Is this Racist or Not?

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Viewpoint

 
Miley Cyrus and Chinky Eye.jpg
TMZ Photo
 
 
 
Are you serious?! As you know every tweenie loves Miley Cyrus (a.k.a. Hannah Montana). Karissa, even though she is not a tweenie yet, loves Hannah Montana. But recently Miley Cyrus was caught taking the above picture which was deemed as racist by the OCA.

I know that there are many wide-ranged opinions on this. There are some people who would say that when a person uses their hands to make a slanty-eye gesture that it is not being racist but in fact hilarious, while others would think differently and consider it as borderline racism. I definitely lean toward the latter.

Here is my argument.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines “racism” as, “The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others. It is the belief that some races are inherently superior (physically, intellectually, or culturally) to others and therefore have a right to dominate them.”

Since racism goes into the deep motive level of a person, I don’t know if every person who gestures a slanty-eye is a racist, but it is something worth examining. It might be more of an issue of insensitivity. But if you think about it, people who are insensitive are usually people who think they are better or superior than others.

Therefore, whether it is a racism issue or an insensitivity issue, I think we can argue from both angles.

If the gesture is to try to imitate a physical aspect of a person (which they cannot change), then you are making fun of a person according to who they are. Let me put it in a crude illustration. If someone imitated a person who had a physical disability, we would all cry out and say that it is insensitive and say point blank that it is wrong. Why? Because we are imitating a person physical aspect that they cannot change.

In the same way, if we were to pick a physical aspect of a particular race (and there are many stereotypes for different races) and start to mimic it then we will know that it is being insensitive. Why? Because, once again the person is making fun of something that the other person is born with and they cannot change it.

In my own issues with racism, I realized that whenever I made fun of another race, it was because I thought I was better than them. I usually picked one trait or aspect of that particular race and accentuated it and used it to justify my humor and crassness. I could have justify it and said that I was just “having fun” or it was a “joke” but at the end of the day, I have made fun of something that the person is either born with or something that they cannot change.

This happened last year with Spain’s Olympic Men’s Basketball team. I wrote about it in a August blog entry.

This is just a reminder of how racism is learned. Kids grow up learning things from their parents, as well as social cues. Christina and I have already discussed this with the kids. Even though it is great to be proud of being Korean-American, it is more important for them to know that they are Christ-followers made in the image of God. I am praying that in their generation some of the issues of racism can be address… but as the phrase goes, “history repeats itself.” This is why we need to be vigilant so that another Holocaust or Rwanda or Sudan or other genocides do not happen. But the scary part is that it all starts off in a small way as being “insensitive” to people who are “different” from us.

This is more of the reason why we need to raise up “transcultural” people in our churches.

I guess my one question is for the Asian guy in the picture – “What are you thinking?” Maybe he was trying to be “white” by keeping his eyes wide open!

You can read up on the story here.