Friday, March 18, 2011

Warning: Japanese lady say not-so-nice things about racists!

I was in my early 20's, at a dinner party. The host, a friend of mine, used the 'N-word' in a conversation and after a couple of nervous giggles, everyone went on eating their pasta puttanesca like nothing had happened. I tried to, but couldn't and I made a feeble attempt at approaching the subject, saying something like, "About that word - it was offensive but you know that, right?" my voice shaking the entire time. I remember there were no nervous giggles after that, only a dead silence that seemed to go on forever until my friend simply responded, "I was joking," in a tone that implied I had ruined her dinner party. I still think she ruined her own party with her foul mouth and overdone penne, but I know I was in the minority.

I was in my teens, at a McDonald's with four other friends who were Asian. There we were, trying to enjoy our forty-cent Big Macs, when from the next table we heard the words "chink" and "Jap" in the louder-than-necessary conversation from four Caucasian girls at the next table as they glanced our way. Then, the unmistakable sounds of, "Ching chong ching chong," which as all Asians know, is code for, "I mock the language of your people because I am a turd." We sat there, our cheeks burning, getting angrier by the minute but saying nothing. After they left we noticed they went to sit on a bus bench. We all locked eyes over our McNuggets and knew we had the same idea. We bought four large sodas and headed to our car, two of us in the passenger-side seats armed with two drinks each. We drove by slowly, and at the perfect moment rolled down our windows, doused them in a fountain of Coke and yelled out, "CHIIIING CHONGGGGGG."

I know, I probably handled the first situation better than the second.

But what they have in common is that I feel like I did something. Anything. Fought back. Raised my voice (even if it was shaking and more of a whimper.) Went against my Asian nature and wasted FOUR WHOLE SOFT DRINKS (sorry, mom.) Did I change anything? Maybe. Probably not. But I didn't just ignore it.

I'm not sure what to make of all of the anti-Asian racism that's been stirred up by the disaster in Japan. D-list 'actors,' talk-show hosts, bloated gasbags, bimbos in push-up bras -- they've all declared open season on Asians, and particularly on the people of Japan suffering through an unimaginable tragedy. What is it about the fact that tens of thousands of people have lost their lives that's making it okay to make racist comments and insensitive jokes? Because jokes about the Tsunami are so funny, and so are jokes about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki! I laugh so hard I fall out of my rickshaw!

And make no mistake - those of you who try and defend a racist? Are just as guilty as they are.

(The Los Angeles Times even notices that there's a level of inappropriateness not seen after other recent disasters and credits it to a "reservoir of prejudice" against the Japanese people and says the disaster may be "bringing up culturally accepted prejudice against [them.]" Well, that is just great.)

Many well meaning friends (and I know they mean well) have told me to ignore it, but I've come to firmly believe that's not the solution. As an Asian friend and I discussed, ignoring it would definitely be the 'Asian' thing to do - turn the other cheek, don't give it credence. But in the end, we decided that not only do we have a right to feel outraged, but an obligation to talk about it, to complain about it, to post it ad nauseam on our Facebook walls so other people get angry, too. I'm grateful to whoever it was that was pissed off enough about that idot's Twitter comments to bring it to the attention of AFLAC so that they fired him.

(Oh wait - I have my own joke! Gilbert Gottfried used to be the voice of a duck but now he's a horse's ass! See - no racism in that and it's still hi-larious!)

More importantly, what kind of lesson am I setting for my girls if I refuse to speak up and make some noise in the face of racism, or any kind of injustice for that matter? (I'm proud of Kira for calling a classmate on an anti-gay remark he made, and then refusing to speak to him for a week. Even though she thought he was kind of cute.) I don't want them to ignore the kid making the "slanty eyes" gesture at them, or calling them "chop suey." (Yes, those are true stories.) It was a different world when I was a teen, so maybe I wouldn't recommend the Coke-dousing approach, but I certainly don't want them to sit back and say nothing. Perhaps an app to give a virtual drink-in-the-face to respond to racist remarks? Quick, find me an Asian who is good with the technology.

Last night I was talking to my cousin, and we were both saying how the tragedy in Japan has brought out a new-found pride in being Japanese. I'm feeling their pain acutely, but I'm also feeling pride in how they're handling the crisis, and the stories of their grace in the face of such extreme hardship is showing the world a whole new level of dignity. Which makes the recent ugliness directed towards them that much more painful.

And for that reason, I will speak up. I will feel hurt. I will get angry. I will fight back at the haters who try to demean me or those I love. Even if it means ruining someone's dinner party.

  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Pin It

29 comments:

  1. Thank you, Mir. I love you too!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think the 'remember Pearl Harbor' sentiment on the internet is the most inane and callous response to a disaster I've ever seen.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Exactly. Thanks for writing this - it was much needed this am.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Also, I now have this involuntary vision of white people going around throwing Cokes in people's faces and shouting 'BIIGGG MAAAC! MOOOONSTER TRUCK!'

    ReplyDelete
  5. Bravo! I'd like to say I'm shocked at all the racists feeling it's okay and that they'll get away with saying what they're saying in the face of all that's happening there.

    But I'm sadly not shocked.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I haven't heard any of the racist comments you mention in the wake of this disaster, but I am totally with you on calling people out no matter the setting. Letting a comment go is like telling someone it's OK to say things like that -- and it's NOT.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I love this. It is perfect. I have been torn by three hugely different emotions: worry, relief, and extreme disgust. I worry about my family and friends. I worry about the lives that are effected so much more than mine, I worry about the islands that I have called my home country for so long. I have intense relief that not only have I heard from my friends and family, but that others have too. And I am relived that people are doing so much to help, when they could do nothing or do harm. But this, what is going on in the states, what I HEAR at work every day fills me with disgust. Are we that low? Have we no compassion?

    Thank you for writing this post. Not all Americans are this low.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I still think we should form into some kind of Wonder Twin.

    Racist Fighting Moms, Activate.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I found your post via Yvonne @ JoyUnexpected on twitter.

    A co-worker and I were discussing the tragedies recently and it lead to how disgusting it makes Americans look. How did we react with Hurricane Katrina? We looted, we blamed everyone else, someone else for not helping us, the government. NO ONE WAS HELPING US! But in Japan, you don't see that. You see a quiet class to the people. A simple gratitude that there are groups there to help. These people are devasted more than most of us will ever understand yet still are proud and gracious. If I were of Japanese heritage, I would be very proud.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Well said. This was brilliant and should be mandatory reading for everyone.

    ReplyDelete
  11. It's important to call out this behavior because it is the only way things change. Everyone used to smoke, but it took people standing up and saying "It isn't ok to trap me in a room full of cigarette smoke while I'm working" that changed those behaviors. Same with anything - people have to DO something to make positive changes happen.

    It is interesting to me that prejudice against Asians doesn't seem to be given as much weight as prejudice against black people or Latinos, perhaps because of the impression that Asians weren't as oppressed. Like it is "prejudice lite" or something so it isn't as bad - so that UCLA dumbass felt free to say "Ching chong" when I doubt she would have said the same sorts of things about other ethnic groups in the library.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thank you. Thank you so much.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I love this Marsha, your words are well spoken. I am soooo tired of all the hatred and bigotry so many of us live with everyday. I'm always blown away at what people say and believe is okay.

    Thanks for standing up and sharing your words - although I'll meet you downstairs with a couple of Big Gulps and go for a ride anytime!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Wow that was brilliant, educational and amazing. I am beyond proud to be your sister-in-law. I learn so much from you and I respect so much your strength and fight to stand up to injustice and the idiots of the world. My mom was like that and so is Rigel. I am way to passive ... I hate confrontations ...but no more. You have really shown me that silence can be as bad ... That ignoring the racist comment just gives power to the speaker ... If no one speaks against their stupidity it just encourages them to spew their hatred again. I am glad that you are teaching our girls not to remain silent ... Amazing girls raised by an amazing parent. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  15. That was wonderful. THANK YOU. I believe if you don't speak up, if you don't take a stand, you are just as guilty of racism as the person making the joke/using the racial slur. You're condoning what they say by not condemning it.

    Amen to you, sister!

    ReplyDelete
  16. The accepted racism in the wake of the tragedies in Japan simply boggles my mind. There are a number of people who I've simply decided not to associate with anymore because of it.

    This post was awesome, though I will guiltily admit to chuckling at your retort to the jerks at McDonald's. That was brilliant.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Well said. It takes a lot of lady-balls to stand up for what you believe in. But if we don't stand up for what we believe in, then we stand for nothing.

    I haven't had to suffer through any racism on account of this tragedy, but if I do I will follow your lead and tell them just how wrong they are.

    ReplyDelete
  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I am of the opinion that a dinner party could only be improved by the calling out of racist remarks. You are welcome to smack down mouthy racists at any dinner party of mine. Though generally I try to avoid inviting over the sort of people who make casual racist remarks at dinner in the first place.

    ReplyDelete
  20. You are totally cool, girl ;-) Noticing your mention of your very sweet and smart daughter calling out stupid bigoted remarks of other kids reminds me of my own amazing daughter who has done the same (most recently here: Dumb Shit White People Say in a Foreign Country - I <3 the title! - altho it's *clearly* not only in a foreign country. Sigh.)

    ReplyDelete
  21. I think I'm still in the, "They said what? Did that really just happen?" stage of things. Because I continue to find racism shocking and foreign, every single time.

    Thanks for saying this and standing up. Would that everyone would.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Melinda Hampton3/19/2011 11:45 AM

    Bravo! Your pride, courage and good humor are an inspiration. Love you, Melinda and Phil

    ReplyDelete
  23. I kind of think your second response (cokes in the face!) was better than your first (quiet reprimand) although I know as a grown-up I should think words better than drenching. I know I should not be shocked at racism but I continue to be.
    Loved this post. Preach it!

    ReplyDelete
  24. I knew I loved you.

    I don't think the overt racism is a factor of people being more racist against Japanese--simply a belief that there will be fewer repercussions. Good for you for calling it out Marsha.

    ReplyDelete
  25. You rock my world, Marsha. I'm having this same debate with "Midwestern White Guy" over on my blog. Saying I'M being racist agains white people and he's "tired" of racism on both sides. OMG. Cry me a river Midwestern White Guy. Basically, he was encouraging me to shut up and take it and that I was reacting to racism with more hate. Ai yi yi! It gets so exhausting having to educate ignorant people.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Racism in general is just wrong and it does not feel good especially when directed to you..I live in japan and I go through constant prejudice and racist remarks on a daily basis. I get followed around in stores (even though I have never even stollen anything in my life and everything i have I have worked so hard for) and I have even been ignored at resturuants. I have had obnoxious people say very rude things loud enough for me to hear so its not just the white people that are racist.
    Every country has ignorant people and This thing on here about anti asian racism well there are many asians as well that are just as narrow minded.
    No race is better then another..there are good and bad people.
    One thing I must say though is that Japan has to be one of the most culturally insensitive places I have ever been to. Leave you say? Well just like every country there is good and bad and you cant just leave everytime you encounter an asshole.

    ReplyDelete
  27. You all seem very racist yourselves..Good god talk about the Pot calling the kettle black...l

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts with Thumbnails