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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

California Tax Commissioner Betty Yee Takes on Google Over "Make Me Asian" App

Posted By on Tue, Jan 8, 2013 at 1:48 PM

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Board of Equalization Member Betty T. Yee stepped out of her usual not-so-politically charged role as the elected tax commissioner and took on the really politically charged issue of race.

Yee, a Chinese American who hails from San Francisco, jumped on the bandwagon blasting Google for several racist apps marketed through "Google Play" platform, demanding the Silicon Valley Internet giant remove them -- now.

Yee, whose parents are from China, said the controversial applications, "Make Me Asian," "Make Me Indian," and "Make Me Irish," encourage users to alter pictures of themselves using stereotypical effects, including war paint, darker skin, a rice paddy hat, and facial hair.

She called the applications "insulting" and "mean-spirited."

According to Yee, the applications "encourage young people to associate individual cultures through offensive stereotypical symbols that would not be tolerated in any other modern media. Furthermore, the notion that donning these superficial features can turn one into another ethnicity discourages every effort to teach young people to explore and embrace people of different cultures," she said.

"Google's online platform encourages users to share pictures with friends and laugh heartily, advertising the idea that racist stereotypes should be promoted publicly," Yee said.

Isn't laughing
  • Isn't laughing

As you might guess, race and ethnicity aren't exactly part of Yee's job description. However, her office noted that she often takes positions publicly on non-tax-related topics, including LGBT issues. In this case, Yee told us that it was her constituents who brought the matter to her attention. "The egregiousness of the apps made it an issue needing to be addressed," Yee told us.

While a growing number of Android users are certainly enjoying changing their race with a few taps, there's also a growing legion of users who've been criticizing the apps as "evil." A petition was created on, asking the company to stop with the "racist" apps.

Per the petition:

Google's motto is "Don't Be Evil", which makes it difficult to fathom why they carry the "Make Me Asian" and "Make Me Indian" apps by KimberyDeiss on their Google Play Store. These apps overlay dated and racist stereotypes onto your photos: rice paddy hat, fu manchu mustache, slanty eyes and yellow skin -- and voila, digital yellowface!

They are not funny, and their use highlights a vicious double standard, where people are allowed to characterize Asians and Native Americans in a way that they never would do to other races or ethnic groups. Google is implicitly normalizing these characterizations by allowing them to proliferate on their branded Google Play store.

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About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert was the Online News Editor for SF Weekly from 2010 to 2015. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.


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