Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Me Chinese. Me tell joke.

If you’re Asian, I’m sure that at one point or another, a kid has come up to you with the palms of his hands together in a praying position, asking you to “open the refrigerator.” Unsuspectingly, you pull apart his hands as if to open the door of a refrigerator. The kid then demands, “pull out the Coke!” Suspending belief for a moment, you pull out the imaginary coke and hold it in your hands. The kid then tells you to “open the Coke and drink it.” So you pull the tab and take a chug. That’s when the kid bursts into laughter and starts singing in his best oriental accent, “Me Chinese, me tell joke. Me do pee pee in your Coke.” I had this joke played on me so many times that by the time I was in 6th grade, I just walked away as soon as I saw the refrigerator.

Kids come up with the cleverest ways to make fun of other kids. The curious thing is how do these kids come up with this stuff? How does every kid in America know the Coke joke? Even a law school friend of mine told me that he recognized that song, and he grew up in Utah, where there were no Asian people to make fun of. And kids seem to be getting more clever.

Just a few years ago I went to a third grade class as a volunteer to teach them about resolving conflict. Now, this may sound weird, but little kids intimidate me. I still have a built-in fear from when I was little because I know that kids hold no reservations when it comes to political incorrectness; they will say what’s on their minds. Well, this time a kid was so clever with the way he made fun of me that I couldn’t get mad. After telling everyone that my name was Jang and introducing myself, one kid in the back of the class raised his hand. I called on him and he asked, “So, can we call you Jackie Jang?”

At least, he asked for permission.

22 comments:

  1. Hey, i know that song too. I have know idea where i learned it though.

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  2. and could you please tell the world where you grew up and if there were any asian ppl to make fun of?

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  3. I might be taking this a little too far and totally generalizing the people here in Utah but I'm just going to say it. I have noticed in living here more then anywhere else that when someone of a different race is introduced to someone from Utah one of the first questions asked is "so what are you?" as if the person of a different race is not human. People can get mad at me, but that has been my experience.

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  4. grew up in oklahoma...not a ton of asians there as you might guess.

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  5. hmm... i've never been subjected to this "coke joke." you may have to show me some time. i have, however, gotten "what are you?" and "don't tell me, you're chinese, right?" a lot.

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  6. you're going to have to show me how this works. lol. wow. wow. wow.

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  7. Karen, you are right that there are a lot ppl in Utah who do that but there are places that are worse, believe it or not. In fact, because many Utahns go on missions to foreign places, they are more sensitive to different cultures, in some respects. I've gotten the "what are you?" question a million times but often it is because they don't know how to ask the question more appropriately, like "what is your ethnicity?"

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  8. I had never heard the coke joke before. In fact, growing up in Utah, I didn't even know what an Asian person was.

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  9. I don't think I get the Coke joke. I even asked my co-worker who's born and raised in Chicago. She said she'd never heard of it (or she's too embarrassed to admit it to me? ). Since I came to the State after my high school, I am always worried how to be a mom in the states. A post like this will really help me to be prepared as a mom, too as well as helping me to figure out my identity as an Asian living in U.S.
    Very interesting. Keep up the good work!

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  10. Hey jang, I just remembered that we had more to that little rhyme. After someone would say, "....me put peepee in your coke," the other person would reply in the same attempt at an accent, "me American, me smart, me no drink that peepee part."

    You ever hear that part of the joke?

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  11. Honestly, having been raised here in smalltown, Utah, I have never heard the Chinese Coke joke. Wow. I feel really left out.

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  12. Saerom, that's actually surprising that she had never heard of it in Chicago. Hope this blog helps! But I also hope it doesn't create an awareness of things that never really bothered you in the past!
    Joe, I've never heard of that American part. Unbelievable!

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  13. I've been always aware of it even before I came to the states. I've heard stories of my dad when he was in the states in the '70s. I know the world is changing, and we don't hear the same stories, partially because it's illegal, but Race does Happen. Thanks for sharing your experience, thoughts and knowledge!

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  14. Jang- How many times were you asked to open the refrigerator door before you quit quenching your imaginary thirst? First things first, I remember when my student teaching experience went a burst. The first day it went astray, but I flipped the script with my quirky lips. "Are you Jackie Chan?" Well, no, I'm Mr. Kam, but Jackie's my cousin, my fam. And guess what? Jet Li's apart of my family. Bursts of laughter consumed the racial factor, and we were able to move on and from then on, I still got caught by kids asking where I was from- more so they were curious of how I spoke, so properly. Not like what they saw on TV- They couldn't do the "Chin Chongs" to copy me. I think I was the first Chinese dressed in a button down not delivering food from Chinatown. An Ambassador breaking down the racial barriers.

    I remember when I was working as a docent in the museum, I caught kids from what seemed to be deep Harlem, trying to speak the Chinese- it was four of them. My reply was "Wow do you know what you just said?" Caught 'em deep in despair- Did the Chinese guy just respond with English-that's so rare!

    Often times, with kids I found when you turn words around, you down what sounds racial and hear the parents in the background.

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  15. So are you going to leave my rhyme note afloat? .

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  16. Jang, the question is "Who are you?!"
    Never heard that joke in UT or S'pore.

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  17. Jigga-

    I never opened "the fridge" as a young srant eye...yet I was still subjected to various "Me Chinese" chants in Cali.

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  18. This comment "I've gotten the "what are you?" question a million times but often it is because they don't know how to ask the question more appropriately, like "what is your ethnicity?" is very insightful and I believe correct. Many Utahns are interested in genealogy or family history which also may spur this question. More often than not it is somone really wanting to know, but do not understand proper etiquette. This blog could go a long way in educating others. Thanks

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  19. I remember my friend Sameer - White Mom, Indian Dad - doing this joke to me. Didn't Clarence Thomas tell this joke? I recall something about it in his confirmation hearings...

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  20. Oh yeah, and I thought it had something to do with Mormonism because of the Coke part, like I was being mocked for not drinking Coke or something. OK, it's stupid but I was in 4th grade so cut me some slack.

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  21. The joke is definitely better if you sing "Me Chinee" rather than "Me Chinese". I used to call Chinese restaurants and pull that one all the time :-)

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  22. Oh No!!! he called you Jackie Jang!!! You must have been scared for life

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