Chris Rock fearlessly attacked Hollywood racism at Sunday night's Oscars. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean his own performance was racism-free. In one particularly offensive skit, Rock introduced the audience to the "accurate and hard-working accountants" who would be tabulating the Academy's votes — "Ming Zhu, Bao Ling and David Moskowitz." He brought out three young Asian children dressed in suits and holding briefcases. Obviously, the bold comedian was skewering the racist stereotype that all Asian and Jewish Americans are math whizzes. He suggested anyone upset about the joke just tweet their outrage on their phones, "which was also made by these kids." Eek. Laura Kung is the mother of Estie, the biracial eight-year-old girl in the skit. She remembers the audition for the skit being quick and simple, only vaguely touching on the content of the joke. "I did wonder, 'Why all Asians?'" she notes in a new online interview with Public Radio International. "But I assumed there was a bigger picture, a more complex joke given all the emphasis placed on diversity at the Oscars this year."
PRI reports that Estie's mom didn't hear the whole joke until the rehearsals. "But they had already signed the contract and had to confront the very likely possibility that their daughter would be part of a racist joke that would cause an uproar," writes PRI. Laura and her husband talked to their very excited daughter about the situation, and decided to move forward — figuring that sparking debate might not be the worst thing.
The bit did indeed offend people, including Constance Wu and Jeremy Lin. And it wasn't easy for the Kungs to see their child at the center of all the controversy. "It's hard seeing pictures of your daughter's very serious face on stage associated with all of this," Laura said. "It's definitely been a damper to all the joy she felt just being there."
The mother, who said this was Estie's first stereotypical role after three years of auditioning, is adamant that "this was not okay and should never have happened." Still, she sees a silver lining. "The angrier people are and more people talk about it, the better it will be moving forward." She added, "Estie hopes to keep acting and we all hope for a time when she can be on that stage to honor her achievement." Oh, and what did Estie herself think of the joke? Did the little girl find it funny? "Kind of, kind of not," she said. We know just what you mean, Estie.