Sorry, no.

Subtitled: So glad I haven’t yet been xangaed.

So it appears that everybody’s favorite NBA player used to xanga.  He can be forgiven for this since he was fifteen at the time.  His xanga name reportedly was  “Ch*nkBalla88.”

Asian Americans, you’re all on notice now:  You have no right to complain, bitch or whine about the word “ch*nk” since Jeremy Lin apparently used it himself. In fact, you can’t play the race card at all!  So just put away the deck.  It’s open season on racism.  I mean, good fun.

Yeah, we’ve heard it before (item 3C).  We shouldn’t even have to explain this, but first there’s the absolute stupidity of claiming the “right” to use a racist slur against an entire group of people just because one person used it eight years ago when he was fifteen.  Let’s get it straight right now:  Fifteen-year-olds aren’t much of an expert on anything (except maybe eating), but they especially aren’t particularly good advisers or role models when it comes to race and racism.  Even smart kids like Jeremy Lin.

True confession:  Once upon a time I had a t-shirt printed with what I thought was a clever pun on a racist slur.  And so did some of my friends.  We claimed to be a rock band.  Nobody said a word to us about it.   Yes, I cringe at the thought.  Fortunately none of us can be xangaed.   It is still possible that one of the pictures could be scanned and end up on the internet.

I once asked my mother why she and my father did not often discuss racism.  “We wanted you to figure it out for yourself,” my mother replied.

Yet just a few years ago, my mother and I were talking about race and racism when she told me, “You thought you could do anything.  You thought nothing could touch you.”  Her voice sounded accusatory and was tinged with anger and bitterness.  I felt a little sick thinking about it, hearing the fear of a thousand nights in there as well.  Wondering when I went from a child who thought the world was mine to finding out time and time again this was not so.  Remembering all the times I still believed.

Well, I certainly learned (am learning?) my lessons.  And I’m guessing they were lessons my mother never wanted me to learn.  But there was a time in my life that perhaps I thought racism just maybe was part of the bad old days.  Our post-racial America.

So yes, I used that slur.  So no, you can’t call me that slur anymore.  You also can’t call me by the nickname used by several very close college friends.  You can’t use the name my sibling uses for me.  In fact, you can’t even call me by my first name if I’m at a professional conference and most everybody (the white everybodies) are using professional titles.

Second thing I shouldn’t have to explain:  We reserve the right to name ourselves.

Yeah, we’ve heard it before.  White people complaining First they wanted to be called colored and then they wanted to be called negros and then they wanted to be black and then they wanted to be Afro American and now they want to be African Americans and who can keep up with that?  (I always like to respond by saying Well obviously you are able to, which is really great!)

But yeah, we have the right to name ourselves.  We can then change our minds about it.  We can even say that we are reclaiming slurs for our own use.  (I’ll even defend your right to do so, even though I don’t feel like I’ve got enough of the weight of the world to do so.  Even though I know idiots will then use that slur and then argue they have a friend who is of that color/persuasion/ethnicity/whatever and so it’s okay!  Really!)

We’ve heard this argument before, too.  Black people say ‘n*gger’ all the time.  So why can’t white people?  Personally, I don’t think we ought to be giving out any permission slips for racism.  But in addition, I find it disturbing that what people are really demanding is the right to be racist.  Since free speech is generally privileged over the right to be free from racism, assent is implicit.  So mostly they didn’t have to ask.

Yeah, you might sometimes hear black people say “n*gger.”  Or Asians say “Oriental” or “ch*nk” or “g*ok” or any of a litany of slurs that I’m too tired to type asterisks in right now.  But permission slips?  No, we’re not handing them out.  They’ve been forced down our throats.

Our communities suffer from internalizing racism on an ongoing basis.  It’s part of the society we’re steeped in.  Sometimes we make mistakes too.  Sometimes we go along with the majority.  Sometimes we back away from a fight.  Sometimes we even endorse racism.

Third thing I shouldn’t have to explain:  Living in a racist society harms all of us.  Communities of color, children, young adults, old people, none of us are born with innate anti-racist sensibilities.  That shit takes years to work out.  And it’s hard to swim against the tide.  The tide of whiteness that keeps telling us don’t make a mountain out of a molehill and can’t you take a joke and quit playing the race card and the word ch*nk is nothing compared to the word n*gger.

As if being a fifteen-year-old on a blog is anything like being a sportswriter for a major network.

It’s not, of course.  It’s just an excuse for maintaining the status quo.  Which is about to get an upset.

Go Lin!  You’ve already made us proud.  Thanks.

9 thoughts on “Sorry, no.

  1. The next time I hear someone say “why can’t white people use X”, I need to copy and paste this entire post and send it to them.

  2. Speaking of endorsing racism, are you ever going to comment on Jenny Hyun calling for the genocide of Black people?

  3. One thing that bugs the hell out of me, me being white, is when I hear such words used by white people and I complain to them about it. Who am I to say? Or all the standard “I’m not a racist” stuff, etc. I usually try to say something to the effect that is isn’t for me to say. I’m not making that choice or that judgement.

    That’s the freaking point.

    But I rarely get anywhere with it. Usually end up being teased about it, which is fine, but I find it unfortunate that they refuse. I’m fine with not having the right to say a damned thing, but why wouldn’t I?

    The common one I hear is “oriental” applied to people. I’ve bitten a few heads off about it to no good effect. Seems like improving this is going to take a long time.

  4. Hi KR. To comment on Jenny Hyun, I would have to have heard about Jenny Hyun. So now having been notified, my comment is that she reportedly has been hospitalized for mental illness. Also that her racist rant unleashed a bunch of racist rants towards Asians.

    Ed, you certainly have the right, and the responsibility, to speak out against racism. You just don’t get to say “ch*nk.” ;-P

  5. I question why anybody (who isn’t of that particular race/ethnicity/whatever) would want to use a slur. Do they think it makes them sound hip, edgy or unique?

  6. Wow. Somehow that makes me think better of Ms. Hyun – perhaps her tirade was the result of psychological trauma and not her real feelings. Actually – I kinda thought that maybe her Twitter feed had been hacked.

    As for calling people something they’ve requested not to be called – it still amazes me how much white people really want to use the n-word. Or really, any slur. Why? Is it so hard to refer to people respectfully?

    Oh and Ed, I’m still having that “Oriental” conversation with a coworker. We work at a Japanese company, and he can’t get the word Asian. He’s racist, so I suppose it’s harder…but we’re still going back and forth about it.

  7. As well as internalised racism, I don’t understand why it’s so hard for people to grasp that members of a minority group might want to reclaim slurs or use them in an ironic way, subverting their original meaning. That doesn’t give members of the majority the right to use those slurs, because that’s not subversive or reclaiming, that’s just reinforcing the original use of the word.

    Re: Jenny Hyun. WTF???? I’d never heard of her, but that is some fucked up shit. I don’t care if she has mental health issues – I have mental health issues, mostly chronic depression and anxiety, but I don’t go on genocidal tirades against particular ethnic groups. Honestly, this makes me glad I never got into the K-pop scene, which is very popular among hipsters here in Australia now that Japanophilia has become, like, so mainstream.

    And yes, it may be unfair to judge an entire industry based on one nobody. But my impression is that she said this kind of shit because it’s more acceptable to her overseas fans. Unlike the West, where there are a significant number of people like us who tend to criticise and kick up a storm over racist shit, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of people in other countries who revile “Western political correctness” and still say shit without repercussions. I remember a few years ago, a Bollywood actress said something like, “X is a great director. He can make even a black African look pretty.” I’m sure her career is still going strong in India, whereas it would be dead if she said that in Australia. Of course we still have plenty of racists over here, but they’re getting the message that their views are unacceptable and should not expressed in mainstream culture. It doesn’t make the racists go away, but it drives them underground which is an important first step.

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