HomeAsian AmericansLetter from City of Pasadena Addressed to "Chinks"

Letter from City of Pasadena Addressed to “Chinks”

Pasadena Parking ticket“Shocked, dumbfounded and angry.”That’s how Asian American Sean Ching described himself after reading a letter he received from the city of Pasadena addressed to Sean Chinks.

The letter involving the appeal of a parking ticket Ching received exacerbated an already frustrating situation. He had gotten a  ticket for parking without a required  permit. Ching had displayed the permit on his dash, but said it had fallen off. He provided proof that he had indeed purchased the permit, but the appeal was denied because the permit was not displayed properly. It was the letter informing the Pasadena resident that he would still have to pay the 75 dollar fine that was addressed to Chinks.

Ching complained about the way the letter was addressed, but said no one in the parking citation office seem to take his concerns seriously. They dismissed it as a computer error. Ching saw it much differently saying a computer requires a human to input the data. The clerk apologized for the mistake.

“I replied ‘do you think a simple oral apology would be acceptable if I were black and my name was Sean Tigger and you accidentally typed N***er,'” Ching said he asked the clerk.

“Being one of the first non-white members in my neighborhood and school, I can assure you I do know the difference (between a mistake) and racism,” Ching said to AsAmNews.  “I have always taken the higher road having a good Christian upbringing. Calling out racism has never been my character. I have been slighted many a time.”

Ching was told he would need to take his concerns to a supervisor, which he did. He described the supervisor as “curt, coarse and arrogant.” The supervisor claimed to be ignorant of the meaning of the slur “chink.”  Ching explained the term is to Chinese Americans what the “N” word is to African Americans.

“Again, I do not know what the word means,” Ching said the supervisor said to him.

“Yes, you do, I just told you,” Ching recalls replying.

“I’m an immigrant from Mexico, i don’t know what the word means. it was a mistake.”

“If it’s a mistake, is that why you’ve refused to apologize?”

AsAmNews contacted the City of Pasadena for comment. A city spokesperson after conferring with the city’s Department of Transportation told AsAmNews the incident has been thoroughly investigated and changes have been implemented from preventing this from happening again.

“The staff member who typed his name into the database never saw Mr. Ching and made the error because of being unable to properly identify his last name from the signature,” said William Boyer, a spokesperson for the city.  Boyer said the person who typed the error was not the same person who worked with Ching at the counter and “there was no deliberate intent to offend him by anyone.”

The Department Director has now required that the registered owner information be cross-checked against the initial review data to avoid a similar instance in the future with data entry.

Boyer said the Transportation Department staff thought the matter had been resolved in October, but said if Ching would like a written apology, staff would draft one.

It’s the same offer the supervisor made to Ching initially, which Ching accepted but has yet to receive

The incident happened a year ago. Ching said he would have pursued the matter more aggressively, but his father’ ill health consumed his time and attention.  The anniversary date of the incident reminded him of it and he said a more internet savvy friend helped him get the word out about what happened.

Ching described the city’s response as “completely inadequate” and said it was “an excuse, not an apology.”

He would still like to receive a letter of apology. AsAmNews will publish the apology if it is received.




  1. RE: Letter from City of Pasadena addressed to Chinks: Yes, I imagine that the supervisor would not feel the need to apologize if he didn’t know what the word meant. I believe that Sean Ching has been the victim of racism in his life, but this is not an example of it. Clearly Chinks was a mistake.

  2. RE: Letter from City of Pasadena address to “chinks.” Having read this I believed it was extremely enlightening. I appreciate you taking the time and energy to put this short article together. I once again find myself spending a significant amount of time both reading and posting comments. But so what, it was still worth it!


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