A real estate agency based in Washington, D.C., is in hot water for sending an email with the subject line “love you oolong time.”
Edens, a developer and landlord of the Union Market District, reportedly sent the newsletter on July 13 to promote the market, which serves as a culinary epicenter in the nation’s capital.
The offensive subject line is an apparent play on “Me love you long time,” an infamous phrase from the 1987 film “Full Metal Jacket.” In the movie, the line was used by a Vietnamese sex worker soliciting an American soldier.
Kevin Tien, chef of Moon Rabbit and co-founder of Chefs Stopping AAPI Hate, and Erik Bruner-Yang, chef of Maketto and founder of the Power of 10 Initiative, called out Edens in a petition demanding an apology and offering the agency an opportunity for correction. The chefs explained why the phrase is harmful, especially to Asian women.
“While the intent of the message may have been different, the effect of those words on the AAPI community are harmful and seeped in a long history of colonialism and anti-AAPI racism,” Tien wrote. “It’s used to dehumanize Asian and Asian-American women to sex objects.”
Tien also cited a 2021 article for Esquire by Thuc Nguyen, which detailed how the phrase inspires violence against Asian women, particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“To many Asian-American women, hearing the phrase ‘Me love you long time’ can be completely de-humanizing and traumatic,” Nguyen wrote. “It’s a weaponized phrase deployed to put down Asian diaspora women, to make us the joke. It’s used to reduce Asian and Asian-American women to sex objects.
“Asian hate crimes have disproportionately been an Asian women’s issue. Sixty-one percent of reported incidents happened to Asian and Asian diaspora women, largely due to the hypersexualization of them.”
Brunner-Yang said he was personally offended by the subject line.
“For me, personally, it was really upsetting because my wife owns a bubble tea shop,” he told Washingtonian. “This is like a phrase that is weaponized against my mom, who’s an immigrant. Asian women in my life have been catcalled this phrase for as long as I can remember.”
In their petition, the chefs sought a public apology acknowledging that the phrase is sexist, racist and violent. They also requested a community meeting between Edens CEO Jodi W. Mclean, D.C.-based AAPI tenants and local leaders and the creation of an AAPI employee resource center within Edens.
Edens released a statement of apology through the Union Market District Instagram account on Thursday. The company said it is “deeply sorry” for the incident.
“Your concerns about offensive marketing language that was used in our last Field Report newsletter have been heard, and we are deeply sorry. While it was not our intention to offend anyone, we are clear that intent does not matter in this situation,” Edens noted.
“We agree that every mistake is an opportunity to be better than we were before by recognizing our blind spots and taking immediate steps to learn more about anti-Asian hate and issues that affect the AAPI community.”
Edens said it will start with its own team and include mandatory implicit bias training, cultural sensitivity training and marketing review protocols. The company also vowed to invest in a public campaign that “helps to raise awareness of AAPI issues and critical groups who support the AAPI community.”