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December 26th, 2012
11:10 AM ET

Asian-Americans speak out against Google app they call offensive

By Sarah Edwards, CNN

(CNN) - The maker of a Google app thinks it's fun to make yourself look Asian by changing the shape of your eyes and wearing a Fu Manchu mustache and rice paddy hat.

Another app - "Make Me Indian" - makes you a Native American with brown skin, war paint and a feather headband.

“This is just a fun app (that) lets you indulge you and your friends," says the description of the "Make Me Asian" app created by user KimberyDeiss and available on Google Play.

"You can for a few seconds to make (yourself) a Chinese, Japanese, Korean or any other Asians," the description says.

Not amusing or cute, say Asian-American organizations that launched a petition to get Google to remove both apps.

The apps use dated and racist stereotypes of Asians and Native Americans, said the online campaign 18 Million Rising, named after the number of Asian-Americans in the United States.

“These racist and offensive portrayals of Asians and Native Americans perpetuate damaging racial stereotypes and should not be distributed on the Google play store," said the campaign, which has an online petition to remove the apps.

Google, however, said the apps are not in violation of the company's policies that protect against hate speech.

"We don't comment on individual apps," Google said in a statement. "We remove apps from Google Play that violate our policies."

KimberyDeiss makes other photo-altering apps including "Make Me Old" and "Make Me Fat." There's also "Make Me Russian" and "Make Me Irish," which play off stereotypes.

But the furor in the Asian-American community, sparked a few weeks ago, is growing. Blogs, including Angry Asian Man, have reinforced the call to remove the apps.

Washington pastor Peter Chin decided to mount an even larger protest on the website Change.org.

Chin said he understood Google's motto is "Don't be evil." That makes it hard to fathom why the company would support these apps, he said.

This is the first time Chin has protested in this way. He was prompted to act, he said, because Google refused to do so.

“Google normalizes everything from Google maps, Gmail," he said. "If you want to search for something on the Internet, you even say to 'Google it.'"

Chin feared Google's power would make people think the apps were OK.

"I wanted to make sure this app isn’t given a pass of approval," he said.

Chin said he wants Google users to know that the stereotypes in the apps have been used to marginalize and discriminate against people.

"It's not cool," he said.

CNN's Moni Basu contributed to this report.


Filed under: Asian in America • Discrimination • Ethnicity • How we look • Native Americans • Race
soundoff (1,350 Responses)
  1. 1h0mP

    564260 869563I got what you intend,bookmarked , quite good internet internet site . 647115

    July 31, 2013 at 6:22 am | Report abuse |
  2. ron

    ...you must reside in an extremely low life area of the country, maybe asia would be better for you

    April 16, 2013 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Online electronics stores

    You can certainly see your expertise in the paintings you write. The sector hopes for even more passionate writers such as you who are not afraid to mention how they believe. Always follow your heart.

    April 6, 2013 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • ron

      qb seems even stupider than months ago, yeah, thats right, prejudice is having less or more money and nig gahs don'ts wants no needs no moh moneys, jes asks dem when dey knows dey hain't no possibility of getting any

      April 6, 2013 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  4. rightclue

    I am an first generation Asian American who was not born in this country. I will admit that I would feel these apps would be very offensive in my younger days. But I just laugh at something like this now.

    However, I laugh even harder at ABCs (American Born Chinese, or insert Korean or other nationality) who take this so seriously. They should learn their own language more proficiently and stop trying to foster Pan-Asianism (a concept that is deemed "American" in most Asian nations)

    The more "Angry Asian Men" perpetuate this kind of outrage, the more they appear like outraged African American groups

    March 20, 2013 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jorge

    Let's make an app of a 300lb. Southern white woman with big hair, a Marlboro sticking out of the side of her face, wearing a snuggie sweat suit with HOT MOMMA spelled over the backside, flip-flops over bobby socks and parking her Dodge Ram in the fire lane at Walmart so that she can waddle to an electric handicap buggy to buy more smokes and 'nanner puddin', how's that for a stereotype???

    February 22, 2013 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
  6. AK

    I wouldn't be offended if there was a Make me Jewish App which shows someone with a big nose, curly sideburns and eating a knish, why the hell you getting offended with this stupid app?
    Waa, Waa, next thing you know an app showing places where there is a large asian population living will come out to tell people to drive cautiously due to bad driving will come out and will you be there to whine again?

    Speaking of which, two app ideas that are gold...
    Score!

    February 15, 2013 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
  7. David

    That app wouldn't work in my case, perhaps you could send me your picture or make your picture the default in the app.

    February 12, 2013 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. David

    If you ban this app, then you should also ban rice paddy hats and fu man moustaches, because it is possible a white person might put on one of those hats or grow a moustache. Maybe put a ban on whites to only act a certain way and only do what is approved by the government.

    February 12, 2013 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  9. M. Danby

    That app is built into every modern smartphone and most standard cell phones for that matter

    February 12, 2013 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Scuromondo

    Personally, when it comes to humor, I think there should be no holds barred. And anyway, racial and ethnic humor is not automatically "racist" and intolerant.

    February 12, 2013 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
  11. Jared

    So now Google is supposed to police every use of a negative stereotype in their app store? Sure, the app is insensitive and silly, but the vast majority of users know that iphone/play apps are NOT written or supported by Apple or Google. The app is obviously not hate speech and Google shouldn't censor apps that don't violate their policies.

    February 12, 2013 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
  12. queenbee9

    1890S-1938 GERMANY and Austria made cartoons of Jews. After that along with a lot of propaganda and scapegoating (like we do to blacks) they justified the final solution. Just think–it all started with humor..isn't that interesting?

    February 9, 2013 at 3:25 am | Report abuse |
    • David

      so the solution then is to ban humor so everyone can be the same. Let's all only be super serious and never allow any kind of humor that the Queen Bee does not approve of.

      February 12, 2013 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • TerriTerri

      They also made derogatory, false and offensive remarks about Polish people. People are ignorant around the world. The type of people who laugh at others show how low their intellect really is. I used to be offended by buffoons like this, but now I look at it as a blessing in disguise. If you happen to be in their presence, you will know exactly who to avoid and ignore.

      February 26, 2013 at 7:58 am | Report abuse |
  13. queenbee9

    The developer should go all out and make apps for handicaps, deformities, downs syndrome blacks, Hispanics, and while we are at it parkinsons and maybe Alzheimer. let's not stop there, make a rape victim app or a rapist app and maybe a pedophile app–why not? We all need to lighten up right? SOME people are such jerks and so clueless–not only will I not get this app–but I won't get the others that make fun of other people/ethnicities or races either–because it is not funny if the people you target are not laughing–I can find better ways to humor myself. and it IS racist.

    February 9, 2013 at 1:35 am | Report abuse |
    • r belin

      if you had an idea of what liberalsm denotates(beside what you think it is) you would realize thee is no such thing, its all squamplsdeshnttook and what you have are representatives who represent you and the ones(all of them) who represent those who will reelect them so they will have a job they can do without any repercusions

      February 12, 2013 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  14. queenbee9

    Then whites are always wondering why other races don't like them....give you one good guess...

    February 9, 2013 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
    • MelStar

      Hahaha!!!

      February 10, 2013 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
    • rhedawktober

      Haven't traveled much have you ?

      February 11, 2013 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
  15. BV

    I noticed that a lot of the comments posted here so far say things like "I'm not offended, why should anyone else be?", "If they made so-and-so app, I would just laugh", "They need to get over it", and then they create all sorts of hypothetical situations. Point being, it's all about "I think this", "I think that" "Me, me, me, MY opinion", "Why can't everyone else think the same way that I do?"

    As one person stated earlier, it's called empathy. Think about those other than yourselves, or other than whoever you associate with. Realize that many people have been through hurt and often have a good reason for being offended. And I'm not talking about people who 'cry over every single little thing' like some of you claim.

    So what if they deal with situations differently than you do and can't simply leave it in the past? It doesn't make them wrong. If they learn from the racial blows they had to deal with and continue living a normal life, then they're strong. It also takes someone else just as strong to be sensitive towards that person.

    February 3, 2013 at 12:22 am | Report abuse |
    • rambo

      amen...American culture is so narcissistic that people only think that their own opinion and experience matter. And if you are Asian and don't think that this is a problem, I would strongly suggest you read up on your history of how Asians came to America and really think about how you feel as a minority in America...I think that Asian-Americans who say "I"m Asian but I don't care as long as it's funny" really need to do some introspection...why are you apologizing for someone else's sins? Don't "kowtow" to what the majority thinks is "funny"...it is AT YOUR AND YOUR ANCESTORS EXPENSE.

      February 11, 2013 at 10:21 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Jorge

    If the U.S. didn't have such a rich history of mainstream-condoned discrimination, racism, exclusion, hate crime and cultural ignorance, then stuff like this would probably be considered a gag by the objects of it, but as things stand there is a need to be a little PC, because in this country, when folks start making derogatory jokes about people like you, it's a good idea to carry a Saturday Night Special and a spare clip before you go out at night...

    January 31, 2013 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
  17. cathy

    I had enough of these asians. They have been here since 1975 and still working the system, free of taxes, food stamps, and alot of other freebies. Take care of our own FIRST. This is America, this is our country...I dont appreciate them coming here and cooking and eating dogs and cats and laughing about it. I dont want to hear " it's their custom" That is not American custom, go back to your country if you want to continue practicing those type of customs. I am sick of their rudeness and nastiness.They dont tip in service industries, yet most of them work in tipping industries such as restaurants and nail shops. Yet they frequent American service industries and leave no tip. I wish they would all go back to wherever the hell they came from. And for all of our men serving in the armed forces...these women are nothing but gold diggers. They always try to latch onto a soldier for the benefits, get a clue and leave thes females alonr

    January 27, 2013 at 1:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Monim

      LoL eating cats and dogs? Asians are the most intelligent group of people that this country has got and they account for 50 percent of the PHD's earned each year. Without them this nation would be a stupider place then it already is. What a shallow minded way of looking at things asians where here way before 1975 going back to the time of the gold rush. They have established themselves as a productive member of society even more so than whites,blacks and Hispanics.

      January 28, 2013 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
      • sartaj sandhu

        wow! what planet do you live on? asians (chinese, koreans, etc) are among the poorest groups of immigrants in america today!

        January 28, 2013 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jorge

      "...get a clue and leave thes females alonr.."- Don't think so, Cath. If I were looking for a wife and the only woman not like you on the face of the earth were living in a monastery on the face of a 500 foot bluff in the Himalayas, I would pack warm clothes, a bunch of traveler's cheques and buy a plane ticket to Tibet. Do you realize how undesireable your poorly redacted hateful statements make you out to be???

      January 31, 2013 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Rebecca

      Why are you making these generalizations about Asians when there are just as many rude and nasty people of different cultures? Honey, you better get your head on straight. Don't be jealous that my people are just rising to the top by the second and are willing to work their butts off.

      March 11, 2013 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Nana Bowman

    People have to know why Asian-Americans are very sensitive about this APP. There is very tormenting history behind the picture.

    When Asian-Americans, especially Chinese as coolies came to this country in the mid 19th century with the look similar to the above one, were not even appreciated what they contributed to this country on Union-Pacific Railroads and other gigantic projects, even worse in late 19th century the Congress enactived Chinese Exclusive Act.

    January 26, 2013 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • queenbee9

      I don't think the present generation (especially whites) are sensitive to those facts–after all, it all happened long ago and they were not alive so they do not feel they need to apologize for anything. So what if Asians were mistreated or exploited or discriminated against? They expect you to get over it and no...Chinese cannot be compensated for building rail roads or anything else–no matter how their labor was used to build this country and prosper whites–their gain is your loss–now move along now and let it go (snark)

      February 9, 2013 at 1:50 am | Report abuse |
  19. JC

    So where's the "make me Muslim" app. I can't wait to see the fireworks.

    January 12, 2013 at 3:21 am | Report abuse |
  20. Anonymous

    lol, it'e easy to make such an app, just put a picture of a child being touched up by a white hand attached to the photo.

    January 10, 2013 at 6:43 am | Report abuse |
  21. Thenextstep

    Who cares............... I'm sure the app goes the other way as well (Asian to American).

    January 3, 2013 at 7:12 am | Report abuse |
  22. bobby

    We recently went to Sedona, Arizona, a really nice small town. There were some people speaking a language I did not understand. I asked where they were from. They said they were a tour group from France! I did not recognize their French, nor did they look like they were from France. But, what does a Frenchman look like? Or an Italian? See the problem with labeling people from different countries?

    January 3, 2013 at 5:35 am | Report abuse |
  23. bobby

    The government using terms like white, black, red, yellow, asian, indian, african american,on official forms is racist. Noticing facial features, skin color, is all racist. Any time someone notices physical features this is racism.

    January 3, 2013 at 5:30 am | Report abuse |
  24. thedarkelf

    This is funny, It really is silly and all I can say to the offended is please consider all the things wrong in the world and decide weather or not this is comic relief or a malicious ap to degrade Asians

    January 3, 2013 at 5:18 am | Report abuse |
  25. Kahuna Ric

    ... and the Asian Anime' Cartoons' interpretation of what Caucasians look like (with they're OVER-sized eyes, small mouth and perked-up noses), even as far back as the original Speed Racer cartoons in the sixties, can not be mis-understood in the same way? Sheesh.

    January 3, 2013 at 3:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Fig1024

      actually, that's what Asians think they look like. When there's specific caucasian character in anime, it's usually noticeably different from the rest, smaller eyes, different bone structure in the face and nose. Unless it's really cheap anime with lazy artists

      January 3, 2013 at 6:25 am | Report abuse |
  26. David

    Another Asian here who isn't offended. In fact I find it hilarious! I mean, it's just a corny joke, and I'm a sucker for corny jokes 🙂 With that said, I can also see how some, especially older people, find it offensive. They had to deal with very real racism which was pervasive in all levels of society in their days, so it's understandable that things like this bring back bad memories. For younger folks like us, though, true racism among our generation is only seen in the dregs of society (and admittedly, also many of our beloved parents, please forgive them!) and light hearted racism can actually be quite funny!

    Bottom line, due to our different experiences, it's useless to debate whether something subjective like this is racist. Instead of doing that, let's simply celebrate the fact that our society has progressed fast enough that racial stereotypes went from being symbols of vicious racism for one generation to being subjects of banter for the next!

    January 3, 2013 at 3:26 am | Report abuse |
  27. SixDegrees

    What's not to like? Just add the ability to turn yourself into a southern baptist by donning a wife-beater shirt, slapping a Pabst in one hand and holding a textbook in the other with "Science" crossed out and "The Bible" scrawled over it.

    January 3, 2013 at 3:15 am | Report abuse |
  28. routt66

    Please, "18 million and rising" sounds like a threat more than a concerned group of citizens. Why does it matter if people play with race a little in this day and age. Having fun about our differences is the only way the stigma of beig different dies off. Why don't asians (theres over 2 billion) create an app for asians to white or asians to black. Have fun with it instead of dictating the definition of racism and discrimination over the supposedly free social media...

    January 3, 2013 at 3:01 am | Report abuse |
  29. john b good

    What about me, the middle aged white guy. Doesn't anybody want to look like me?

    January 3, 2013 at 12:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Alex santarelliB

      No

      January 3, 2013 at 2:35 am | Report abuse |
  30. Aristotle

    Sadly, in this country especially, people have been and continue to be mocked, ridiculed and bullied because of their color, and personal characteristics. If you've never been a victim of such intimidation it may be hard for you to comprehend the pain it causes. But for many people the pain runs deep. No, not everyone seeks to mock or cause pain in this way, but products such as the App under discussion provide easy access for those who do.

    January 3, 2013 at 12:32 am | Report abuse |
  31. James

    I am sick of reading all these over sensitive stories on the news, who cares! Get lives! Don't buy the app, and it will go out of buissness, and the owner/created wont be able to afford to keep it in the App Store. This isn't news!

    January 2, 2013 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
  32. RON

    I am asian-american, please lighten up and don't be so anal about something funny.

    January 2, 2013 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • madihwa

      My kids were born in the 60s. They're half asian as their father is Chinese. They were harassed in school because of it. I don't find this funny at all.

      January 3, 2013 at 12:01 am | Report abuse |
      • TheBob

        Are they still being harassed? They're 50 now. I'm sure they've grown a thick skin by now.

        January 3, 2013 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
      • queenbee9

        TheBob–do you think people have stopped making fun of others because of their skin color, or features? See all those black guys going after white women? They are not doing it just because they like white women (many sneak back to black girlfriends also) they do it to have babies with them so that their kids will not have to be treated like they were, Not saying all of them do it for that reason–but a lot of them do–and the fact that white women WILL sleep with them and accept them no matter how they look gives many the impetus to do this–many black men think of themselves as ugly and making a bi racial baby gives them the chance of changing the treatment for their offspring and the options .

        February 9, 2013 at 2:34 am | Report abuse |
  33. Andrew

    I'm Asian American (Korean-American) and I am not offended... People are so easily offended

    January 2, 2013 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zach

      I have a mutual respect for all races and ethnicities and don't find this sort of thing worthy of censorship. If you find the KKK repulsive, don't visit their website, similarly, don't download this application if you think this sort of humor offends your delicate sensibilities.

      January 3, 2013 at 1:33 am | Report abuse |
      • Carol T

        You (in the singular) cannot have mutual respect. It is just respect. Mutual involves two parties showing respect for each other/ Just being picky, and I don't mean this in a snotty way, but if people see things corrected, maybe their grammar will improve. It doesn't mean I think you are stupid or uneducated, and I mean no disrespect.

        January 3, 2013 at 6:22 am | Report abuse |
  34. jBenz

    Hey Google, how about an app called "Make Me Black" or "Make Me Hispanic"? Diversify guys!

    January 2, 2013 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheBob

      Google doesn't make these apps. Come back when you understand how this whole app thing works. Do not comment until then.

      January 3, 2013 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |
  35. Tony

    Google, however, "said the apps are not in violation of the company's policies that protect against hate speech". So why are there no "Make me black"?

    January 2, 2013 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
  36. Alex

    Do you have a good explanation why they have not made "Make me Caucasian" app ? No doubt they have the ability to make it and some people would buy. Maybe some white people actually would be offended ?

    January 2, 2013 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
  37. ShowTime

    I would get the app....but asians think they are white? True?

    January 2, 2013 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Asian in Tennessee

      I'm an Asian living in Tennessee...I am recommending this app to EVERYONE I know because I think it's funny. I am HONORED that Google has created an App to make someone look just like me...yes, I do have a rice paddy hat, but no mustache 🙂

      I would LOVE to see an App to make me look "White"...seriously folks....this is just for fun....if this App gets taken down, then I guess all the other other Apps that have anything regarding race will be removed also. Ridiculous!

      January 2, 2013 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
      • gale

        Good for you. I am glad to know that not everyone thinks everything is racist. I am so sick of the racist card being played about everything. Some things are just for fun and my motto is if I can't laugh at myself who can I laugh at.

        January 2, 2013 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • ShowTime

      ha

      January 3, 2013 at 1:02 am | Report abuse |
  38. Terra

    Does that mean Americans should be offended over FatBooth photos?

    January 2, 2013 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      Hmm. If it was in Europe and labeled as "Make me American", perhaps.

      January 2, 2013 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Asian in Tennessee

      Great point Terra....I have not seen Weight Watchers or The Biggest Loser demanding the fat app be taken down.

      January 2, 2013 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
      • queenbee9

        Fat is not race directed–any one can get fat- and anyone can lose weight and stop being fat-BIG difference.

        February 9, 2013 at 2:43 am | Report abuse |
  39. R.M.

    Go back to the rock you live under.

    January 2, 2013 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
  40. Hullaballo

    Imagine what would happen if there was a "Make Me Muslim" app.

    January 2, 2013 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • O'Rage

      It would blow up?

      January 2, 2013 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
      • Star76

        Umm.....best comment I've read in A WHILE!! And that's really the only reason I read CNN anymore...the awesome comments to the ridiculous "news" articles. 🙂 You win today!

        January 2, 2013 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • ShowTime

      not only would it blow up, they would kill people

      January 3, 2013 at 1:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Marti

      I am so tired of this constant argument of "You wouldn't make that joke towards Muslims." As if to say, that the fear of retilation should dictate what is legal/illegal, right/wrong, in good/bad taste, etc. Incidently, if the joke is funnier by making the punchline about Muslims, then do it. Also, most good humor is about things the audience can relate to, so if you aren't Muslim, it is hard to make a joke that you will get involving them.

      January 3, 2013 at 3:15 am | Report abuse |
      • queenbee9

        You think this app designer is Asian? why do americans take their humor from making fun of other races anyway? what is that all about?

        February 9, 2013 at 2:44 am | Report abuse |
      • TerriTerri

        Americans get their humor out of making fun of other groups because of many reasons. Primarily, many have not traveled, don't speak foreign languages and only hang around with other Americans. They're so limited, especially mentally, and narcissistic, that they can't fathom how their derogatory comments can hurt others. I believe it's why so many people abroad have such a horrible perception of Americans. And sadly, even though I was born in the US, I have to agree.

        February 26, 2013 at 8:11 am | Report abuse |
  41. Cj

    I know plenty of minorities that can take a joke with elements of ethnicity mixed in. My friends and I have always held the opinion that someone is only a true racist if they believe that a race is inferior to another, and act accordingly, like refusing to shop at a certain store because it employs Latinos, blacks, or Asians, for example.

    The problem is the organizations that like to tell people – minorities, in this case – what to think – that when someone makes a joke about a racial stereotype, that the people making the joke actually think that way or mean to offend. It's really a shame.

    January 2, 2013 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
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