A California-based dental hygienist who has more than 13,000 followers on a now-deactivated Instagram profile has been accused of racism after mocking a billboard of an Asian American lawyer in a story this week.
Vahan Jerry Ounjian, founder and CEO of Dentistry Humor, a merchandise store based in Los Angeles, recorded a video of a billboard of James Wang, a certified public accountant and lawyer focusing on personal injury and criminal defense.
In his Instagram story, Ounjian laughs at the sight of one of Wang’s billboards, calling him a “child” and mocking his employability in a fake Asian accent.
“Would you hire this child? James Wang Law! [Unintelligible] accident-uh we fix for you … no.”
Wang, who immigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan at the age of 10, has at least 12 years of trial experience.
“Look at him! So serious. ‘I will fight for you!’” Ounjian went on. “Call him. (626) 965-9888. He will fight for you. I know he will.”
Ounjian’s story immediately sparked outrage, with many on Instagram accusing the dental hygienist of being “racist.”
“Racist a*****e,” one apparently sent in a direct message. “Yes I said it, you are a RACIST. Spelled it out for you. Let it sink in. And you’re the f****n child.”
In response to the backlash, Ounjian shared a series of stories showing himself in the company of Asians.
He accompanied them with captions such as “I hate Asians,” “Can’t stand em” and “I want nothing to do with them.”
Ounjian also shared clips of Canadian standup comedian Russell Peters doing a fake Asian accent in one specific routine below:
Ounjian replied correcting the user’s assumption that he is “mostly Caucasian” and a “privileged White male” by pointing out that he is a “full-blooded Armenian that is a proud American” and that his “‘privileged’ ethnic background suffered a genocide resulting in 1.5 million deaths.”
Meanwhile, a user who supported his joke wrote, “I thought it was funny you do 12 other accents and it’s funny you do one Asian accent with a picture of an Asian and god damn you’re a racist.”
To this he replied, “Couldn’t have said it better myself.”
James Wang, Esquire told NextShark, “It’s unfortunate that this type of ignorance still exists in 2019,” after being made aware of the video.
Ounjian has since offered an apology to the Asian community in a statement to NextShark:
“I had posted a story on Instagram about a billboard picture which I thought was funny due to how young the male attorney looked. I found humor in that and that alone. I feel there was a misunderstanding there. As a comedian, accents/imitations are a large part of my humor. Therefore I proceeded to add an accent as I normally do with many ethnic backgrounds and it took off from there. It was not geared to make fun of him for being Asian. However, I now see that it can be misconstrued as being insensitive. I am far from a racist and would like to formally apologize to the gentleman on the billboard as well as the Asian community for my actions. When i was being accused of racism, I immediately resorted to taking the defensive approach, not my wisest decision. It was naive of me to think it to be funny and have seen that it has done more harm than good. Having done several accents of others races in the past, this is the first time I’ve been accused of being a racist. It took me by surprise. Again, my deepest apologies.
Ounjian has since changed his Instagram handle from his name to “that_dental_guy”.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article misidentified Ounjian as a dentist. He is a registered dental hygienist.
Images via Instagram / @vahan_jerry