This post is an example of how we can have an open dialogue or conversation on race, in which we call out one another and hold one another accountable with regard to racial slurs, while standing together in solidarity to deal with racism as one united people.
Last week, I posted an article about the infamous anti-Asian slur “chink.”
To my surprise, 50% of the folks on this page didn’t even know it was a slur.
“OMG, ‘chink’ is a slur?”
“Wait, are you sure ‘chink’ is racist? I’ve been saying it for years!”
“Oh, please! ‘Chink’ isn’t even that bad!”
Since then, I’ve noticed just how ignorant and racist activists can be towards Asian-Americans — without even realizing it. The subtle xenophobia and back-handed compliments from activists is only getting worse.
I expect it from white supremacists, but I don’t expect this bullshit from activists, especially POC. Shit, I’ve been called everything from “Chinaman” and “chink,” to “yellow bastard” by self-identified “woke POC.”
As an Asian-American activist, the support I receive feels like an exception to the rule. I’m the “cool” Asian who gets it, who deserves respect from non-Asian POC, but the rest of my Asian-Americans don’t deserve equal recognition.
I feel like I’ll never be American enough for non-Asian POC support. And the minute someone disagrees with me, the minute someone finds my arguments or my writing style unsavory, I’m automatically associated with everything racist about Asian culture: the Chinese laundry commercial and Blackface in K-POP. I’m Kim Jong Un, Pearl Harbor, and a Korean Hair Shop, all rolled into one.
Xenophobia’s relationship with anti-Asian racism is rarely talked about in the activist community. No one wants to admit it, but there has always been an attitude of “you Asians came to this country after all of us, so you don’t know what social justice is. Your activism is appropriation.”
The only thing Asian-American activists can do is continue to speak, even if no one wants to listen…
One commenter wrote:
I’m well versed in things that insult people. I have had that racial slur hurled at me by my own family members because of the shape of my eyes and my above average abilities in science, math and art. Because of that, I knew that the c word is an insult. Dehumanizing is the nature of these epithets. The reason, imho, why SJWs seem heavily burdened…is that when we say a sentence we do the work of making sure we don’t step on anyone in order to advance our causes. White supremacists don’t have to do that. They make asinine black and white statements. So, our movements are slow moving and solid.. while white supremacy is dominant but weak. If a SJW was to employ the same tactics as white supremacy…we would defeat out whole purpose. Our growth is slow and painful…conversations like these are VITAL. I don’t subscribe to a ‘privilege in oppression’ as some SJWs do. My oppression is not more valid than yours, but, if you don’t share that I can only feel my own pain and break my own yokes. I appreciate this post because it reminds me that we are a chorusof voices…different tones…different pitches…but our ultimate goal is to harness the energy of all of these voices and create a harmony that breaks the foundation of white supremacy and crumbles the ivory tower to rubble. But, we can’t do that until we loose the shackles in our minds. I understand that I can oppress people. I am careful not to. I will listen and ask questions to banish my ignorance. I hope my fellow SJWs are comitted to doing the same.
Another commenter wrote:
I call disingenuous willfully obtuse bullshit on people not knowing that this is slur. It’s been used in all media and said by well-known people in political power as a targeted insult towards Asian-Americans and Asian in this country. I’m Gen X and my mom is a Baby Boomer and m-fers from those generations and previous ones knew that word was an f-ing slur. So, yeah, I will point blank call anyone a liar to their faces that put on the Scarlett O’Hara act and pretend that they know nothing’ about nothin’. Pretend ignorance of slur doesn’t shield you from catching metaphorical or literal hands.
Another commenter wrote:
There is nothing wrong if you never heard the word chi*k used. I never heard anyone use it too. That is the main reason why I like this site. It allows me to learn about other POC’S plight in america and I love how it intercepts. I really never had any close Asians friends until I met my significant other 2 years ago. I kinda did live in a bubble for most of my life. Obviously, I was always aware about racism. Like I would typically just call my sister or friends about BLM topics or other injustices in America. But this has been the first year I have fully submerged myself to embraced SWJ activist pages.
I stand by LLAG’S post most of the time, but on occasion a topic typically regarding Asian people is posted and I respond and either misunderstood or condemned . In the case of Chin*y eyes I was guilty and took accountability that I used it when I was a teen . Trust me iam not the only person who said it without understanding it was a racial slur and never heard the word chink used especially as a result of my culture, neighborhood, upbringing and exposure to Asian people. I find it problematic that a POC can take accountability on their ignorance and be called a liar, stupid and many other negative comments. Everyone is acting like they never made an ignorant comment against another poc race. Maybe social media is the reason why so many people are aware, but generation x and above for POC did not have these privileges and I find a lot of these comments to be so judgenental, condescending, self righteous which I fear will hurt your message on ending white supremacy. I only share these comments because I deeply care about the work and message you bring to life on this page. I may not have been knowlegable, but iam wise and own up to my mistakes. We all weren’t raised the same, come from all walks if life and neighborhood or exposed to a specific POC or racial slurs
I commented on her comment, saying:
I can relate to this, and it is commendable and courageous of you to be open and honest about your experiences and observations. I believe we all, including myself, have been ignorant in some ways or other. I am a Singaporean Chinese (based on the social identity assigned to me by the society) growing up in Southeast Asia, and have never heard of “chink” or been called a “chink”, so I am also ignorant of this term or its origin and perceived connotation. While I don’t recall using racist terms myself, at least the overt or recognised ones, I was taught by my Indian neighbour to address his elder brother as “ah neh” when I was a young boy more than 30 years ago, which means elder brother in Tamil. Today, I became aware on social media that some Indians find “ah neh” racist and offensive, so I suppose perhaps the meaning of this word has changed or evolved, depending on how people use it and how the recipients receive it, and so on. I think it depends on who says the word, and how it is said, and so on. I am coming to realise that some words such as “ah neh” might have been used as terms of endearment or neutral ways of addressing others in the past, but are now used in a derogatory way by some other people, so it is understandable when those on the receiving end of the intended racial slurs want to vent about it, which invariably may make those who are ignorant of the implications of these terms feel uncomfortable and guilty and condemned, especially if we have used them before without knowing these terms are considered racist. Like you said, those comments that come across judgemental, condescending and self righteous may hurt LLAG’s message on ending white supremacy. Indeed, I think having such open dialogues is helpful, when we own up to our mistakes and give grace to each other instead of judging and condemning like some comments here, as it brings about greater awareness and understanding among one another, so that we can continue to hold ourselves and one another in accountability and stand in solidarity together in our advocacy for racial harmony and equality. May we all continue to stand united in our struggle for a better and more equitable world.
She replied to my comment, saying:
Thank you! I truly don’t take offense to anyone and hold no grudges. Life is too short and I rather empathize/love POC when I disagree with them. In all honesty, I love this page, the message, how much I have learned, grown, the solidarity amongst all POC is so beautiful. I think it is ok to sometime disagree, but why be so critical of other POC, especially when they admit to their transgressions.. Together in numbers we are much stronger and white supremacy wants to divide all poc. The reason why I had the urge to to share with so much conviction is because I believe in the message LLAG is spreading and admire his work dearly even if i might be called stupid, a fraud or dishonest. In many shape and form we all fall short to ignorance, like this case for me, for you the Indian word and for others it might be something else. But one of the best measure to eradicated white supremacy and call out our ignorance is accountability. Thank you for sharing I truly appreciated your sentiment as it aligns with mines.
Someone else commented:
I can only guess that people didn’t know that was a slur because, they are ‘woke’ when it comes to their own oppression and marginalization. Further, some ‘woke’ folks, as it has been said, are transphobic, queer-antagonistic, misogynior, misognistic, and bigotted themselves. It’s like if they don’t experience the oppression themselves then, it’s not a thing. Sound familiar? My being aware of how things systematically affect me, helps me understand how things MIGHT affect other groups of people. However, I have learned that different things affect people in different ways, so I have to listen to their experiences and don’t discount them. It’s what I want, just to be heard. For me, my pain from systematic oppression is not greater than anyone’s, I just feel like I can relate to another’s struggle. However, their struggle is their own, just as mine is my own. Maybe we can get together and walk a little ways a bit. One of the great things about the activist community is that we have used the term POC as a signifier of shared struggle. One of the bad things about using the term ‘POC’ is that there is some erasure. I realized that within the activist community I as an African American POC have privilege because black issues and how they impact the black community are the ones that are the most talked about. Often to the detriment of other POC communities. I try to either talk about those other issues affecting other POC communities or at least bring attention to them. However, I’m also conscious of staying in my line and not talking over people in that group. And just repeat those things that were told to me by members of that group. We, as African Americans, have a duty to help out other marginalized groups and give them space to talk. Activism is NOT a zero sum game. Helping another group with their issue will not set us back at all. Trust, we’ve been at it for at least a good 400 years. I am NOT woke. I’m not claiming that at all. I’m still learning, and getting things, learning how to stay in my lane, learning about nationalism, xenophobia, and how this stuff affects dark skinned Muslims from certain places and learning stuff. I’ve been called out on stuff lately, and instead of fighting against it, I just admitted I was wrong and learned from it. I think we have to help out our fellow people in the activist community, be conscious of how we sometimes erase others identity, give each other space, use our privilege, and listen to each other. Also admit when we are freaking wrong, don’t be afraid of being called out. That’s how we learn. Say thank you, and move on.
Being an activist doesn’t necessarily mean you’re conscious. For example, you may be well versed on women’s rights, but clueless on racial inequality. When your ignorance is called out, don’t get defensive. Learn from it and move on.
How in the world are people using that and not knowing it’s a slur? It even sounds like one! If the word is used to describe a race of people and it’s not used on government surveys, then there is a good chance that it’s a slur. Maybe growing up in the south gave me good exposure to racist crap so I would know not to repeat it. Asians have been here long enough for most Americans to know better. Especially now since you can literally google a list of racial slurs and which group it is used against.
So what I learned growing up some Jamaicans would refer to Chinese people as Ms. Chin or Mr. Chin in the marketplace in Jamaica short for Ms. China. Jamaica has a huge population of Chinese Jamaicans. I don’t think POC realized that the message could be or possibly is construed as racist.
I never heard these term, but most likely heard about the eyes comnents from a the Jamaican community. I like to also say Haitians directly call fair skin haitians grimo or grimelle. It means light skin male or light skin woman. However these words in Creole are not offensive to blacks in Haiti.