This time it occurred in a column written for the Bay Area News Group about Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and the credibility issues raised by a recent accident involving the mayor. The column included the following quote from political science professor David McCuan of Sonoma State University in California:
“So a fender-bender now becomes another chink in the armor of someone who has not moved forward smoothly.”
One only has to go back to February 2012 to an online column written about Jeremy Lin to know that the phrase chink in the armor is highly offensive to Asian Americans in general and Chinese Americans specifically.
The headline used by ESPN “Chink in The Armor. Jeremy Lin’s 9 turnovers cost Knicks in streak-snapping loss to Hornets” cost the headline writer his job.
In this latest example, should the quote have been used by the Bay Area News group?
Was use of the quote even discussed?
What factors came into play when deciding to use the quote in the story?
AsAmNews attempted to reach out via both Twitter and email to columnist Tammerlin Drummond, but our tweets and emails have so far not been returned.
AsAmNews also reached out to the political scientist quoted in the column.
“I meant no offense to the Mayor personally or to race relations or identity at all, said McCuan. And, of course, it goes without saying that I can see how it would be offensive.
“My meaning was merely about competence at City Hall & running as the Establishment this time out. ”
Intentional or not, its use was inappropriate by all involved
If the Bay Area News Group felt the quote was important enough to use, it should at least have acknowledged that the phrase is considered offensive by many. There’s a danger that when the phrase is being thrown around so casually, it will become part of everyday usage. The mere repetition of its use could make it acceptable. In fact, given what the professor said that he didn’t intend to reference the Mayor’s ethnicity in his comments, we may have already reached that point.
As for the professor himself, a little more cultural awareness on his part is sorely needed.