was larger when I was growing up.
Or it seemed that way.
Long distance phone service was costly.
Airfares weren't deregulated, so people didn't travel
as much or as far.
For those of us who didn't live in the big cities, it
was rare to meet people who looked or talked differently
was taking a road trip later when I was about six, and at a stoplight, our car
pulled over at an intersection next to a car driven by
middle-aged black man.
I rolled down the window and chatted amicably with
the first black man I'd ever met face to face.
As the light turned green, and he pulled away past
the light, I shouted after him, "Bye bye, Chocolate Face!"
make me a six-year old racist?
defined as a hatred or intolerance of other races – apart
from your own, of course.
Upon reflection, I suppose you could hate your own
race , which would make you a self-hating racist.
Or just utterly ridiculous if you're a white man
trying to act like a black rapper.
overheard me calling this black man a chocolate face and
reprimanded me mildly.
"You don't call black people chocolate faces," my
My sister agreed.
"Yeah, you wouldn't want to be called a vanilla face,
Being called a vanilla face wouldn't bother me.
Why should being called a chocolate face bother him?
I was in
This person looked different.
I didn't have any idea how you properly referred to
blacks or Asians, Latinos, and Indians.
I hadn't really met any.
So I created my own label.
reading this will likely give my six-year old self the
benefit of the doubt.
And I'm sure the man himself, if he heard me shouting
"Chocolate Face" as he pulled away, wouldn't have considered
me a racist.
Little kids get cut a lot of slack for describing the world
as we see it. Only
after we become adults do we get punished for not adhering
to the quickly dated politically correct terminology .
What if this
same incident took place today between a white six-year old
and a forty-year old black man?
This time pretend the black man has a son or a
daughter in the back seat filming the entire conversation on
a cell phone.
The smiling six-year old shouting "Bye bye, Chocolate Face"
is now captured in pristine high-definition video.
six-year old now a racist?
entirely upon the video going viral.
You see, six year
olds just aren't considered as innocent as they used to be.
We hear about ten
year old girls having babies.
It's not an everyday occurrence, and that's why it
These facts remain in the back of our brains, and we
consider that if a ten-year old can be giving birth, surely
a six-year old would know that a black man is not to be
called a chocolate face.
Once enough people see the uploaded video, the
six-year old, possibly just as innocent or clueless as any
young tyke from the 1970's Midwest, is issued a guilty verdict
by the court of public opinion.
The simplest way to
rationalize the six-year old's behavior is to categorize
him as a racist. Furthermore, in today's
attention-seeking climate, the video has more chance of going
viral if it's entitled "Six Year Old Racist Lashes Out At
Black Man" over "Cute Six Year Old Chatting With African
being farfetched here, then think again with the following
three examples from January and February of this year.
I could come up with countless more if I wanted to
waste more of my time.
Incident #1 -- Los Angeles Burger King:
A Korean-American customer receives a receipt from a
Los Angeles Burger King, on which he was described as a chinito.
Incident #2 - Boston Market:
A New York Asian assemblywoman claims a Boston Market
employee kept referring to her as La China.
Incident #3 - Georgian Starbucks:
A Starbucks barista in Alpharetta, Georgia draws
slanted eyes on the coffee cups of two Korean customers.
Are any of
these incidents genuine examples of racism?
I came across Georgian Starbucks when I was skimming over the popular
overrated blog of a long term American resident in Korea.
Trying to do more research on this Starbucks
incident, I discovered the Los Angeles Burger King and
Boston Market incidents.
I could find no initial coverage of any of these events from
any respected news source or news web site.
What I came up with were the web sites of bloggers
who then reported on the incidents secondhand with a racism
Los Angeles Burger King incident was discussed by the
About.com Race Relations guide, herself a black, in Fast
Food With A Side Of Racism.
The word chinito, she says, is "a Spanish term
largely considered a racial slur for Asian Americans."
Writes a Latino commenting on this very article: "[Chinito]
is an almost friendly way to identify an Asian customer
It's like quickly describing a white-haired older lady as
'granny.'" Urbandictionary.com defines chinito as "[a term]
commonly used towards Asians and other non-Asian races and
cultures who may have characteristics that are typically
When Chinito is used as a slang term the meaning can
be a term of endearment or just general hyperbolic
looked further and found a restaurant in Washington, DC
called Chinito's Burritos.
Were chinito such a pejorative term, would anyone
dare name their restaurant with it?
Have you ever seen a restaurant by the name of
Nigger's Chicken Wings or Spick's Enchiladas?
The Boston Market incident
deals with New York State assemblywoman Grace Meng.
I understand why Meng was offended. Her
family is from capitalist Taiwan, not Communist mainland China.
Okay, I'm being sarcastic. I did a web search for La
China and came up with the
names of Chinese restaurants in San Diego and El Cajon.
'La China' simply means 'the Chinese.'
A female Asian being called 'la China' is like a
male American being called 'el americano' or 'gringo,'
neither a slur or negative racial term.
The Starbucks incident attracted the most blogger press,
particularly in Korea and in the Korean blogosphere. A Korean Times reporter wrote an article
called "Starbucks Serves Up More Racism," and according to
her, the Starbucks barista had drawn "a caricature with
slanted eyes to identify two Korean customers."
A caricature is, by
exaggeration by means of often ludicrous distortion of
characteristics of a person, place, or thing."
What the barista drew were just two slanted
eyes; and if you didn't know what they were, you'd think
they were two marks on a cup.
The so-called victims complained and were offered
gift cards. At the exorbitant prices Starbucks charges, the
gift cards would've been good enough for me.
I guess they weren't
good enough for everyone else.
One blogger on OC
Weekly commented, "Yes, gift cards.
Because free Frapuccinos can take of everything from
messed-up orders to blatant racism." Others
called for a boycott of Starbucks outlets --- yeah, like
that would work.
coffee shop – ironically, a Korean franchise -- hands
customers an electronic disk which flashes once your order
is ready. Baristas at Starbucks write names on coffee cups.
What does Starbucks' rulebook have to say when a
barista cannot spell out a foreign name? Probably nothing.
Common sense would suggest that any characteristic a
barista could observe to link a customer with his order
should serve just as well, and if two slanted eyes drawn on
a cup do the trick, then so be it.
Had the barista been privy to the customers' penis or
beast sizes, those dimension numbers written on the cups
would have done the same trick, though the backlash could
have been much worse if the penis or breast sizes were
racist accusations poured in from one and all, Starbucks
stated that "This experience is unacceptable.
The partner who was involved in this incident is no
longer employed by Starbucks."
The partner losing his job was probably a win-win.
Starbucks was getting a lot of negative press over
the issue, and barista 'partners' at Starbucks, no matter
how long they've been there, never wind up with a cushy
In Asia, the locals have their own terms to describe (white)
foreigners. In Japan, it's gaijin. In Korea,
waygookin. In China, laowai. In Indonesia, orang
putih. Here in Thailand, I've heard Thais talking
about me, and they refer to me as a farang. You know,
it's conceivable that at the Starbucks here, the Thai
baristas write that very word or have drawn a pair of round
eyes on my cup! I haven't noticed. None of these
terms are considered racist or used in such a way by locals.
Back when I
was a kid, racism meant not being accepted for membership to
an elite WASP countryclub because you were Jewish, losing a
job to a lesser qualified candidate because you were Asian,
not permitted to sip at the water fountain or sit on the
front of the bus because you were black.
People were discriminated against for racial
differences that shouldn't have mattered.
hardly the same as pointing out a clearly observable
Ukranian advertising agency recently ran an ad campaign with
the slogan "See Asia Like Asians Do" that has everyone in
the West in an uproar over how racist it is.
The ad features a series of photographs of locals
pulling back their eye lids to simulate an Oriental look.
If the eyes were
pulled back to the extreme to make the models and, by
extension, Asians look like buffoons, I could see some logic
behind the racist accusations.
To me, the ad is trying to pictorially represent the
verb "to see."
There's a certain
amount of stereotyping going on in the ad, which is nothing
new in advertising.
Not all Asians have slanted eyes, for one.
But to be fair, in many countries, the term Asian
connotes the Sinosphere, in which slanted eyes are the norm.
If people are going to scream the ad is racist, the
ad must portray Asians in an unfavorable way.
Noting that Asians in general are known for their
slanted eyes is neither good nor bad. It's just a fact, like
pointing out someone is tall, brown-haired, or fat.
People have this idiotic notion in their heads in this
politically correct era that because everyone is supposed to
be equal, we cannot acknowledge differences for risk of a
potential insult that will only highlight how much
inequality still exists.
Racist ranters see racism everywhere.
James Bond movies are racist because Bond is always
portrayed as a debonair white, American TV because people of
color occupy only minor roles.
A casting agent hires a white James Bond
because that's what most people worldwide will accept as
American TV shows cast mainly white leads because
this is what most Americans of all races and colors
Did you know
in Asia, employers of native English teachers prefer to hire
white people? A
Korean- American, born in America, English his native
language, would be glossed over for a teaching gig for a white
American speaking English to the same or even lesser standard.
This is not racism.
The Asian employer is not just selling English
language services to his Asian customers; he's selling
Western culture, and a Western-looking individual
personifies that best to a language institute's customers.
The customers prefer a white teacher.
really are different.
Sorry to be the one to remind you.
They can look different, act different, talk
different, smell different. We'll
do a lot more to eradicate racism when noting such
differences publicly is no longer a cardinal sin.