We're living in a golden age of Internet racism, especially against people from that large, mysterious continent called Asia. Don't believe me? Then you must not have heard of Lorde's ugly boyfriend, the Miss America who just couldn't be American, or about Kolten Wong and Koji Uehara ruining the World Series.
Unfortunately, 2014 looks like more of the same. In January alone, University of Illinois students tweeted racist comments against Chancellor Phyllis Wise, and high school students shouted "We want Slurpees!" while an Indian basketball player made a free throw.
The surprising thing about these incidents is that they don't just show how hateful people can be, but how lazy they are in expressing that hatred. Anti-Asian internet racists: you spent 2013 really phoning it in, and are so far doing the same thing in 2014.
Now it's March. We should be having a fresh start. So to all the racists out there who want to step up their game in the rest of 2014, here are several ways to avoid the all-too-common traps that lazy anti-Asian bigots fall into.
A lazy racist assumes a brown-skinned woman is Arab. Classic! Too bad that 10 seconds on Nina Davuluri's Wikipedia page shows that she is actually of Indian descent.
Racists have also failed to apply basic fact-checking to Davuluri's religion:
You should be sorry, Max Orr. That same Wikipedia entry could've instantly told you that Miss AMERICA actually practices Hinduism. In fact, because India plays host to a variety of nationalities, religions, languages, and other cultural distinctions, it's very important, racists, to take two seconds to Google these things before you broadcast it. There's no excuse!
"But Phoenix," you might say, "Showing how willfully ignorant I am about an Asian person's nationality/ethnicity/religion is exactly the point." I hear you, racist grasshopper, but the effect can really go both ways. If you make a joke that alludes to the wrong national origin, ethnicity, or religion, then you come off as someone so careless about your racism that it's easy to pay you no mind at all.
Phyllis Wise is of Chinese descent. You're worse than the Kim Jong-Un of racists, Daly Earnhardt, Jr.
After the Cardinals' Kolten Wong was picked off by the Red Sox's Koji Uehara, solidifying the Red Sox 2013 World Series Victory over the Cardinals, Turner Skehan of The Internet had this to offer:
Sorry, Turner Skehan, putting a number sign in front of a racial slur does not make your tweet an incisive one. To all the racists reading this, start being more clever than our friend Turner here.
Think about it—the target of your racial ire has probably heard these slurs throughout their lives, as have their parents and grandparents and ancestors. When they hear "chink" directed at them for the umpteenth time, they'll probably just roll their eyes, its power lost. Even worse, people might even start taking the word back. It's controversial, but it happens. The last thing you want is for your lazy racism to actually empower the group you wanted to put down.
When you do come up with something more clever than a slur, though, can we skip the code-word-subbing-in-for-the-actual-slur stage? If Richard Sherman can see through it, others will be able to as well.
Ladies and gentlemen, Exhibit C of the "Nina Davuluri isn't American enough to be Miss America" argument. And if you read here, most of the tweets against her are variations on this theme, showing that lazy racism is a systemic problem.
Referring again to Ms. Davuluri's Wikipedia page (I keep doing it because it's so easy!), you'll find that she was actually born on American soil, in Syracuse, and grew up in Michigan and New York. That kind of background is common for Asian Americans.
In fact, Asian Americans make up 5.8% of this country's population, and some groups have been in this country since the 1800s. Some of them have even fought during the Civil War, or participated alongside Malcolm X in the Civil Rights Movement.
And even Asian immigrants who weren't born in America, or who haven't been here for a long time, are allowed to identify themselves as American. That's what The Great American Melting Pot is about, isn't it? If you haven't seen this Schoolhouse Rock, then watch the video at that link, commit the sentiment to memory, and then come up with something new next time an Asian American has the audacity to achieve something in public.
Did you know that the descriptor of Asians have "almond-shaped" eyes dates back to the 1700s, and was made up by white people? I bet they joked about our eyes being too small to see out of come, as well, so props for staying current, racists.
As for the Lorde's boyfriend/Fred Wu from Awkward tweet, I want to tell a story. When I studied abroad in China, I used to play this game where I'd find this country's equivalent of people from back home, because not only is it untrue that all Chinese people, or all Asian people look alike, but sometimes they look like white people as well. So I pity the lazy racist who pretends that they can't tell Asians apart.
I know that Questlove apologized for this joke, and it's more important to me that he defended the un-American Miss America, and spoke out against racial profiling. I still have to point out this recent example though, because it's a beyond tired Mickey Rooney-in-yellowface stereotype, and again, it goes both ways. English speakers also have trouble with their l's and r's when speaking Japanese. Got it? Will that get you lazy racists to put that joke out to pasture?
Same goes with the weird (and stale) pidgin English tweeting.
How have the racists of 2014 done? We have the Kim Jong-Un example; let's take a look at some other examples from this past month.
Props for accuracy about this player's ethnicity. Points off, though, for invoking the Indians own 7/11s stereotype. Aziz Ansari has nothing but disdain for that lack of imagination.
F-, goombatoomba. F-.
In conclusion, if you don't want to be a lazy racist, particularly against Asians, then follow these rules of thumb: 1) make sure the basic facts that you want to skewer about your target are correct 2) make sure your stereotypes weren't last fresh when they were still calling Asia "The Orient" and 3) when in doubt, remember that Google is your friend.
Now that you have your primer on how not to be a lazy racist, get out there and surprise with some actually cutting bigotry. Please? I really want to write a round-up at the end of this year about how racists got so much more clever in 2014.
Image by John Tomac.