Asian Week, a small paper in San Francisco, recently ran a column from a freelance writer in his early 20s. It was titled "Why I Hate Blacks." It created an immediate uproar. Wednesday, an owner of Asian Week met with black leaders and told them the column was a huge mistake.
The San Francisco-based paper bills itself as the "Voice of Asian America." It's owned by a prominent Chinese-American family in the Bay Area and is widely regarded as mainstream.
The column was written by Kenneth Eng, a young science-fiction writer in New York. Eng describes himself as an "Asian supremacist." In the opinion piece, he said blacks hate Asians and blacks are weak-willed.
The sounds of jaws dropping could be heard all over San Francisco. Among the angry responses was that of Rev. Amos Brown, a prominent black minister.
"It was inexcusable," Brown said. "I was shocked, I couldn't believe it."
Brown convened a news conference of interfaith religious leaders Wednesday to denounce the Asian Week column. Ted Fang, one of the paper's owners, attended, and repeatedly expressed his regrets. Fang said Asian Week had a long history of promoting racial diversity.
"We fell down on the job this time," Fang said. "We fell down on the job with Kenneth Eng. We are going to correct that. We are going to make sure that never happens again. We made a mistake on this column."
Several Asian-American civil rights organizations called on Asian Week to end its association with the writer.
Kenneth Eng couldn't be reached for comment.
Just about everyone of note in San Francisco has denounced the column, including Mayor Gavin Newsom and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But the controversy brought into the open prejudices that are more commonly discussed in private.
"There are segments of our community, the Asian-American community, who may hold some of these very disturbing views," said David Lee, director of the Chinese-American Voters Education Committee.
Lee says he often hears comments similar to those expressed in Eng's column, especially among newly arrived Chinese immigrants who know nothing about black history or the civil rights movement.
"We owe a great debt to African-Americans, and that lesson may not be known because the vast majority of new immigrants to the Asian-American community have come in the last 15 to 20 years, post-civil rights," Lee said. "You also have a generation that was born post civil rights."
In the African-American community, the Asian Week column is seen as further evidence of the erosion of black political power in the city. The Rev. Arnold Townsend, San Francisco's elections commissioner, says blacks account for only 7 percent of San Francisco's population.
"When I moved here in 1967, we were over 20 percent, 25 percent," he said. "How could we be shocked? What we should understand is that he thought he could get away with it in this town."
Leaders of the Asian and African-American communities are planning for a town hall style meeting this week to address tensions raised by the column.