Every now and then, some startling incident involving Asian stereotypes arises that seems to reveal that racial issues still tend to be thought of only in literal black and white terms.
Take for instance Maclean's "Too Asian" article in 2010. Or the literal whitewashing of an Asian-looking woman on the Canadian $100 bill last year. Or ESPN's use of "chink in the armor"—not just once, but twice—to refer to basketball player Jeremy Lin.
If you substitute the word "black" or "African" for "Asian", most likely these examples wouldn't have even been considered.
The latest WTF moment has been provided by apps called Make Me Asian and Make Me Indian.
The Make Me Asian app allowed Android smartphone users to alter photos by adding antiquated, racist visual iconography, such as rice paddy hats and Fu Manchu moustaches, as well as enabling users to change the shape of their eyes.
Here’s the well-written official description of the app:
Have you ever wondered to present himself as a person of another nationality? You can imagine, for example, Chinese or Japanese? No? Then immediately take your phone and download it amazing Android-application called «Make me Asian».
This is just a fun app lets you indulge you and your friends! You can for a few seconds to make himself a Chinese, Japanese, Korean or any other Asians!
Features "Make me Asian":
- almost instantly, you can make yourself or your friends by representatives of Asian nations, such as Chinese or Japanese;
- the opportunity to photograph people and process the captured images, or upload a photo from the gallery and work with it;
- the results obtained can be shared via the social network Facebook, email or MMS.
Meanwhile, the Make Me Indian app enabled users to add war paint and a feather headband to their photos. Yikes and cringe, indeed.
Protests were mounted by blogger Angry Asian Man (who first flipped the bird to it back in November) and Twitter users with the #makemeracist hashtag. Almost 8,500 people signed a petition on change.org started by pastor Peter Chin of Washington, D.C.
On January 17, the Make Me Asian app was pulled from Google Play's online store (Make Me Indian and Make Me Fat have also vanished) after protests by activists. (The app creator, Kimbery Deiss, has also been removed.)
The apps were part of a series that included Make Me Fat as well as Make Me Russian and Make Me Irish, which also riffed on stereotypes.
So if you ever wanted to be Asian, Native, Russian, or Irish, you missed your chance. (Damn. I really wanted to be Asian.) But alas, you can still be racist. And apparently, you don't even need an app for that.