Friday, January 28, 2011

Limbaugh's "Ching-chong" shtick

No, I haven't bothered to listen to it, but the actual "rant" is not the focus of this post. I continue to be confused about people who abuse the word "racism" to shut people up. I'm not clear if they genuinely believe they are confronting racism, or if they have ulterior motives.

Let's get a few things straight: it's not racist to mock another culture or language or nationality. It may (or may not) be tasteless, low-brow, ignorant, offensive, stupid, or mean, but it's not racist. How do I know? Because culture, language, and one's nation of origin are not racial markers. East Asians, or what they used to call "mongoloids" (analogous to caucasoid or negroid, terms from anthropology) are a "race." But the Chinese aren't. If "Chinese" is a race, then what are Koreans? Japanese? Vietnamese? They are all the same race in the sense that white Germans, Britons, and French are all caucasians. Big whoopty-doo.

I'd say that the liberals who are calling Limbaugh racist for doing a mock-Mandarin are the ignorant ones, because they are assuming that "Chinese" is the "race" of all Asians. But there are plenty of East-Asian-descended American politicians criticizing him as well. Hard to know if the average Asian American is as angry, or cares. Judging by most Asians I've known, I'd have to say that there are plenty of Asians out there who would have thought Limbaugh was being hilarious. But that's beside the point.

This is just one example of phony racism accusations. I think a lot of people are just ignorant about racism and they assume that whenever a white person makes any criticism or joke about a non-white person then racism must somehow be involved. But I think a lot of people are just using the word "racist" like a club to get their way. Either it's to shut up people who they disagree with politically, for fear that they will influence other people, or non-white people who claim to be the targets of racism make these accusations to bring attention to themselves and differentiate their identity from the crowd, especially if you are, say, an upper-class black American who doesn't feel "connected" to most other so-called authentic blacks. Even though you live a cushy life, if you can claim you were the victim of racism, it connects you to that much larger crowd and sets you apart from the mostly-white people you work with and live amongst. That's just a conjecture. I could be wrong.

I also think that, for some people, if there are large achievement gaps between one racial group and another, it makes them hypersensitive to criticism of any kind from the majority, "dominant" racial group, and all such criticisms get labeled as "racist."

Back to the main point, whatever one things of making a mock Chinese language (although I understand Limbaugh's intent was not to mock Mandarin but to make a point about how Jintao wasn't being translated during a speech), it cannot, by definition, be called racist. Call it whatever you want, but don't confuse it with racism. Charlie Chaplin mocked Hitler in "The Great Dictator" by doing a mock German language. Nobody accused him of being "racist" against Germans, because the idea was absurd. The change of nationalities from German to Chinese doesn't change anything. It's still absurd to call it racism.

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