This afternoon, my three children attended their good friend’s birthday party at a mini golf course with a swarm of six year olds and a smattering of their younger siblings. They descended upon this poor mini golf course and since they are small, ran amuck. I was without Hapa Papa due to lack of thinking things through on my part, so my three children scattered and were little punks as unsupervised children are wont to do. (However, let it be noted that my kids were not the only ones running wild and crazy. See aforementioned party.)
As I was yelling at my kids in Chinese to stop whatever they were doing and come back, I overhear a white man (most likely in his mid-late twenties) at the 18th hole mutter “Ching chang chong” or something similar to his date, a white woman in her mid-late twenties. When I looked over at him, he gave me a smug look, as if to say, “What the fuck are you going to do about it?”
Now, the last time I heard “Ching chang chong” hurled in my direction was on the elementary school yard before I knew it was a bad thing (and likely before the kids who used it did, too). Since my parents had inculcated me with an inordinate amount of pride in my Chinese heritage, I just responded with something akin to mockery and pity, thinking (and likely saying), “That’s not Chinese at all. Idiots.”
Well, it’s been thirty years or so since then and now I do know full well the meaning. And though I still feel contempt, mostly I feel a piping hot rage. I wish I could instead feel pity and disdain and let it go, but I no longer have a better nature.
You see, the guy said it just loud enough for me to hear and be offended. I bet he was counting on me pretending he didn’t say anything at all. You know, because I’m an Asian female and we’re all submissive like that. Wouldn’t want to start a confrontation or make a big scene, you know?
Guess he chose the wrong Asian woman.
I can’t truly recall what I said because it’s all a blur. Something akin to, “I bet you think you’re so clever to say, ‘Ching chang chong,’ huh?”
His date turns to me and says, “Well, he’s part Asian so he can say that. Why don’t you go get your kids?”
“I do have my kids.”
“Oh yeah? We almost hit one of them with a ball.” With that parting shot, the couple stalked off in a fit of righteous indignation. As they left the course, I could see them still pointing and talking about me.
Sigh. Hapa Papa would be so ashamed of me, letting myself be “negged” and side-tracked from the main point.
But as much as I’d like to be someone who has that perfect thing to say at the right moment, I am much better on paper. Truly, my viciousness is better showcased a few moments after my fury has laid waste to my sputtering incoherence. Biting commentary after the fact? That is where I truly shine.
So though I’d like to not have had my entire afternoon derailed and me allowing some fuckwit to have so much power over my feelings and behavior, alas, it wasn’t until after I devised a multitude of apt bon mots on the drive home that I felt a little bit calmer.
Here then is what I would’ve liked to say to the woman after her date was a racist jackass to me:
“You know what, lady? Your boyfriend being part Asian doesn’t give him a pass to say racist things. You think it’s like black people saying the N word to each other or in hip hop? No. It’s not. No one’s even trying to reclaim ‘Ching Chang Chong’ as some empowering thing or co-opt its meaning.
“Consider this: I’m all woman – just like you. Does that mean it’s okay for me to call you a ‘fucking cunt bitch’ because I also have a vagina?”
Or perhaps, if I didn’t have a 20 month old Glow Worm squirming in my arms, I would’ve just sucker punched her in the throat and ran away. That would have felt awesome and like a total win – that is, until the police showed up and booked me on charges of assault and battery. That would be a great example to my children and all the children at the party.
Here’s the thing: I get why the couple was annoyed. I mean, I was annoyed – and they’re my kids. I was already trying to corral the kids into some semblance of obedience, but again, I get that it’s probable the couple didn’t see that, or if they did, didn’t care. That’s their right and prerogative.
That still does not give these people the right to be racist – or at least, racist in public. To me.
And you know that if it were my friend’s 6’5″ white husband who speaks fluent Chinese (like a fucking boss) yelling at his kids in Chinese, these assholes would not have even thought “Ching chang chong” for even a millisecond. If they said anything at all, it might be to compliment his ability to speak a foreign language so well. Ah, the benefits of being a big, white dude. Sometimes, I wish I could have that superpower for myself. (On second thought, given my violent tendencies, that might not be a good idea.)
I have no idea how to end this post. shakesfistatendings
Suffice to say, in the grand scheme of things, I know this incident was a minor drop in an ocean of racism. But sometimes, like a grain of sand in your eye, it’s the tiny things sneaking past your guard that grate the most.