Hyphen magazine - Asian American arts, culture, and politics

Asian Jokes: Whatcha Gonna Do

I laugh a lot. Much of the time inappropriately. No one can claim I don’t have a sense of humor.

Isn’t that the typical response to racist jokes targeted at Asian Pacific Islanders? That we should have a sense of humor?

I don’t find racist jokes funny.

Golf Digest’s writer Dan Jenkins twittered about golfer Y.E. Yang playing in the Masters this weekend. His 140 said, “Y.E. Yang is only three shots off the lead. I think we got takeout from him last night.”

Jenkins is said to be one of the greatest American sportswriters.

On April 5, Chelsea Handler’s Roundtable regulars Mandel and Wollack joked about a proposed Jersey Shore-esque production set in Koreatown. They bowed, and they made Chinese herb, math, and martial arts references. And with Michael Yo sitting next to them they cracked about not being able to tell the cast members apart. One of them -- which one is pretty insignificant as I can’t tell them apart because of their stupidity -- said he wants to know “what the slant of this will be.” While I’m appreciative of Chelsea’s comment that they were being racist, I wish Michael Yo’s fist would have had a collision with their faces. Instead he played the protestation-filled yet innocuous foil.

SNL's Seth Meyers this weekend also referred to the production showing a violin player as “their version of Snookie.”

Degree of offensiveness aside, what’s with this continual categorization of APIs?

“Whatcha gonna do?”

Is that something else you hear often in response to these situations?

I’ve been in Yo’s position more than I care to. And I’ve found that being the amenable, humor-filled play-along-with-the-jokes-with-mild-protests only spurs them on even more. So much so that their true racist colors come out.

Everyone was irate with situations like those of Don Imus and Bob Griese. Those instances were met with swift action. Not the case with the New York radio JV & Elvis situation which involved a prank call to a Chinese restaurant rife with demeaning comments about APIs, women, and LGBTs. The segment was actually replayed, and it took two weeks for the station to suspend the hosts. Adam Carolla has yet to receive any type of reprimand for his rant against Manny Pacquaio and the Philippines.

So what do APIs do? Do we continue to play along or do we do something else that incites a swift response?

The outrage at Britain’s Celebrity Big Brother over racist comments against Indian actress Shilpa Shetty led to sponsor withdrawal and government sanctions. LPGA abandoned its English-Only policy due to immediate reaction by Asian American Justice Center and Assemblymember Mike Eng.


Whatcha gonna do?      

Photo of Shilpa Shetty by Rathika Mawtus via wikipedia.org


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
speckledegee wrote 4 years 27 weeks ago

Haven't been reading KC on a

Haven't been reading KC on a regular basis, but you convinced me in a paragraph. However you must know a significant number of asians are not of the same mind. See the comments on Youtube about that squabble over the seating arrangements on a bus out in CA. Wasn't long after when trouble in Philly started. Coincidence? And Manny Paquiao fans can be quite martially verbose. Word gets around these days better than ever.

speckledegee wrote 4 years 27 weeks ago

Sure Ken, when directed at

Sure Ken, when directed at those you identify with. Bet you've chuckled a'plenty when other races were the butt. Be honest now.

Ken Choy wrote 4 years 27 weeks ago

In all honesty, I have more

In all honesty, I have more opportunity to confront those who tell anti-African American jokes--and I do confront them and tell them it's racist and to shut up. Again, they're not funny and they're racist. Maybe it's because I'm Asian that more people think they can come up to me and tell me these offensive jokes thinking that I'll laugh along with them. if you've read my articles, you'd get a sense of that. I'm gay, Asian, and poor--I know how it feels to denigrated--I'm not going to do that to someone else.
Stephen wrote 4 years 27 weeks ago

It's sorta like it's

It's sorta like it's forbidden to be racist towards certain people but when it comes to asians, people don't give a shit. I say we all flood that unfunny Chelsea Handler's twitter or something and just let her know we don't appreciate her so called "humor".

Ken Choy wrote 4 years 27 weeks ago

Stephen, Just to clarify, it

Stephen, Just to clarify, it was Jenkins twitter and Chelsea's roundtable regulars tho Chelsea would be responsible for her own show's content. Thanks for your comments.
AP wrote 4 years 27 weeks ago

i hate to say it but asians

i hate to say it but asians are too concerned with themselves to make a united stand. i've spoken out against racist jokes only to be told that i'm over reacting and to calm down by fellow asians. its so hard to keep caring when the carpet is being pulled out from under your feet by the only people you thought would support you in those types of situations. too much talk, not enough action when it matters. not calling for a war or anything but would like to see more asians with enough self respect and backbone to do something about it.

Ken Choy wrote 4 years 27 weeks ago

Keep on

Keep on speaking out--you'll inspire more kindred spirits and those who are not to speak out and change their minds.
Bruce wrote 4 years 27 weeks ago

I think we have to speak out.

I think we have to speak out. We have not come to that time yet where there is no discrimination against Asians, especially when Asians as a group are looked at still negatively.

Alex Choi wrote 4 years 27 weeks ago


Psh, that coward @danjenkinsgd deleted his racist tweet

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Please register or login to post a comment.

About The Author

Ken Choy

Ken Choy is a community organizer and filmmaker, and producer of Breaking the Bow. He is gay, green, and gluten free.

Current Issue: 27

The Sex Issue

Birds do it. Bees do it. It's our hottest issue yet, featuring sizzling drag queen Raja Gemini on the cover.



Current Hyphen Magazine Issue

Hyphen Email Updates

Be Our Friend

Facebook Twitter YouTube Flickr

Digital Issue

The previous issue of Hyphen is available in its entirety for your perusing pleasure. Almost as good as having it right in your hands!