What’s In A Name? Even if it is Blatantly Racist…?

Starting today, the Washington Redskins will once again be fighting for the rights to keep their nickname.

Now, while I bleed burgundy and gold, I’ve always wondered how the Redskins have successfully kept their nicknames when it’s… well, it’s racist.

Redskins GM, Bruce Allen, basically said that the organization isn’t trying to upset anyone and that it is “ludicrous” for people to think that they are trying to upset people.

But, c’mon. Even as a die-hard Redskins fan, it is (at the least, a bit) racist. And offensive. I mean, if we were to add any other color… more people would flip. Right? Washington WhiteSkins? Washington Blackskins? Washington Yellowskins? Washington Brownskins? Washington Redskins — oh, right.

I guess what gets me is the reasoning. “We’re not purposefully offending someone. It’s not our fault if they get offended by something we mean no offense by.” That, to me, is a cop out.

Of course, it happens to us (the Asians) a lot. Or, more truthfully, I think it happens a lot because I’m more aware of the racist gestures towards Asian in the media…

Like the Spanish national basketball team:

Or Miley Cyrus and Friends:

Or the Duke Fraternity party:

Or the Chicago Cubs (for the player Fukudome):

The problem that I have with those things is, when people complained, the response was basically, “What? We didn’t think it was offensive. I don’t know why you would find it offensive. I guess we’re sorry that you’re offended. But we did it because it was funny. Sorry… I guess.”

Case in point: There was (is?) a restaurant in the North East called “Chink’s Steak.” Naturally, some Asians got offended by such a name and registered complaints. In an interview, the owner of Chink’s (who’s white) said (and I paraphrase):

“It’s not racist. It’s a nickname that my friends gave me as a kid. I had small eyes growing up, so they called me Chink.”

Yea… The origin of the nickname’s a bit racist. Not gonna lie…

Which is basically what the Redskins are saying.

“We never thought of it as being racist or offensive. That’s probably because we’re not Native American, but that’s besides the point. You shouldn’t be offended by it, because our purpose is not to offend. Besides, we could lose tons of money if we were to change our names. Don’t you know what happened with the NBA teams? The Bullets became the Wizards. The Wizards! How lame of a name is that? And the Hornets? They’re going to be the Pelicans! We want to avoid that, so don’t be offended, cuz we ain’t trying to offend.”

Yes, I believe we live in a hypersensitive culture that overreacts over every small thing.

But yet, there are good reasons why we shouldn’t use certain words to demean and belittle other folks, like “gay” or another slur for that. Or “retard.” Or use any racial slurs to describe people. Like Chink. (Take note, Papa Johns and Starbucks. Oh, and Chic-Fil-A.)

Here’s one Redskins fan who hopes that the people win this time around. I don’t care what the Redskins are called, I’d still root for them, I’d still bleed their colors if they were to change it, and I’d still loathe the Cowboys no matter what happens. And believe me, the team formerly known as the Redskins will still make a tons of money. If the Wizards, Thunder, Heat, Jazz, and yes, the Pelicans can (still) make money, whatever the new team name is, they won’t have to worry.

A Chink in the Armor – You Lin Some, Dim Sum You Lose

Jeremy LinI’m not the best person to really write about this…

My formative childhood years were spent in Columbia, South Carolina. When I was in elementary school, I was the only one of my kind in my classes. And kids made it known that I was different. I grew up wanting nothing more than big, blue eyes and blonde hair.
Subtle racism has followed me all my life. As a teenager, a grown man came up to me and asked if I could see okay compared to everyone else and walked away. It took me a second to realize he was referring to my eyes.
I’ve played the “Where are you from?” game with many folks because saying “I’m from the States” isn’t a satisfactory answer enough.

I’ve been called Gook. Chink. Jap.
I’ve had people leave messages on our answering machine with “ching chao chang ting chong” because our answering machine message was in Korean.
I’ve been told to go back to my country. Learn English (annoying enough, sometimes by people who I speak English better than).
I’ve had people, whom I don’t know, how much they hate Chinese and Commies.

And because of this, I went through a long period of my teenage life holding a grudge against white folks. I went through this intense Korean-pride stage where everything Korean was much preferred to anything American. I’ve been a bit racist myself. And as much as that phase is long gone from me, some remnants of that phase still remains.
I’m less tolerant of racial remarks made by white folks because they were the cause of most of my pain being an Asian growing up. I’m quick to call out insensitivity regarding race from white people, but snicker when it’s made by other ethnicities.

I’ve used the “I don’t speak English” card  to get out of so many things, so many times, it’s embarrassing.

With the rise of Jeremy Lin, I think there’s a bit of pride rising within all Asian-Americans. Jeremy Lin isn’t a Yao Ming who was brought from China. Jeremy Lin is from the States. He’s one of us, children of Immigrants. As much as I dislike the New York Knicks franchise, I want Jeremy Lin to succeed. I watch every hi-light. Try to catch all his games.

But with all the joy that comes with Jeremy Lin, also comes the painful memories of the past that many of us Asian Americans had to grow up with. And even though the stupid stereotypical and racist remarks have been a few, it’s enough to tarnish the overwhelming joy of Lin succeeding in the NBA.

Here are a few examples that I’m sure by now I’m beating a dead horse:
Jason Whitlock of Fox Sports:
Here’s another:

And another:
Here’s what I think was an awful mistake more than malicious intent which eventually led to the person losing his job. Yet not reprimand has been handed to Mr. Whitlock from Fox Sports, which I view as a bigger offense than ESPN’s mistake. “Chink in the armor” is a fair  sport’s cliche. It’s overused. It was just an oversight, I believe, that using that cliche with Jeremy Lin wasn’t going to be a great idea. Jason, on the other hand, was intentional and not even remotely funny. (Sadly, yes, if it was funny, I wouldn’t have been as annoyed.)
Outside of the Lin-sanity, here are some other examples:
A barista of Starbucks in GA decided to write this where the customers name goes for 2 Korean customers:
Or this from Papa Johns:
Or this from Chic-Fil-A of UC Irvine:
Or the horrible portrayal of an Asian-American in CBS’ 2 Broke Girls.

This is the time where I wish I was eloquent and a good writer to express my point.
But I’m not.

I can’t help feel a bit annoyed and/or angry when people can tweet or say ignorant stuff, and laugh it off. Then give a half-baked apology blaming everyone else, like your mom or Richard Pryor, but yourself (a la Mr. Whitlock).
And, no, it’s not really okay to point to a random Asian and start calling him Jeremy Lin.

As an SNL skit pointed out, we can’t use all the stereotypes of Asians to describe Lin-sanity and think that it’s funny and okay. (http://www.hulu.com/watch/331272/saturday-night-live-cold-opening-linsanity-postgame)

The good thing is, I guess, is that people are becoming more aware of racial insensitivity and as Bill Plaschke wrote, Jeremy Lin is holding a mirror up to America. 

But There’s no need to get angry. Or find ways to get even. 

The grace in all this… is that God made us to be different and unique. And those differences need to be celebrated. (I think that Jeremy Lin should be celebrated as a good point guard for the Knicks, and at the same time, for being Asian-American.)
But with differences brings fear.
If we let it, fear can be much louder and overpower love.
And if we retaliate, much like Ms. Hyun did with her awful, inexcusable, malicious, ignorant and racist tweets, we cause a further rift and maybe even confirm fears (or stereotypes).

No, instead, we know that love drives out fear.
So to truly bring reconciliation and education, we need to do it with love and grace for only love has the power to conquer all fear, ignorance