TCHS Rampage

Temple City High School



Column

September 25, 2017

Microagressions are no minor deal

 “Me no Chinese.  Me no Japanese. Me no Siamese   Hi-Yah!”
These words sound like the kind of juvenile taunts associated with bullies on a primary school playground. They’re the kind of teasing that has all too often been experienced by Asian Americans everywhere. So imagine my surprise when I heard these words blasting out over the Fall Rally. These are the opening lyrics to the song “Hi Yah,” by Trish, to which Choreo performed its Fall Rally routine. In fact, you can listen for yourself right here.
It didn’t end there. In fact the song’s chorus–a repetitive ‘Sing Song Sing’–was particularly reminiscent of the ever popular ching-chong jokes that seem to follow Asian people around no matter where we go, and the rest of the lyrics were simply a hodgepodge of Asian stereotypes.
I was looking forward to my last Fall Rally. I genuinely enjoy these assemblies and appreciate the performances put on by my peers. But as I witnessed the Choreo routine, I could not help but be horrified.
Not only was the song atrocious, but the outfits chosen for this routine–short blouses described by a member of ASB afterwards as “Asian Pajamas”–were also culturally appropriative. What was equally disturbing, was the fact that many of the students around me didn’t seem bothered by the routine at all. Indeed, because Temple City has such a large Asian population, much of the racism we face is often overlooked.
That does not mean, however, that it’s okay to perpetuate racist stereotypes against Asians. Even though I grew up in Asian-dominated Temple City, I have many memories of being teased for my heritage. I had friends who would chant made-up gibberish at me, making fun of how Chinese words sound. I remember vividly, a boy in my fourth grade class telling me that he didn’t want to be friends with any more Asian people because there were too many of us around. In the sixth grade, a teacher from another class jokingly asked if I was a communist because, “well, you’re Chinese, aren’t you?” This kind of behavior is, always has been, and always will be unacceptable, but it is seen as commonplace in our community, where Asians seem to be a majority.
The lyrics to “Hi Yah” are not hard to understand, and I fail to see how they could be misinterpreted. Not only does the song provide no more than a caricature of Asian cultures, it perpetuates the misconception that all Asian cultures are the same. If Choreo had performed in fake Native American outfits with painted faces, to a song making fun of and trivializing Native American culture, would we have been so accepting? If the routine had been set to a song caricaturing Mexican-Americans, or African-Americans, would we have so easily laughed it off?
I am by no means implying that Choreo is racist, or that this song was performed with malicious intent. To be fair, I reached out to the members of Choreo, their choreographer and their advisor, but nobody was willing to speak on the record.
Still, I appreciate how much time and effort is put into perfecting the routines; and I believe the members of Choreo are all nice people with no ill will, who have worked hard to perform for our benefit. That is why it is especially unfortunate that this routine was so poorly conceived. The incredibly racist song upstaged the hard work put into the dance routine.
I was disappointed to find that even in a diverse community such as Temple City, something so racially insensitive was able to slip through the cracks and rear its head at a mandatory student rally. As a community it is important to realize that this routine helped to perpetuate harmful stereotypes, whether the intent was there or not, and we must strive to be better.


About the Author

Charlie Dodge





 
 

 
 

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