Friday, September 9, 2011

Chinese, Japanese, Dirty Knees, Look at THIS!

I don't know exactly how to start this post. I'm still in shock from my innocent Google search.

Let me start from the beginning. At work, we have a new online project management tool that is shared with many employees at work. I have a Profile and can upload a picture to identify myself - a sort-of-avatar, if you will.  At first, I uploaded my work ID photo (nerd). Then I thought, "Why don't I upload something fun and unique to me?"

Since I'm partially Japanese and lived in Japan for so many years, why not a Japanese flag? I do what every web-surfer does: I googled "Japanese flag". Lots of images come up, but when a national flag is a white background with a red "hinomaru" (circular sun) in the center, it doesn't translate well to a 100x100 pixel icon. It ends up looking like a big, red dot.

I click on "Images" to expand the repetoire. I find a nice photo of a Japanese flag, waving in the wind with trees in the background. It really makes the flag stand out nicely. But I scroll down further...what's this? I can hardly believe my eyes!

This picture is simply named: "Lovely young female holding a Japanese flag" and shows this attractive woman (most likely a mixed race asian person), holding a small Japanese flag, smiling - perhaps even laughing - and pulling the sides of her eyes. Chinese, Japanese, Dirty Knees...

Sadly, I cannot post the picture on this site (but you can click on the link). To post it here would mean actually purchasing the photo from the stock photo company. I was tempted to do so, for the sake of creating a shockingly visual post. However, I do not want this company to make one single cent off of me or anyone else if they do not review or even censor their photos for racial insensitivities. Shame on the photographer (whose first name could be Japanese!). Shame on the model. But I hold the stock photo company ultimately responsible for purchasing it and posting it in their catalog.

What's worse is that all of the other "flag" photos taken by that photographer (and all with the same model) - Brazil, Germany, Sweden, France, Switzerland, Australia, Saudi Arabia, China, South Korea - were normal. No funny faces. No pulled eyes.

I'm not sure if it was serendipitous for me or stupidity for them, but below the picture there was a "tweet" button to push the web link on Twitter. Which is exactly what I did, with my commentary "Can't believe this is on a stock photo site. I'm offended."

Ask any adult Asian American you know, and I bet they have their own "Chinese, Japanese, Dirty Knees" story...and I bet it's an ugly one. Hopefully, Asian American children of the last decade have been spared this cruel joke. But if one of my students - or even my own teenagers - tells me they have heard this chant when they were young, I wouldn't be surprised.

Gentle Readers, I would love to hear your thoughts about this photo. Am I overreacting?


Anonymous said...

That photo is terrible!

Anonymous said...

Hi, a complaint was lodged with the website and with the photographer. The website had replied that they are working to have the picture removed.

JBH said...

Thanks, Anonymous. Good to know.

Anonymous said...

From the photographer: We somewhat agree that this picture can seem so to some people and will request to have it removed. However, please remember that there are no such thing as a racist shot. It is our job to provide images of all possible situations, gimmicks, expressions and sayings (including this one).

Anne said...

Wow! That photographer is really living in a fantasy world. "No such thing as a racial shot?" Really?

I'm showing your blog entry to my child. She and her friends have experienced this exact form of teasing - the more modern version involves chanting about assaulting a Chinese waiter. Much worse than what I remember hearing as a child.

As parents, especially those of us parenting across racial lines, we must inform ourselves of the shoes our children walk in and prepare them to navigate a world where racism is alive and well. I have shared it on my Facebook where I feature posts on civil rights, parenting Asian American children, and Chinese language learning.

Thank you for sharing.


Anne said...

One more helpful comment for your readers and that poor misinformed photographer.

Miley Cyrus was photographed making the same gesture She was subsequently lectured by OCA, a pan-Asian civil rights organization on how inappropriate and offensive that gesture was.

Despite the tongue lashing she received in the press (I must have been living under a rock and didn't hear it), her apology fell short,

I'm very disappointed I didn't bring this up to my own child earlier. Now that she has outgrown Hannah Montana, she will appreciate how some of her parents choices on what she can and cannot watch matter.

For instance, the first episode of Disney's "Shake it Up" made that a banned program in our home. The opening episode featured the main characters hazing Asian American characters, saying they "all looked alike." I continually remind my daughter, if the writers couldn't remove racist dialogue from the first episode, they won't be sensitive in later episodes.

Chinese For Families

JBH said...

Anne: I appreciate your comments! Yikes! I've never heard the "more modern version" about the Chinese waiter...(shudder).

Hope you were able to see the photo...the link was not working for me yesterday. If not, you can still Google the picture (sad to say).