The ‘Rise’ And Fall Of Sam Hendrickson

By Arturo R. García

Who knows what “inspired” Sam Hendrickson to think anybody wanted to hear him offer up his reasons why he wouldn’t want to be Asian. But it didn’t take him long to feel the heat for it.

According to his Twitter account, though, the rant wasn’t spontaneous; he posted a print-only version on his Facebook page on March 4, then offered to do a video version if the original note received 100 Likes. (His Facebook page has since been deleted.)

Then, according to Heidi Liu at Thought Catalog, the video was ripped and posted on YouTube by a viewer, who said Hendrickson and his friends reacted defiantly, throwing homophobic slurs at him and threatening to “dismantle him socially:”

He even sent me a message thanking me for posting this video. He said, “I was going to post it myself.” I do not know him, but many friends of mine are very offended by this, so I decided to let the world know what he thinks. This video is not mine, but I felt it necessary for everyone to see. I enjoy sarcasm and joking around, but this does not cross many as a joke.

Of course, Hendrickson pulled out the “joke” defense within 24 hours of the video going up. He also said his first attempt at an apology was voted down and–a little suprisingly, at least for anybody who followed the Alexandra Wallace story almost exactly two years ago–that he “didn’t think anybody would take this so seriously.”

Suey Park did come upon something of note at Critical Spontaneity:

Before Samuel took down his Facebook, his entire life was viewable to the public. One post of his details “Five facts that people don’t know about me” and explains how he suffers from severe Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and has depression. Mental health issues are stigmatized in many racial/ethnic groups. In some Asian languages, there exists no word to describe any mental health concern besides “crazy.” In turn, our community often times refuses to talk about mental health and its effects on our own community. This refusal to acknowledge the concerns of many of our own make it difficult for us to understand the hardships of others. While an individual’s experience within each cultural environment is different, it is also helpful to acknowledge that members from all communities struggle with mental health concerns; mental illnesses do not discriminate. By allowing each of our communities to see shared struggles that exist, we can slowly build bridges to move toward a more collective union.

Hendrickson hasn’t tweeted since apologizing the day after the video went online.

  • disqus_GSom6tPfR1

    “mental illnesses do not discriminate”. I think he discriminated pretty clearly.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000709864513 Michelle Kirkwood

    Sorry–I meant to say that’s what they get for being stupid about putting anything like that on the net in the first place!

  • hooy

    Yo, this kid is a monster in the making. I hope his parents are proud of him.

  • zdrav

    I thought Sam Hendrickson, racist asshat though he is, did a great job of highlighting the virulent societal racism against Asians, especially Asian men, in American society. People like him are useful morons in that they wake us up from any collective complacency we may have about our racial identities.

    • john do

      ^^Excellent points

  • Elton

    I don’t see racism as an “either/or” thing. I don’t think people are either “racist” or “not racist.”

    As you said yourself, we’re all surrounded by stereotypes and media messages about race. Now, when a white person like this kid or Michael Richards steps out of line and publicly voices those messages we’ve all internalized, people like you go into damage control mode. You label these individuals as “racist” and distance yourself from them: “These white people don’t speak for us. They’re the *other* kind of white people.”

    Thus, mainstream white society remains untarnished by stereotypes and freed from the responsibility of dealing with white racism. Meanwhile, Asians and all other people of color have to deal with the stereotypes placed on us by others, because we can’t distance ourselves as easily. One of us screws up, we all screw up.

    Honestly, I’m not at all concerned about what he’s saying, and I find it rather silly that people like you are acting like it’s a revelation. I am more than familiar with Asian stereotypes and the long, painful history of Asians in America. Believe me, he didn’t even scratch the surface.

    And who could blame me for having a little school spirit?

    • RettCall

      I’m not white, first of all, so there’s no distancing here. I’m a black woman. You don’t need to school me on the basics of damaging stereotypes. I have a whole lifetime of experiences to fall back on for that.

      This guy’s a racist. Full stop. I find inventing an imaginary sliding scale of racism tends to give the impression that certain acts of bigotry are “not as bad” as others when they all stem from the same place: a dislike/distrust/misunderstanding of those we consider “others”. That will never change if we keep giving racists a pass or giving them excuses or padding our words so as not to make them, and people who think like them, uncomfortable or upset. He’s exhibiting racist behavior and should therefore be called out on it. Loudly and often. He should be shamed until he and others like him either get the point or shut up.

      I don’t speak like this because I make the effort not to be offensive to people of other cultures and apologize profusely when I am. I’ve learned better. It’s not asking too much for others to be respectful. It’s the bare minimum, honestly, and so many people can’t even do that. It does a huge disservice to the people who actually make the effort to be decent human beings, to get out there and educate themselves, to pat this guy on the head and say it’s not his fault he’s such a moron when so many people manage to rise above what society has taught them to blindly accept.

  • Keith

    You know when someone puts up a video over social media that might destroy their lives, it kind of reminds me of the issue of automatic assault rifles. One click of a button or pull of the trigger will cause allot of damage to the poster/shooter or others. Sam Hendrickson’s life is forever altered because of his access to social media. Going after him is not going to stop racism, but it does prove that the tradition is alive and well.

  • justlikeoldtimes

    I’m actually confused why anti-Asian rants on YouTube become the most viral anti-Asian material. While they can function as “starting points” for conversations, it’s far from the most blatantly cynical anti-Asian stuff out there. There are celebrities who say crap that’s nearly just as racist, but don’t really get called out on it or end up being “defined” by it. And the shows and films that end up being called out by blogs like this one always have their controversies blow over.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad people like Hendrickson and Wallace end up getting schooled. It’s just that, as an Asian American, I feel their attitutudes are among the least of AAPI problems in American culture, etc.

    • Elton

      Do they really end up getting schooled, though? Do we really learn from these rants as a society? Or do we just ostracize these individuals as “racists” and just sweep them under the rug without having to confront our own racism?

      All labeling someone a racist does is remind everyone to hide their own racism. That’s what “diversity training” is for, and that’s what Carmen was struggling against when she started this blog years ago.

  • http://twitter.com/Herostratus356 Herostratus356

    So…ADD and depression cause racism?

  • Elton

    As a proud Asian-American IU alum, IU is by far the most Asian-friendly school I have ever attended. From what I’ve read, this boy goes to some no-name school in Indiana and wears a Notre Dame shirt, but he is not affiliated with IU. And I do not appreciate the Hoosier stereotypes portrayed in the video.

    I blame the media for brainwashing him into believing he must post every little regrettable thought permanently on the Internet with his real name for the world to see. Even NPR has jumped on the bandwagon of giving free advertising to commercial social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, adding to the popular belief that in order to have a voice in this world, you must subscribe and submit to these companies. You do not.

    What he said was dumb and racist. But he has been taught these things by a shallow viewing of mainstream media. It’s true that Asian actors have limited roles in movies. It’s true that Asian males “don’t have a good rep.” It’s true that body image issues, especially height, are of particular concern to Asian males. Movies and TV teach us that Asians are perpetual foreigners who all look alike, never date outside their race (unless dating a white guy), work in sweatshops, have small eyes, are good at math, eat bizarre foods, etc. He’s simply reciting what the mainstream media has instructed him to say.

    Go IU! See you at the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

    • Lee Lee

      Wait. As a proud Korean here, it’s true Asian actors and actresses have limited roles in American movies. However, they are great in their countries’ soap operas and those soap operas have been sold to many countries like Vietnam, Philippines, Australia, Europe, Japan, etc. Many Asians who live in the U.S. have great interest in Asian males and females regardless of the fact that they have limited roles in American movies. Furthermore, I think it’s just absolutely dumb if people think they can learn everything from the media — it’s just outright ridiculous that some college students are that ignorant.