Fascinating article from NPR Code Switch on the bane of almost every Asian-American's existence. The words "ching chong" fill me with a kind of rage that "nigger" never will. A visceral, steaming rage that I'm pretty sure (ahem - positive) has ended upside someone's head on more than one occasion.

I don't know that I've ever given much thought to the source of that rage or the distinction between the two slurs - as I've had the dubious honor of being on the receiving ends of both - but for starters it's the one I'm more likely to hear from other minorities. Meaning it's not only more ubiquitous but somehow even more othering because it punches a huge hole in what should be brown-skinned solidarity.


Secondly and uniquely to my particular ethnicity, I'M NOT FUCKING CHINESE. Granted, "ching chong" is not Chinese either but it's meant to be an approximation of Chinese language. There is nothing at all in any Korean dialect that sounds like "ching chong". I have often wondered how Chinese-Americans feel about it. I mean, it goes without saying that it's offensive and obnoxious so I've never bothered to ask any of my Chinese friends in casual conversation, but as a Korean-American the slur carries the added implied offense of people thinking all Asians look alike.

But the thing that is commonly offensive to all Asians on the receiving end of "ching chong" - which as often as not comes with pulling one's face to make slanty eyes - is the arrogant implication that Asian people speak nonsensical gibberish. As if Chinese dialects aren't some of the oldest, richest and most complex languages in the world. As if the Chinese didn't invent about half the technology that we consider requisite for this thing called "civilization" that White people like to think they invented right after they hung the moon. As if Asian people are all funny little creatures that just make sounds and aren't capable of complex thought. Unlike "nigger", which connotes pure hatred, hostility and danger, "ching chong" really just indicates that the person insulting you doesn't even take you seriously enough to hate you or consider you a threat. It's belittling on a whole other scale.


Like, are you really that dumb that you can't distinguish between actual words in Mandarin or Cantonese? Your entire understanding of centuries of culture from the most populous region of the world is parroting an ignorant European nursery rhyme from the 19th century? Oh, but you want to laugh at me like I'm of lesser intelligence?