A Chinese American woman stood in shock after receiving an email from the vice president of a recruitment firm in Chicago containing a racist phrase.
Connie Cheung, who applied for a job as an office management assistant, had just confirmed a phone interview when she received an email that read, “Me love you long time.”
The email came from James McMahon, vice president of Chicago Search Group, who invited her for the interview.
“When you apply for a job and the recruiting managers are emailing about you behind your back,” she wrote in a Facebook post, sharing a screenshot of the message.
Cheung, 27, graduated from the University of Iowa and moved to South Korea in 2016, where she taught English. This February, she moved to Chicago to be closer to her boyfriend.
“At first I was just in shock at how unprofessional it was,” Cheung said, according to Block Club Chicago. “And also shocked because it had been a while since I had something so blatantly racial said to me.”
As it turns out, the email Cheung received was intended for McMahon’s superior, Brian Haugh, president of the recruitment firm.
“I called Connie to apologize directly to her,” McMahon told USA Today. “This was an isolated incident that will not happen again and my sincerest apologies go out to Connie and anyone else who was offended by this statement.”
According to McMahon, Haugh was his college roommate and they have been business partners for “over a decade.”
“This does not excuse or justify anything. However, imagine if everyone had every inappropriate comment or poor joke that was typed, texted or spoken available for the public to see. It is a reminder for all of us that we should communicate with anyone as if everyone was listening.”
“Me love you long time” comes from the 1987 film “Full Metal Jacket,” in which a Vietnamese prostitute markets herself to American soldiers. Many Asians and Asian Americans have since considered the phrase offensive, believing it is both racist and sexist.
“Asian females have always been sexualized because of their history with Western males,” Cheung said. “It’s gross. That specific phrase is sexual. It’s not just toward my race, it’s sexual. That’s all I could think of, was, ‘Why? It’s 2019.'”
Haugh also released an apology via USA Today:
“It is clearly not our intent to add or create anything but positive value in the lives of our clients and candidates. We have apologized directly to the candidate and have addressed with our team that this conduct is unacceptable.”
However, he allegedly threatened one of Cheung’s friends with libel after seeking an apology from the company on her behalf.
“With all due respect, I am focused on bigger problems than your friend being offended by a movie quote,” Haugh replied in an email.
Cheung, who is one month into her job hunt, worries that other employers could also be racially prejudiced in their hiring decisions.
“If someone’s racist, it’s not like you’re gonna know they’re racist until they say something,” she said. “Don’t bring your racist beliefs to work. Just do your job.”
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