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?