LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The City of Los Angeles Department of Public Works is under fire for producing a controversial video depicting the Asian community—all with taxpayer money, according to CBS2 investigative reporter David Goldstein.
The video, shot at the Japanese Garden at the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant in Van Nuys, showed a non-Asian man dressed as a geisha girl who talked with a mock Japanese accent.
“The Japanese water park is a beautiful, beautiful site, with blooming, blooming lotus and water lilies,” the actor said.
The short was apparently meant to teach viewers about recycled water, which is what they use at the Japanese Garden.
Greg Kimura, the head of the Japanese American National Museum in downtown Los Angeles, was outraged by the film.
“It’s just awful…it’s absolutely offensive. I find it personally offensive and in poor taste. It’s embarrassing, it’s embarrassing to even watch it,” he said.
Kimura continued, “It brings back all the worst stereotypes. The accents, the whiteface. I’m embarrassed for everybody who is involved in this. If there’s a remedy to this, it would be something like an apology and taking it down immediately.”
The video is part of a program called L.A. CityWorks, which airs on the city-owned Channel 35.
They also have a YouTube channel where Goldstein found more than a dozen other unusual videos, with stories like the “History of Trash” and “L.A. CityWorks Rap.”
The Department of Public Works funds the projects, spending about $48,000 a year in taxpayer dollars.
In the “L.A. CityWorks Rap” video, however, they used African American actors.
Guy Aoki with Media Action Network for Asian Americans, an organization that advocates for Asians in Hollywood, said that’s a double standard.
“They don’t have the same actor, for instance, putting on makeup trying to pretend to be a black person. There is a certain kind of taboo where, ‘Oh no, we can’t do a blackface, but it’s okay to pretend to be Asian,” he said.
Goldstein said after he brought it to the city’s attention, the video was taken down from YouTube.
Cora Jackson-Fossett, a spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Public Works, admitted it was in bad taste.
“We apologize profusely that we missed the mark totally. We made a mistake. We’re extremely sorry. It was an attempt at humor that failed,” she said.
City officials said all future videos will be extensively reviewed.