By Jennifer 8. Lee | July 11, 2007
So today, I got a burst of traffic from a link from AngryAsianMan, a popular and well-regarded blog on Asian American issues. From that traffic, I got the following feedback comment on the chingchongy font that “THE FORTUNE COOKIE CHRONICLES” is written in along the top of the blog, which I found intriguing.
Angry Asian Man has criticized others for using the pseudo”Chinesey” letters like your Fortune
Cookie Chronicles heading. How about the actual Chinese characters with the English translation in parentheses underneath?
So here is the question. When is the use of the font racist? I haven’t seen the Angry Asian Man criticism of the usage, and may go on later to dig it out it. But meanwhile I have a good guess as to the type of the font he might be criticizing, and I think we are talking about two different contexts. The font would be disturbing if I were using it earnestly to represent China or “Chineseness” — but the fact is, that my book is actually about Chinese-Americaness (and the American perception of Chineseness) . So in a way the font is very appropriate since it represents the exotification of the “Orient.” We are appropriating it, not in a serious way, but in a way of self-aware mockery. Also different perhaps is the fact that I am Chinese, and read and write Chinese. I would make the argument that the “n” word can be racist in certain contexts, but that it has also been appropriated to be used in cases where it’s not racist.
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