Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Racial Linsensitivity

The English language is a fun and funny thing. There are so many words and phrases that have multiple meanings. Homonyms, homophones, double entendre, et cetera. But ESPN crossed the line with their racist headline.

People should be fired. If it's an "honest mistake," then the writer of the headline has demonstrated a fundamental failure to grasp the English language. If you don't know that this word is a racial slur for Asians, then you shouldn't be in the writing profession.

The word "chink" is only used for two reasons. The first is as part of the expression "chink in the armor," which is rarely used. The second, and much more prominent usage of the word is as a derogatory slur. This cannot be excused as an accident or a mistake. This was intentional.

This person at ESPN gets paid for their proficiency with words. They get paid to fill the site with words. And if they don't know this basic racial slur then they must not be very proficient with words. In which case, they shouldn't be in the Word Business.

The alternative is that the writer did know what they were saying. Which is worse. Someone who knows that what they were writing had serious racial overtones. Did they think it was clever? Did they think it was cute to use such a vile term?

The writer should be fired for either their failure to grasp basic English, or their willingness to use racial slurs. Moreover, the editors should also get the boot for allowing such a headline to appear on the site. And even the lowly web designers who write the codes for the site should be scrutinized. How come nobody at ESPN said "hold on a minute?"

I had intended to write a post about people overreacting to MSG's fortune cookie graphic and how it wasn't racist because fortune cookies are something that's positively associated with Asian-Americans. Sort of like spaghetti being associated with Italian-Americans. I don't think it's racist for Asian-American food to be associated with an Asian-American basketball player.

That graphic was a relatively innocent thing. Utterly innocuous. But ESPN's headline is not innocent. At the very best, it's an example of extreme ignorance of the English language, which is inexcusable for a professional writer. And more likely, it's some jerk who thought they were being clever as they incorporated a racial slur into their headline. In either case, it's wrong, and people need to be fired over it.

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