As an Asian-American, I was pretty pissed off when I read the recent articles on Abercrombie & Fitch featuring negative, stereotypical images of Asians on their new line of T-shirts, which I’m glad got pulled off the shelves of every single A&F store.
One of the shirts has a picture of two Asian men at the Wongs Brothers Laundry Service and reads, “Two Wongs Can Make It White.” I don’t know if you find this to be funny but I really don’t think this image is something to be laughed at. It can greatly offend the earlier generations of Asian-Americans who came to this country having to earn a living through such hard manual labor jobs. A & F spokesperson Hampton Carney claims that they make fun of everyone, but I’m sure Abercrombie would never even dare to put out an image of blacks picking cotton or Hispanics selling oranges on the street. This only shows how Asian-Americans are viewed to be apathetic and passive about such racial issues. It upsets me that they think they can get away with making a public mockery of Asians when in fact they know very little about the negative effects it can have on them.
Another shirt features a smiling Buddha image, which reads, “Abercrombie and Fitch Buddha Bash Get Your Buddha on the Floor.” What are they thinking? They’re bashing on a religious icon strongly valued throughout many Asian families. If A & F were to make a joke out of an image of Jesus Christ on the cross, I bet many people would be incredibly offended by it. I think religion is a touchy subject that they shouldn’t even mess around with in the first place.
Another shirt reads, “Wok-N-Bowl Let the Good Times Roll Chinese Food and Bowling,” which I don’t find to be as offensive but still creates an Asian stereotype. Some shirts also show smiling men with slanted eyes wearing dorky-looking conical hats, which creates a negative image of Asian males, when in reality many Asian-American men look nothing like it.
Although many of these negative images were mostly targeted towards the Chinese, I think it affects the Asian-American community and possibly other minorities as well. I was already annoyed at the fact A & F barely hires anyone outside the white race and by the fact that almost all the models in their catalogs are typical white people. When my Asian-American friend tried to get a job there and came in for an interview with a few of his white friends, the lady looked at him and said, “I’m sorry but we’re looking for more of an American look,” when in fact he was born and raised up in America.
I think it’s typical corporate America and society who’s always trying to make profits even at the costs of minorities. Although there has been some progress, Asians have a long way to go before they are accepted into the American society. American society preaches tolerance, but continues to practice blatant or subtle discrimination and racism towards people of color. It’s very easy to become racist when you are not aware of the privileges you have over other people, and I would probably blame society and the media more than just pointing fingers at certain individuals. It takes both the dominant society and the subdominant society to work together in order to bring about a change.
I think Asian-Americans should definitely take advantage of such opportunities like this; to voice out their opinions and frustrations of how the media, and the system that we live in, continue to portray Asians with negative stereotypes. I’m sick and tired of being stepped on and I think we have to blame ourselves for being so apathetic about these important issues. Nothing’s going to change if we continue to let these things pass by. If it weren’t for the angry mob of people who protested outside the Abercrombie store in San Francisco, or for those who called and sent mass e-mails to the company to complain about the shirts, they would still be in the stores today and the system would win us over once again.
Christine Bai is a sophomore something major.