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Hung Over Unisex TShirt

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Admit it – when you first saw William Hung on American Idol, you were fascinated. Despite an utter lack of musical ability, he tried his hardest and didn’t care what people thought about him. That took guts.

And yet… why was Hung, the only Asian American male to get airtime, one giant stereotype after another: nerdy, emasculated, speaking with an accent, foreign?

Here at Blacklava, we were conflicted. Yeah, it was painful to hear him sing. It was painful to watch Paula, Randy and Simon have fun at his expense. But the dude wanted to be famous, so how could we begrudge him his success when he appeared on other TV shows, the radio, and released that album?

We thought about it more, and we got angry. Out of the thousands of terrible singers who tried out, Asian and non-Asian alike, why William Hung? Hung is obviously real, but in a way, he was “created” just like Long Duk Dong from Sixteen Candles was created. He didn’t become famous by accident – FOX took care to heavily promote him, emphasizing his accent, his ineptitude, his proverbial pocket protector.

In the 1930s and 40s, The Little Rascals show featured Buckwheat, a Black child who got into mishaps and spoke the way whites thought Black people spoke – dis and dat, I is and you is. Like Hung, Buckwheat was also different from the other characters – a type of “comedy” that appealed to whites. Because he was a fool, dirty and unkempt, Buckwheat wasn’t a threat to whites. They could feel secure in their whiteness as they watched him fumble around in his dirty clothes, a caricature of their deepest prejudices.

We realized that there is a connection between the blatant racism of the past and racism today. The “harmless” stereotypes that had people tuning in for Buckwheat every week get recycled all the time. Just look at William Hung – if he didn’t have an accent, would he still have his very own Christmas album? Wear this shirt as a reminder that racism and as a statement of vigilance. Stay angry.