Pointing Fingers

15 08 2008

For the last week, I’ve been reading about the Spanish national team’s racist team photograph.  In separate pictures, the men’s and women’s Spanish basketball teams used their fingers to make their eyes slanted. 

I’ve been discussing this elsewhere but I hadn’t gotten around to writing anything here until now.  I found an LA Times article, written by Bill Plaschke, that sums up my feelings pretty nicely. 

Plaschke steps up and points the finger at Pau Gasol.  Bravo, Bill.  I didn’t know you had it in you.

No, the photo was not cool. No, there is no possible explanation that would make it cool.

The photo had been running in a Spain publication since last week, but only recently drew the attention of the mainstream media.

In the photo, players used their fingers to supposedly make them “look more Chinese.”

It was the centerpiece for a publicity campaign. The team is actually sponsored by Chinese clothing brand Li-Ning. It was supposed to be seen only in Spain.

“It was something like supposed to be funny or something but never offensive in any way,” Gasol told the Associated Press. “I’m sorry if anybody thought or took it the wrong way and thought that it was offensive.”

Funny? Maybe in Spain, but not in the United States.

Hilarious.  I’m cracking up.

Other players said they were only responding to a photographer’s request. Yeah, like pro athletes will ever do the bidding of a photographer?

“We felt it was something appropriate, and that it would be interpreted as an affectionate gesture,” said Jose Manuel Calderon, a Toronto Raptor, on his ElMundo.es blog.

Appropriate? Affectionate?

When told that people were found the gesture offensive, Gasol said that was “absurd.”

To me, it’s absurd that he still doesn’t get it.

What got me to write this post was my shock at how some people were responding to it.  Some called it “unfortunate,” others called it “wrong” or some other synonym for “bad.” 

Yet a large number of people I ran across were unable or unwilling to call it racist. 

It surprised me.  So what is this incident?  An unfortunate, ignorant, ill-advised picture?  (Is it just me or is there now a strange realization that the term “politically correct” can work both ways?)

Skip that. 

Racism doesn’t just exist in the bowels of some smelly dungeon south of the Mason-Dixon.  Racism isn’t employed exclusively by bludgeoning trolls whose hearts are scarred with hatred.

As a Filipino-American, I encounter this type of racism all of the time.  Overt, subtle, institutional, loud, soft, you-name-it.  I live in Chicago; I see it in the suburbs and I also hear it in the city.

I was born in San Francisco; it’s very alive there.  I’ll be going to Memphis next month for business and I’m certain it will be waiting for me.  Racism isn’t some heavy hate-axe that only the worst of people use.

If it’s racist, call it racist.

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2 responses

20 08 2008
Ryan

racist? that’s strong, but I’d definitely call it stupid and ignorant

How in the world did they think it would be clever or funny?

12 05 2012
Tony

Ryan , So what’s considered “racist ” in your mind? Lynch mobs and burning crosses? Too harsh? How about monkey sounds and black faces and chinky eyses? Call it what it is…

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