Pasadena Weekly Column Draws Criticism for “Racist Remarks”

I hate invoking the R-word. And I certainly hate directing that word at people. So before anyone gets on my case for calling someone a racist, let me just say that I think there is a difference between someone actually being a racist and someone doing/saying racist things (though some may ask “What’s the difference?” — a topic for another post!).

But after reading an article (Hearing is not believing, 8/26/2010) in the Pasadena Weekly written by Jim Laris, its former publisher and owner– who evidently has a regular column called Cigar Smoke published in the Pasadena Weekly every other Thursday — I don’t know if there is another word other than “racist” to describe his article, except maybe “unfunny.” The article seems to be trying to telling an “amusing” story about how the sound from his TV/cable box seemed to be coming out in Chinese, but it has drawn the ire of the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), who issued a Letter to “Pasadena Weekly” for Racist Remarks.

Again, I just want to make clear I’m not calling Mr. Laris a racist. But I wonder if he had any consideration how the following excerpts might sound to Chinese-speaking (not all of whom are from China or “commies,” by the way) or South Asian people: [emphasis is mine]

  • …we started to hear the Chinese guy Kung Powing in Chinese.
  • It made me exclaim to Marge [his wife], “Holy communist plot, what is happening?”
  • Nat King Cole singing “Oh Holy Night” in commie would have killed me.
  • Should I call Charter? Well, I would probably get some Indian techie guy and when I told him I was hearing Chinese coming out of my TV and then it switched to Nat King Cole, he would hold his hand over the speaker of the phone, and turn to his buddy in Bombay and laugh his tandoori-ass laugh and regain his composure and ask me, “Sir, vat is a Nat King Cole?

Ok, so I get that he’s trying to be funny. He makes reference to his wife calling him “Couch Potato Face” and to imaginary conversations with the late Richard Feynman. But as a former publisher and owner of a publication based in the San Gabriel Valley– one of the largest concentrations of Chinese American populations in the nation– is it really a good idea for him to say things like “kung powing in Chinese” or refer to the language as “commie?” And exactly WHAT is a “tandoori-ass laugh?” Who is trying to be– Joel Stein?

What do you think?

10 Replies to “Pasadena Weekly Column Draws Criticism for “Racist Remarks””

  1. Ugh. Reading that was tortuous. Not only is he unfunny, he’s an awful writer. And yes, that article was racist.

  2. Jim Laris must be an older fellow. How many people even know what the term “commie” means, let alone its inapplicability to today’s China?

  3. Hey JW!

    Your Chinese card has been revoked. Lead, follow, or shut the hell up and stay the fuck outta the way…while folks who “get it” make life easier for you.

    Submissive, approval-seeking panty.

    1. “Your Chinese card has been revoked. Lead, follow, or shut the hell up and stay the fuck outta the way”

      Not a yellow person, but I had to laugh at this pathetic attempt at cyber chest-beating. Oh? Who the fuck are you? You’re going to revoke his Chinese card and make him stay outta the way with you are and what cyberarmy? This ain’t China this is America, he’s free to make up his own mind as to what he thinks just as how you’re free to blow Matt Mason and Jason Burns’s load however long you wish.

  4. I had the pleasure of working for Jim Laris at the Pasadena Weekly last century both as a freelancer and later as its editor, so I’m obviously biased and know him a bit better than those commenters who are too chickenshit to burn his house down themselves and instead want someone else to go do it. Laris is a stand-up guy who does love to punch buttons with his Cigar Smoke column — sometimes to better effect than others. Racist? Nah. He’s an equal-opportunity envelope pusher.

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