The Slant Eye Syndrome

Slant Eye Syndrome: Being subjected to people pulling back the outer corners of their eyes in your presence because you’re Asian.

For anyone who has been following the MLB postseason this year, or for anyone who is active on social media, I’m sure you heard all about what Houston Astros’ first baseman Yuli Gurriel did during Game 3 of the World Series. It was the bottom of the second inning and Gurriel had just hit a home run off of L.A. Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish, who happens to be of Japanese and Iranian descent. After celebrating in the dugout, with all the cameras on him, Gurriel could be seen mouthing “chinito” (which means “little Chinese boy” in Spanish) and pulling his eyes back to make them appear “slanted”. In front of a national TV audience, one of the World Series’ biggest stars was seen making a mockery of the opposing team’s pitcher, and indirectly, all Asian people, by using the oldest anti-Asian joke in the book.

Now, as offensive as his gesture was, in my opinion, his fake apology was even worse. Clearly, he knew he had messed up, but his apology was anything but sincere, showing that he was only apologizing because he felt he had to. His excuse? Gurriel, who is from Cuba, says that in his home country, they refer to all Asian people as “chinos”. And as for the slanted eye gesture…well, he is sorry if anyone felt offended by that. Now let’s dissect this sad excuse for an apology a little further. I know things are different in different cultures and having never stepped foot in Cuba, I can’t really attest to what their culture and race relations are like over there. However, what I do know is that there ARE words in Spanish for different Asian nationalities and these words were created for a reason. And it wasn’t so we could all be generalized as a bunch of “chinos”. Furthermore, Gurriel previously played in Japan and admitted to knowing that they did not like being called “chinos” over there, so he knew exactly what he was doing when he called Darvish a “chinito” and pulled back his eyes. And as for him being sorry if anyone felt offended, we all know that’s just another way of saying, “Sorry I’m not sorry.”

So okay, Gurriel received some backlash in the media, and was ultimately handed a 5-game suspension for the 2018 season. But what’s a 5-game suspension when the season is 162 games long, not including the postseason? He basically received a slap on the wrist from the MLB commissioner, and unfortunately, I expected no different.

Here in America, where we live in such a PC culture, and where nowadays, being racist is perceived as the ultimate sin, how do we let Gurriel get away with being blatantly racist towards an entire group of people? Oh, that’s right, it’s because the offensive act was racist against Asian people.

It has bothered me for some time now that in this sensitive environment we live in, somehow offenses committed against Asians are constantly swept under the rug. There was the time that Jeremy Lin was referred to as a “chink in the armor” on the front page of ESPN.com. And there are numerous rap songs out there that use the word “chink” or the phrase “chinky eyes” that people will listen to and sing along with without even batting an eye. To me, the problem isn’t that Gurriel made a racist gesture against Asians for all of America to witness. I mean, I don’t even necessarily think it makes him a racist. I highly doubt he hates Asian people…perhaps he thinks we’re easy to make fun of, but hate? No. The real problem to me is how lightly we as a country take racism against Asians. If Guriell did what he did against any other minority group, there’s no way in hell he would be playing another game in this series.

However, the blame doesn’t fall squarely on America and those who fail to punish offenses against Asians. I think we Asians need to be more vocal and active about things that affect our community, and take a stand against them. While I appreciate Darvish taking the high road and encouraging positivity instead of anger, I feel that his response is indirectly giving off the message that what Gurriel did is not a big deal. I know that wasn’t his intention, but in typical passive Asian form, Darvish not getting mad about what happened reiterates the tone that it is okay to mock Asians and we’ll just sit back and take it. It is important to pick our battles and not get riled up about every little thing that could potentially be offensive to us. However, if we don’t start speaking up now, especially about something as outrageous as an MLB star making slanted eyes at a Japanese player, we will continue to be the butt of jokes, thereby, perpetuating other problems that affect the Asian community.

For now, those are my two cents on the situation. I’m going to continue to be petty and root against Gurriel and the Astros in the World Series, though I don’t think that’s going to end favorably for me and the Dodgers, but we shall see.

What are your thoughts on this? Feel free to comment below!

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6 thoughts on “The Slant Eye Syndrome”

  1. 100% agreed. (rant on) Imagine the outrage if an Asian person made a racist gesture or comment against . We live in a country that wants to appear PC on the surface but beneath it’s full of double standards and it’s a load of bs. Reading your post reminds me of the recent incident with Jeremy Lin’s dreadlocks being deemed offensive, and earlier this year when Steve Harvey cracked humorless anti-Asian men jokes on national TV. While it is true that a lot of the blame falls on us Asians for not speaking up and thus perpetuating the “quiet, nerdy, hard-working” stereotype, I also think that mainstream media suppresses many Asians who try to be more vocal by not casting us in lead roles or side-stepping the issue altogether. I could care less how Steve Harvey truly feels about Asians, but what upsets me most is that he ended up poking fun at Asian men because he knew his show would get cancelled had he made fun of Jewish people or it could have ran into legal trouble had he offended white or Latino men instead. It is even more disturbing when the double standard is being applied by a member of a community that is extremely sensitive when it comes to race. It’s as if racism against Asians is okay because he feels like black men have been accepted into the mainstream while Asians are still outliers. If anything, other minorities should be more sensitive and sympathetic because they understand how discrimination feels like, yet I cannot recall an instance when another minority has stood up for Asians. (rant off)

    As a curious side note, I would get called “Japinha” (little Japanese person) growing up in Brazil because the Japanese were the only Asian group most Brazilians had contact with up until recently. In Cuba and other Latin American countries, “chinito” is in fact the umbrella term for all Asians. I have been called that many times as well, but I don’t always feel like it is malicious. In Gurriel’s case, I think the gesture is extremely offensive because it suggests that Darvish is less of an athlete for being Asian, regardless of intention.

    1. i completely agree…the double standards in this country is what bothers me the most. we try to appear super tolerant and liberal (for lack of a better word) but at the end of the day, it’s all about what issues are “cool” to care about. and then the people who are fake caring commit those same offenses against other people.
      as for other minority groups standing up for us, i will say that i have seen plenty of minorities who were angry about what Gurriel did, while others didn’t see the big deal. i don’t necessarily think it’s their duty to stick up for us, that’s on us, but just that they don’t do to us what they wouldn’t want done to them

  2. I agree. I even found myself thinking for a second, well what he did wasn’t that bad. But then I thought about it some more and like what you said, if he had done a gesture to any other race, people would be outraged. Just cause our culture emphasizes respect and avoiding direct conflict doesn’t mean its okay. We shouldn’t sit quietly and let it happen.

    On the aspect of lumping everyone as Chinese, it doesn’t upset me if they didnt know. I think people need to be educated and know that all the different Asian cultures have complicated histories, and many things that make us different. Personally, I just politely correct people when they assume I’m Chinese. Usually it’s not a problem after that because for the most part i don’t think people mean to be disrespectful. It is important to respect who people identify with. The fact that the player spent time playing in Japan and knows they dont like being called “chino” makes what he said worse. I don’t think all the different Spanish speaking countries would appreciate it if everyone said they were all from Spain just because of one similar characteristic. They all have their own unique cultures and histories too. If we can learn to respect each of their ethnicities then others should be able to do that for us as well.

    1. yeah, sadly i think even some Asians have been desensitized to this gesture b/c it’s been happening since the beginning of time. it’s something that a lot of us dealt with as kids so we’re used to it by now. that’s why i personally brush a lot of things off. but at the end of the day, this gesture is blatantly making fun of the way we look and it is racist. as for the chinito part, i don’t think the word itself is that bad..slightly ignorant maybe, but not necessarily racist. it’s just the fact that Gurriell did those two things together AND he knew better. at the end of the day, it’s like you said…it’s all about mutual respect between cultures, and we always seem to get the short end of the stick on that one

  3. Hi Samantha, I was reading your blog. I went to the same college as you and I think we were the same year but never actually crossed paths. The title of your blog really resonates with me – I think this is a popular preconception people have of Asian females, especially if you are at all studious. I still see it constantly in my profession. Look forward to following your blog! – Elizabeth

    1. Hey Elizabeth!! Thanks so much for reading and following! Were you Class of 09 at Wake?? I can’t believe with how small our school was that we never crossed paths! lol

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