« My resume | Gene Expression Front Page | Joe Millionaire »
January 17, 2003

Ching-chong-chang out of Shaq's big mouth....

OK, when ESPN spends a lot of time reporting on this Yao/Shaq insensitivity thing-it's getting wwwaaayyy out of hand in our society [1]. Do you know how many times a month I have people asking me to talk like Apu Nahasapeemapetilon?. I mean, I can do it, so I indulge them. Laughs all around. I mean, I make jokes about Irish people being drunks (sorry Jason M. & duende), who am I to protest? (I spent my grade school years in Albany, NY, dominated by an Irish Catholic machine political system and most of my classmates were from working class Celtic backgrounds)

Just watched the Houston-L.A. game on T.V.-did you see Yao's huge Chinese parents (I think they were his parents?) in the stands? They were clapping in the most subdued Asian manner. It was hilarious to me for some reason, they were like no other parents I'd seen being focused in on by the cameras during game-time....

[1] And what is not being said is that our society does have a milder standard for making fun of east, south and west Asians than say for Latin Americans, and especially for black Americans (imagine Yao doing some faux ebonics). But, I'm all for keeping that mild standard intact, I think one reason that whites and Asians get along in the US is that whites are less stressed out about offending them. "Sensitivity" tends to put up barriers between groups I think, rather than relaxing tensions. And if there's one thing I oppose with a passion, it is barriers between me & women of northern European heritage on account of "sensitivity" (though true, "sensitivity" can be turned to one's advantage....)

Posted by razib at 11:12 PM




I can tell you this much, I'm pretty sure I had the MOST integrated and racially diverse group of friends in the high-school cafeteria, and b/c of that, you can be sure that we also had the LEAST racially sensitive table in the cafeteria. While other people became more segregated by their tense sensitivities, we realized that it was all in the family. Hell, I don't know how many times I had to endure the ubiquitous "potato famine" crack ("A million Irish starved to death during the potato famine. . .You're on an ISLAND for chrissakes, learn how to FISH, you stupid Micks!") I think most of us were so thoroughly de-racinated that the jokes didn't really damage anything that we personally valued or considered relevant about ourselves anyway (Though I have a lot of Irish blood in me' veins, I have actually never claimed to be Irish, in anything but, what I considered to be, a joking sense. Like razib, I prefer to be defined as an American, b/c I feel a sense of participation in its unique historical idea, and I would rather be recognized by what I have chosen).
To be truthful, I don't see any sort of workable model for America in my "testimony" though. Actually, the only reason we COULD have a table of deracinated racists is because we all had relatively high IQs to converge around (In a broader sense this is also why making fun of asians is tacitly considered more acceptable) . I think the IQ barrier is actually one of the most dramatic causes of ethnic tension & division in our society, and the fact that it may be in part genetic, makes it very, very important to take the possibility seriously. That's why I think Richard's idea that's it's some sort of "fetish" to focus on the idea is actually rather naive and anti-intellectual. And his whole "Look everyone, Razib is a racist b/c he is thinking about how technology may help us to rise above nature's hypothetical inequalities" was just really, really sickening.

Posted by: Jason M. at January 18, 2003 02:28 AM


Good post, Razib - that is also one of the reasons why I tend to be closer to white Americans rather than blacks, since I am constantly watching what I say when I am with black people.

I have had a Jewish technical lead, who made fun of my being Asian and a woman all the time, I teased him about his rather prominent nose and called him "Shylock". He was and still is one of my best friends.

Posted by: Shanti at January 18, 2003 11:03 AM


When I worked at McDonald's the closing crew was made up of a Jew, an Irishman, a Blacxican (half Black half Hispanic), and an East Indian. Telling racist jokes was that group's favorite past time, and everyone got skewered.

Actually, while this was McDonald's, the group was pretty smart. About half were in college or saving for college -- this was in a college town, and McDonald's was really good about being flexible around changing class schedules every quarter.

Posted by: Jacqueline at January 18, 2003 11:19 AM


unfortunately, i think the insult thing is more correlative or indicatory, more than causative. in other words, you trade insults within your family or ethnic group because you are close-you aren't family or within an ethnic group because you trade insults. though perhaps it might have that psychological effect. don't know.

Posted by: razib at January 18, 2003 12:46 PM


"..And if there's one thing I oppose with a passion, it is barriers between me & women of northern European heritage on account of "sensitivity" (though true, "sensitivity" can be turned to one's advantage....).."

Ah razib, a case of jungle fever, eh..? On the other hand, look who's talking :-)

Posted by: Suman Palit at January 18, 2003 07:28 PM


more like fjord fever :)

Posted by: razib at January 18, 2003 07:34 PM


When I was in junior high (and this was during the second wave of integration up north), our favorite comic book was called RACE RIOT, a compilation of vicious ethnic and racial stereotypes. Everyone got an equal opportunity skewering and it was great fun. That said, there are some subjects that are off limits. Whites can't make slavery jokes and although I once saw a website of Holocaust jokes, they aren't in major currency and they weren't funny anyway, even in an underground, taboo-shattering way.

There are still some red lines, guys.

Posted by: Diana at January 19, 2003 08:35 AM


Some sports arenas have been passing out fortune cookies before games with the visiting Rockets. Imagine if they passed out wartermelons and chicken before the Lakers visited.

Posted by: Sarah Meadows at January 24, 2003 02:21 PM


Dear Shaq,

I think you are a big wonabe basketball player.Why did you made fun of Chinse people.I use to like you but now you play to hard you are just talking trash about other peole not chinse but other culture.If you keep talking trash you maybe will not have no fans most of my fans that are Chinse they use to like you but now they think you are a trash talking won a be basketball player even Kobe is beter then you.

Posted by: Saul V at April 28, 2003 05:09 PM


I think you suck

Posted by: Patrick Tran at April 28, 2003 05:11 PM