Racial slurs (chink)

http://nwasianweekly.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/30_36/karen.JPGBy Karen Liang
SYLP student

Words can be extremely powerful, and when they are used negatively, they can be harmful. There are many offensive words out there these days, but one racial slur that has been with me for a while is the word chink.

The word chink can be used to offend someone. You could say, “You are a chink,” which is basically saying that you have very small eyes. Another expression is “Open your eyes, you chink.”

You can also use the word as an adjective, like, “You are very chinky.”

Many people say the word chink originated from the Chinese courtesy ching ching, and also the word China. Other people say it came from the word Qing, as in the Qing dynasty. Qing is pronounced “ching,” so that’s why it’s a possibility.

In the early 20th century, Chinese immigration was perceived as a threat to the living standards of whites in North America.

They saw the Chinese as invasive, and the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed. The law banned Chinese immigration into the United States.

However, after some time, there was a labor shortage on the West Coast, and that allowed for the Chinese to immigrate into the United States again. The Alaskan fish canneries did not have enough labor, and Congress amended the Exclusion Act. Chinese butcher crews were held in such high esteem that when Edmund A. Smith patented his mechanized fish-butchering machine in 1905, he named it the iron chink.

Some thought of it as a symbol of the anti-Chinese racism of that era. Though chink originally referred to those of Chinese descent, it has expanded to include others from East Asia.

Being an immigrant from China, I was always around the word chink when I moved here. When I first came here, I first lived in Maryland, which is populated mostly by whites. There were some Blacks, but there were barely any Asians. When I went to school, I was one of nine Asian kids. It was difficult for me because I could barely speak English.

I remember kids teasing me, just pointing and laughing at me, and I didn’t know why.  I couldn’t understand what they were saying.

One time, some kids just decided to come up to me and pulled their eyes apart to make them squintier. They started singing, “Me Chinese, me Chinese,” and after that, I realized they were making fun of my eyes. I went home that day and cried. I specifically remember asking my parents if there was something wrong with me. It made me feel bad about my body, and it made me feel worse that there was nothing I could do to change it.

I was born this way. I was made fun of because of my eyes, something I can do nothing about.

The next day, one of the kids decided to yell out, in front of the class, really loudly, “Karen is a chink,” and then everyone in the class started to laugh. I was so confused. I remember trying to figure out the meaning of the word and when I did, I was very hurt. I was shocked that they had a word for it. This happened two years ago, and I was made fun of in Maryland until I moved to Washington state.

When I moved to Seattle, there were more Asians and I felt more comfortable, more accepted. When I moved here, I hoped that no one would make fun of my eyes and call me chinky.

It went well for a while, but things changed when I reached middle school. One day, in the hallway, I heard someone behind me say, “Hey chink, what’s up?” I quickly looked behind me and saw two Asian boys greeting each other.

That was when I realized that the word chink is similar to [the n-word]. They are both racial slurs, and are both very offensive, but people choose to use them without thinking about the harm that comes with them. I am still called a chink sometimes, and it’s still very hurtful.

Racial slurs have impacted me. We need to learn to accept each other and not harm each other with words because they can cut emotionally. ♦

Editor’s note: Northwest Asian Weekly was unable to verify all the facts stated in this article. The ideas here do not necessarily represent our stance.

One Response to “Racial slurs (chink)”

  1. Leeroyf says:


    What are some other asian racial slurs? I know a ‘nip’ is Japanese and ‘gook’ is for vietnamese. I’m trying to expand my vocabulary.



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