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20 February 2012

Our Society Has Bigger Chinks

I have often been accused of being politico-culturally unaware of the umbrage I should take for slurs against my roots, my heritage, my group, for the discrimination, racism and violence -- malicious, thoughtless or otherwise -- against Chinese-Americans, Asian-Americans, Chinese or Asian women, women, CPAs, New Yorkers, Vassarites, et al.

I am not being flippant.  I am part of many groups and one of those groups is the wide one called Citizens of the United States of America.  I have experienced discrimination as well as outright personality conflicts throughout my life.  Is it racism for 5th grade girls to call a fellow 5th grade girl "Ching Chong?"  Or, is it just bullying?  Is it racism for ESPN's Anthony Frederico to ask about a "chink in the armor" with some reference to current phenom Jeremy Lin of the New York Knicks (the real headline which I cannot quote, because I can no longer find it)?  Or, is it a writer in the fast-paced, competitive and high exposure environment of sports reporting looking narrowly at bringing the most colorful, mind-grabbing words he can to spice up a story, the wider implications of the politically correct world not considered?  The answer is YES.  I know, I know.  I usually hate it, too, when you get a yes/no answer to an either/or question, but in this case, I am deliberately saying there cannot be an either/or answer.

People are complex.  We are Americans.  Even if it is not the reality that we are inclusive of all of our diversity, we like to believe that it is the bedrock of our founding.  Our forefathers fled death and lack of opportunity due to differences in class, ethnicity, race (in that small Europe context), religion, income, political or military affiliation, and other ideas of oppression to a new and promising place where one does not get killed for not wanting to fight (imagine that), and people are not driven off their land because geographically, they lived under the protection of a defeated noble. 

No, I have nothing against those who rise up in outcry against the reference to Jeremy Lin as a "Chink in the Armor."  Yes, it was thoughtless.  Maybe, it is a reflection of the underlying, unconscious racism of this country.  No, I don't believe it was malicious.  Yes, I think the unfortunate Anthony Fredrico has learned something from this brouhaha.  Maybe others have learned something, too.  While we cannot learn and grow with being open to differences in thought, speech and result such as this one, we also cannot become and remain narrow-minded, politically correct and socially stunted or else we will (guess what?) not grow.  Let the adnascentia of a large vocabulary thrive.

Embrace the differences.  Embrace the freedom not only to vilify for any insult -- real and imagined, but also to forgive.  Lin forgave.  I forgive.  I hope we can all forgive, but not forget -- ever -- that we much be always vigilant for underlying stereotypes in our thinking and delightful wordplay in our speech.

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