An astute reader made the following comment to my last post on the Spanish basketball team (see post below, Derogatory expressions: the chinky-eye):
"I don't agree with your reasoning here, Jang. You acknowledge that this gesture [the chinky-eye] would be less offensive in China, but then project your childhood experiences in the Bronx onto the Spanish basketball team. Spain is also a different country with different racial and cultural complexities. Granted, they are not ethnically homogenous, but it's still not fair for you to hold them to your experiences in the Bronx. The Spanish national teams have long had a strong connection with China and are sponsored by the Li-Ning shoe company, which is the Nike of China. Regardless of their motives when they took the picture in question, it's not rational for you to hold them to your personal childhood experiences."
This was my response:
"Your comment is so good that I wanted to dedicate a separate comment [post] for you. Thanks for bringing up the apparent flaw in my reasoning. And I was actually hoping that someone would catch it. But let me tell you why you are wrong and why I am right... haha.
First, as you pointed out, Spain is not ethnically homogeneous. That is key. I'm going to make a wild stab at this but you'd be hard pressed to find a Spaniard who has never seen an Asian person. Spain has many immigrants from all over the world, in fact. Not being ethically homogeneous means you hear, read, and see social interactions with other kinds of people. That fact alone should make you aware that some people are different and they generally don't like it when you make fun of that difference.
Also, this is not the first trouble Spain has gotten into when it comes to race and sports. You may recall how it was reported that the Spanish soccer players and fans were making monkey gestures and sounds at a black player on another team during a game. Will you not hold them accountable for this just because they don't understand what making fun of a black person is? Will you say that Spain's cultural experience is so different that they didn't understand that their gestures and sounds constituted mockery? If yes, then I cannot win this argument.
Also, if there's any country that should understand racism, it should be Spain, given their history of colonizing nearly all of Latin America, parts of Africa, the Philippines, etc. They KNOW racism.
As for China, you could live there your whole life and never see a non-Chinese person. In fact, that's probably the case for 90% of Chinese. That means they have never come across a person who calls them a chink or gives them the chinky-eye. And as you can see from Saerom's comment above, who grew up in homogeneous Korea, she initially didn't think the chinky-eye was a big deal. Why? because noone has ever done it to her! Asians who live in Asia have absolutely no concept of why having a smaller or "slanted" eye is even considered a bad thing. There's no problem seeing out of the eye and everyone around them has that kind of eye so why would it ever cross their mind that it's a negative thing to have an eye like that? Because obviously, it's NOT a negative thing, but some people, like the Spanish b-ball team would like to make light of it.
And as a last point, you don't have to come from the same background as me to understand when you are mocking someone. Mockery and ridicule is a universal language. Now that doesn't mean everyone equally understands the social significance of a certain form of ridicule, but there is certainly more understanding from the person who is doing the mocking as opposed to the one receiving it.
But then again, if your momma didn't teach you that teasing other kids is not right, then that is a whole other problem..."