signatures of the co-presidents. She then brought the letter to the attention of M.I.T.'s Chinese Students Club and Tufts' Asian Students Club.
Co-president of Harvard's Asian-American Students Association, Pauline W. Chen '86, said the letter received unanimous support.
NBC sent Chou a response, apologizing for offending the students concerned. NBC failed to address the students' request that they ban the offending scene from the air.
Sally McGraw, director of audience services at NBC, said they rarely receive complaints that a television show is racist.
McGraw added that NBC has a broadcast standards department which reviews programs to insure that they will not be offensive to viewers.
Benson Loui, president of M.I.T.'s Chinese Student's Club said that NBC's response was unsatisfactory. "The letter didn't recognize the fact that the show was offensive to Chinese people."