As frequent targets of ignorant gestures or racist taunts, Asians in the West are faced with the following conundrum:

 

  1. Stay polite—and thus enable the behavior and confirm that it is perfectly acceptable and without consequence.
  2. Ignore it and soar above the typecasting—and thus teach, by example, that Asians are docile, appeasing and impotent.
  3. Be an Ambassador and Educator, get animated about the subject—and waste energy giving largely futile lectures to deaf ears, and get labeled as an advocate of victimhood and political correctness (ultimately the same outcome as choices 1 and 2 above).
  4. Play the Fool and return the “humor”—and thus sink to levels of stupidity and become a willing participant of a game you didn’t ask to play.
  5. Confront the racism head-on and call a spade a spade—and get typecasted as an oversensitive Chinaman or hysterical gook

 

There is no singular cure-it-all solution. For the sake of their own sanity and integrity, Asians have to pick their battles. The problem with confronting the perpetrators of ignorant remarks and racist mockery is that they dish it out expecting impunity. They believe their behavior to fall entirely within the acceptable norm. Mocking East Asians remains the last permissible form of racism in the Western hemisphere. If the recipients of such denigrating acts should ever protest, they are met with everything from “what the f**k is your problem?” to “it was actually a compliment,” to “it wasn’t racist” and “relax, where’s your sense of humor!?”

Okay. Fair enough—let’s entertain the notion that it’s all in good-taste ... and for argument’s sake, let’s say that “racism” requires having racist intent and that these innocent nonracist people are merely being goofy or friendly... in which case, I pose the following two challenges:

Challenge #1. I dare these happy-go-lucky souls, who believe that positive intent counts for everything, to go to a pool hall in a Chinatown somewhere and try our their ching-chong chink-eye face joke on a group of Asian males under the age of 40, preferably the guys with lots of tattoos. (Thanks, Hamilton Nolan, for that briliiant suggestion!)

Challenge #2. I dare these innocent nonracists to go to a black neighborhood in the US or UK and pull on their lower lip to “imitate” African features—and to have fun explaining to the residents that it’s actually a compliment based on an incurable adoration of Africans and that it’s absolutely not racist, just humor.

Or... we could all just get real and call ignorance and racism by their real names: ignorance and racism. Chink-eye poses are demeaning and have historically been used to denigrate, marginalize, patronize, belittle and ridicule Asians. It is a way of saying they look bizarre. Believe me, whenever I’ve been on the receiving end of such gestures, the intent was always to hurt and poke fun at me for being different.

Slanting your eyes at Asians serves no other purpose than laughing at them, not with them, for being Asian.

Oh, and if you stupid enough to think Asians don’t mind this gesture, you should know that Miley Cyrus was banned from China, with the following statement issued by its foreign minister: “Miss Cyrus has made it clear she is no friend of China or anyone of East-Asian descent. We have no interest in further polluting our children’s minds with her American ignorance.”

Spain's national basketball team in innocent squint-eye pose
Spain’s basketball team doesn’t think this was racist, just “friendly”

 

Snapchat doesn't think it's yellowfacefilter is racist
Snapchat doesn’t think it’s yellowface filter is racist