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Friday, Sep 29, 2023

T-Shirts Mainstream 'Gross Generalizations', 'Ridicule Heritage'

Author: Adam King

Could you ever imagine Abercrombie selling a shirt depicting racial stereotypes with a caricature of a Jewish person complete with an enlarged and crooked nose and bloody hands, under the heading of "Jewish Banking?" Or one depicting a caricature of an African-American complete with big lips and shiny eyes under the heading of "Negro Entertainment?" These stereotypes are clearly rude, tasteless and racist, yet Abercrombie and Fitch has chosen to attack the Asian culture in a similar fashion with its new line of summer tee-shirts.

The new summer line of graphic T-shirts by Abercrombie include two shirts racially offensive to Asian Americans that are 'fake' business advertisements under the headings of "Wong Brothers Laundry" and "Pizza Dojo." In the "Laundry" shirt, two Chinese people are caricatured complete with traditional Chinese dress, rice hats, slanted eyes and confident smirks. To make it worse, there is a caption that reads, "Two Wongs can make it white." This shirt is so degrading to Asian Americans because it promotes many old prejudices that date back to the early 1800s.

For starters, the caricatures of the two Asians on the shirt have nothing more than rice hats, slanted eyes and a smirk and a smile for facial distinctions. This image alone promotes the false idea that all Asians look alike. The old fashioned outfits are ones that are rarely worn by Asians, yet this 'strange' and 'exotic' look that was prevalent at the turn of the 20th century is a popular depiction in modern media. The quote at the bottom, "Two Wongs can make it white" makes gross generalizations about 'Chinese accents' and ridicules our heritage through a play on our last names. Though loosely interpreted here, the saying also plays on the idea that Chinese always talk in cryptic sayings, such as "he who talks least knows the most." The idea that the key business for the Asian community is a laundromat is yet another stereotype that originates to the 1800s Gold Rush period, when a large amount of Chinese immigrants arrived in the United States. At the time, Chinese immigrants were forced to go into the laundry business to survive, and this job was only available because it was thought to be servile and below the American culture. Today's current Asian society has hardly any part in the laundry service, yet this old stereotype is still present. Abercrombie obviously feels that the humor is acceptable and popular enough to make sales, which adds another dimension of horror to the Asian community to what they are doing.

I personally am a second generation Asian American, and feel fully immersed in both the Asian and American cultures. I feel enraged when such stereotypes are pushed upon Asian Americans. For starters, I have never met an Asian American who speaks in cryptic sayings or runs the traditional laundromat. Very few Asian Americans born in the country have accents, and we certainly don't all look alike. Though many of these misconceptions are common and usually honest mistakes by the majority, these mistakes by others certainly does make them acceptable. I am in disbelief that a company would take such liberties with the Asian culture. I am baffled to why they feel a subject that is clearly hurtful to racial minorities is all right with the Asian community. Such racial stereotypes were prevalent 50 years ago, but than again so was segregation. I hope that others are shocked by this 'humor' that is morally wrong and detrimental to Asian-Americans.

If you would like to put a stop to this, please call 1-888- 856-4480 to express outrage.