Too many of my students are too used to hearing a certain term. Upon alighting on any mention of race, several will call out, "that's racist."
Racism is having a prejudice against a certain racial group. Racism is harboring negative views towards a certain racial group because of their race. Pointing out something related to race, e.g. the ever popular "achievement gap", is not racist. While not smart to do in school, I'm not even convinced that telling a racially-themed joke is "racist". I think it's OK to laugh about such things; it becomes negative only when negativity is injected into it. Is anyone truly offended by blond jokes?
So imagine my surprise when I saw the following editorial cartoon in the most recent edition of our school newspaper:
Is it "racist" to mock the English-speaking style of a Korean? If you think it is, check out the name of the artist who drew the cartoon. Yes, she's of Korean descent.
Is this cartoon similar to black kids' calling each other "nigger", to women calling each other "bitch", or to gays calling each other "fag"? Is this cartoon inappropriate?
Is it "racist" to joke about how Japanese will sometimes, when speaking English, swap l's for r's ("Engrish" or "herro"), while Chinese will swap r's for l's ("flied lice")? Or is it just an observation? Is there any value judgement in such observations that makes them racist?
To me, "racist" is a very powerful word and a strong charge to make against someone. It's not a term that should be thrown around lightly.
I have no problems with the cartoon above. I'm pleasantly surprised that it didn't make a bigger splash than it did. Perhaps that's so because Asians aren't generally looked upon as an "aggrieved" class, especially in schools.
(I received permission from the newspaper adviser to reproduce the cartoon on this site.)