Verbal chinkage vs. written chinkage, and the difference between speaking and hearing

Some of this is taken from a conversation with my good friend NB, who is Caucasian and reads this blog.

So as y’all know, there were different punishments for ESPN editor Anthony Federico (pictured above) and ESPN anchorman Max Bretos who respectively wrote a headline and made a comment about “chink in the armor” when talking about Jeremy Lin. Quite a few people on FB and e-mail (and here!) have pointed out that the situations are different because it’s easier to misspeak than it is to mis-write. I’ve read about the ESPN editor, and it seems that he’s claiming that he had no idea what he had done, and that he feels bad.

So…it’s possible that it was unintentional–for both guys. I do think it’s good that they punish both guys in order to send a message, but I think they should’ve done it equally, regardless of whether it was spoken or not. Sure, it’s much easier to make verbal gaffes when speaking. However, if you look at both Bretos and Federico, neither seemed to think twice after the fact–which makes me think that maybe it was the same experience for both of them. Both seemed to go home without even being cognizant that a slur was uttered/written. If Bretos was a writer rather than a speaker, he might’ve done exactly the same thing. So maybe there is a difference between what non-Asians say in some circumstances and others–for them, it could be an entirely different word, much like “dissent” and “descent.” (I got that comparison from this fascinating essay on Braille.) I don’t know if the same is true about the Asian hearers of the word. 🙂

I remember learning the word “chink” in grade school, during our English/vocabulary lessons. I had just been called that and had the crap kicked out of me by my White classmates the week before. (I’ve posted about my adventures in youthful racial violence before.) At that time, the violence was out of control–I was getting kicked, punched, and rocks thrown at me every other week. My teachers were useless in stopping it–it was simply too much for them to deal with, and they weren’t up to the task. When I saw that word on the board, I thought I was going to get more violence. Sitting in my seat, I was breaking out in a sweat, wondering what to do and what I’d say when we were learning racial slurs in class. On my vocab test, I was even thinking of writing two definitions of “chink”: “a narrow opening or crack,” and “what my White classmates call me before the racial violence starts.”

But the funny thing is this–not a single one of my White classmates ever drew the parallel between the words they used to disparage my race and the word that was up on the blackboard. Instead, it seemed that they were just trying to remember what the word meant for their vocabulary test! There was never any linkage in their minds between the classroom and the fact that they had a non-White person in the classroom.

In this case, I think they should’ve punished both Bretos and Federico, regardless of whether it was intentional or not. ESPN has a responsibility to make sure that they are sensitive to the meaning of the words their employees use, and how that word has historically been used as a means of inciting both fear and violence. But I do think they should’ve been equal about it. They should’ve fired both, or suspended both indefinitely.

(pic from the Gothamist)

32 thoughts on “Verbal chinkage vs. written chinkage, and the difference between speaking and hearing

  1. Correct! It was the responabilty of the editorial department to disapprove or approve what their writers work. But that guy has an Asian wife and a son that looks full Asian. I doubt he’s a racist like some of you claim. I thought I was your good white friend, Bryon.

  2. Haha! Siggy, you’re my good troll. On this site, we’ve got at least three trolls–you, and the “funderwall” duo. I like you better than the other two. At least you make me laugh!

  3. Hmm, at first I thought the writer/editor was trying to be funny, but the apologies do seem sincere, though.

  4. Jezz, I had no idea that using word “chink” next to the Asian face of Jeremy Lin needed so much explaining as to whether its racist or not.

  5. I do think some type of consequence had to be received by both espn personnel simply to raise more awareness at what terms have derogatory meanings behind them. I also think a lot of non-Asian people think many terms used to describe Asians are not necessarily bad and so they don’t feel it’s offensive and so this whole firing of the ESPN guy was way over line. When reading some comments on mainstream blogs about this incident – many of the commentators thought ESPN made a big deal about nothing and no one should have lost their job. They all said that “chink in the armor” is a normal sports saying and has nothing to do w/ race.

    I do believe that both Espn guys did NOT have any mal intent behind what they wrote or said – they were being simply clueless.
    But being clueless is not a justification to be able to spread derogatory terms (even unknowingly) in a public setting, especially when your audience is diverse.

    Remember back in the day, Whites would use the German word “schwartza” to label a black person. Wait, is black derogatory? Do I have to say “Afro-American or African-American?” Anyways, my bf on a flight from Frankfurt to Moscow last year – flying Lufthansa – the German flight attendant was going down the aisle serving tea and saying loudly, “Black tea?! Schwartza tea?! Black tea?! Schwartza tea?!” to all the passengers if anyone wanted tea. Now, my bf and his friend looked at each other and almost busted out in embarrassment b/c to them, it sounded just as bad as if she was saying “N*gger tea?!” Now of course the flight attendant didn’t mean anything behind it but to a few passengers, it brings up the offensive connotation.

    In some ways the ESPN incident is like this – in that the host/writer weren’t relating chink with Jeremy Lin the Asian, but chink w/ Jeremy Lin the basketball player’s game performance. HOWEVER, in the US, if a story was referring to Kobe and how he drinks tea before a game, and the cover title said “SCHWARTZA TEA FOR LUCK” or something like that, I’m sure there’d be a congressional hearing right about now.

  6. It was of course only a matter of time before the racial putdowns occurred. ESPN put the matter to rest very swiftly and I do not believe that the networks will commit acts that will alienate basketball fans who dislike racism in sports.

    However that won’t stop the tabloid style presses and more vulgar opinion media to make a run on it now.

    A lot of people want racism against Asians to continue. If they cannot be racist with impunity to at least one type of minority, or one type of “other”, then how could they possibly feel good about themselves? What will they have pride for?

    One thing that media likes to do with personalities is to bring you up and then take you down, hard, because that’s the only way they can curb the influence of a person who has achieved mass popularity.

  7. It is easier to mis-speak, but news anchors usually have a script written for them that they sort of follow, don’t they? It’s not all improv.

    It could have been unintentional, but it seems highly coincidental that the headline would come out for Lin. I don’t know if ESPN has archives available, but it would be interesting to see how many times in the past this editor has written headlines with the “chink in the armor” phrase. I bet not many times, if at all.

  8. Really not necessary to do a gas chromatography analysis to tell if what you’ve stepped on is shit, Notty. Rofl

    If it smells like shit, looks like shit and feels like fresh shit from the way my shoe slides all over the place and leaves smelly skidmarks, then it is shit. I do not need to collect any additional evidence. If you try too hard to prove it to denialists they might go so far as to ask you if it TASTES like shit too. 😀

  9. “I don’t know if ESPN has archives available, but it would be interesting to see how many times in the past this editor has written headlines with the “chink in the armor” phrase. I bet not many times, if at all.”

    The man who wrote the headline claims to have used “chink in the armor” hundreds of times for previous headlines over the years, and did it reflexively for the Jeremy Lin article. I’m an inclined to believe him after reading his apology, and based on the fact I know I’ve personally read “chink in the armor” many times in sports articles.

  10. @Besos.
    A lot of “professionals” in journalism also wrote/said Negros, Colors, Yellows, Chinaman, hundreds of times before only a few decades ago. That doesn’t mean it is correct or appropriate in today’s vernacular. Just take a look at newspapers from the first half the 1900’s.

    I believe the ESPN guys in their apology. But they should also acknowledge that phrases that they may have seem harmless, are in fact, not, and they should make a statement that now being aware of the offensive connotation it holds, they will stop using such terminology going forward.
    The issue maybe isn’t whether these ESPN guys are sorry or wanted to be racist, but that ESPN, by taking swift action, is making a statement that using the word Chink in association with anyone Asian IS racist, no matter what the context. And I think the victory will be when the mass general audience agrees. Versus all this current BS saying “oh, it’s a common sports phrase….. or Oh, people say that all the time – it doesn’t mean anything about him being Chinese..” Knickerbocker, puleeeze.

  11. Agree with Raquel & others

    Occams Razor
    Jeez – some of you analyse so much that I wonder how you dare leave the house..

    Of course the apology sounded sincere. What’d you expect?
    He already had his plausible deniability reason set up in advance.

    J Lin had between 6 and 8 turnovers in previous games.
    No mention of the ‘chink in the armor’
    And yet this game which was a loss for Knicks had 9.
    Two more turnovers
    Big F deal. No way is the slogan appropiate.

    I’ve NEVER seen the fugger use that headline wrt basketball or sports.
    So where is the evidence that HE used it?
    Show me just one time.
    You can’t.

    It is what it is: a smart play on words that he was waiting almost 2 weeks for (first loss)

    It bit him in the @ss.
    He probably thought he would get a slap on the wrist- that’s IF there were sufficient objections.
    Why – well…Asians are not known for objecting to anything & almost have a kick me sign on their backs…
    And some Koreans would be saying “chink” applies to Chinese only etc…infighting instead of looking at the big picture which affects all Asians as a whole
    You get the picture.

    Think what would’ve happened if no action was taken & the editor wasn’t fired?
    He AND others would’ve taken it as complicit acceptance.
    And then the ball starts rolling undoing the work done (what work some might say?) wrt Asian race relations.
    One step forward, 3 steps back.

    Seriously, big problem with Asians as a whole is they turn the other cheek too much.
    You don’t get anywhere by complaining in blogs (as most are wont to do) BUT do nothing in the real world when shit that involves Asians happens

    Asians are LAST in race relations progress – and for good reason.

    REMEMBER: Asian stereotypes mainly affect Asian MALES.
    Asian females ain’t got your back, fellas
    That’s why in this situation, Asian females are more likely to turn the other cheek, so to speak, and give the benefit of the doubt that it was sheer coincidence. LOL

    As long as white men love them (AF) long time, they are happily complicit in accepting insults, bad puns on Asians in exchange for “but you’re different from the others” excuse.

  12. In the spirit of things, how’s this one:

    Federico’s shirt sure is looking “spick” and span.

    Purely coincidence fellas.

  13. I had a look at the AALDEF website some time ago and saw that the organisation was recently involved in the re-delineation of voting territories in some cities or some such with significant Asian American populations.

    I wish things like that would be covered in the Asian blogosphere. So that more people would know why something like this is important and significant.

  14. @Raguel

    Perhaps you can do another guest post with Byron on this one also. I enjoyed the last one you did.

  15. @Linda schwartza is a Yiddish term and NOT a German name for blacks. German-Jews who hate blacks call them Schwartza. I’m sure that your ears heard didn’t hear that. It is like you heard Arnold Schwarzenegger’s name.
    One more thing, is your BF white?

  16. “One more thing, is your BF white?”

    I thought you were going to ask about the wall kissing thing again.

  17. @ Siggy – yes maybe Jews started the term. But it’s been used by whites and even in a movie recently by a white guy, which took place in the 1960’s or so.
    In any case, when you translate black tea into German, it’s Schwarzer Tee. The flight attendant wasn’t saying Schwarzenegger (as in Ahhhnold)…..yet she was saying SchwarzaN*gger to some people.

    yes, please keep your shirt on. My bf knows kung fu – so watch out!

  18. I don’t know what you heard. I wasn’t there.
    Let’s hope it’s just a one incident and won’t happen again.
    I told you. I workout every day. I’m handsome. I know Mixed Martial Arts. I could destroy your BF in a fight and then we could go away together!

  19. I think you said the same thing to the women on the 44s, Siggy. Funny that over the last six/seven years, not a single woman has ever taken you up on your offer.

  20. “I’ll kiss her on the wall on the floor, bed, plane, car, train and anywhere she wants.”

    What the- ??! FFFFUUUUUUUUUUU-!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Siegfried, you have outraged my modesty just by writing that. >8[

  21. Siegfried’s jokey and corny attempt has motivated me to serenade the girls here properly.

    I am so old, I feel older than dust, and more like a black fossil. There are parts of me that have died and turned cold so long ago that they are little more than shades of forgotten memories now.

    This morning as I was driving to work a rare song came on to the radio as if by some strange chance. As I sat alone in my car and the song came to life I had the chance to savor every note as the sun rose, casting the world first in orange, then lightening with every moment, as if to promise a brighter and brighter day with every minute. It brought my mind back to moments before when I had stepped out into my garden and caught the scent of wild flowers still lingering before dawn, and this reminded me of how, despite everything that has happened, this world is still so beautiful.

    To Linda and all the lovely ladies reading this blog, I dedicate this song to you:

    I hope you will enjoy it as much as I have. 8]

  22. Ha ha ha! You belong in a circus, clown. Women like straight to the point sexual talk. I could have said more to Linda that would bellow her ears off. Your feeble attempt to attract women is laughable. Let me school you in on little facts.

  23. Yes, but why would i start sexual talk with women on the internet that i’ve never met and don’t know what they look like?

    I’m not in the habit of cock-teasing myself.

  24. I guess I’m not as old as dust to appreciate the music vid as much. =(

    Thankfully I don’t look as old as dust either. 😉

  25. Pingback: First “Chink,” and now “Gook” | bigWOWO

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *