Categories
Blog

Racism for Sale

Baker Skateboards, owned by professional skateboarder Andrew Reynolds (also the owner of Brigada Eyewear), recently released this t-shirt featuring a caricature of professional skater Don “The Nuge” Nguyen. Seriously, this is no joke. They really did go there and do that – right down to caricaturing an Asian accent calling the guys “good orr boys” and naming the car the “General Li.”

Not at all shy about profiting from racism, the Baker Skateboards site responded to criticism of the t-shirt by TMZ by posting the following on their website under a picture of the shirt –

“Roll over to Retard TMZ for how we are damaging the asian community with this new baker tee! goodlooks on the free advertising Tmz!”

Boy, they can dish it out but they sure can’t take it. But retard? Honestly? I guess it wasn’t enough fun to profit off of idiotic racist slurs so they decided to insult people with developmental disabilities, too. I would question their maturity, but I have too much respect for 5 year olds.

But the school yard bully behavior of Baker Skateboards to one side, this t-shirt requires a response. It’s not just an example of profiteering off the misery of others, it’s irresponsible.

Bullying is among the most frequently named problems facing Asian American students. And if you want details about what that looks like, roll over to this.

And it doesn’t stop with kids, as evidenced by the case of 19 year old U.S. Army soldier Daniel Chen. Mr. Chen was subjected to weeks of racial harassment while in training, and then violent hazing once deployed to Afghanistan.

Daniel Chen responded to the hazing and harassment by committing suicide. And, BTW, Asian Americans commit suicide more frequently than members of any other ethnic group in the U.S. excepting Native Americans.

But I’m guessing the folks at Baker Skateboards are aware of the racism facing Asian Americans and simply don’t give a rip. If they did, they might consider for a moment how the controversial t-shirt fits within a larger context of Asian American experiences with racist stereotyping, scapegoating, intimidation, and violence.

Making jokes of the sort featured on their t-shirt  trivializes this context. Worse, it makes racism of this sort cool in the skating subculture by giving it the endorsement of a popular retailer owned by a famous skater.

When we trivialize racism by making jokes about it we contribute to a climate in which folks think racism isn’t such a big deal. And, you know, maybe it wouldn’t be if all racism amounted to was speech. But, of course, we know that racism isn’t just about what folks say. Racist words and images have the power they do because racism is also expressed in actions ranging from political persecution (as in the case of African Americans and the war on drugs) to employment discrimination and even to violence.

When we make jokes like the one on the t-shirt, we are tacitly endorsing the whole range of ways in which racism is expressed in our culture, and that ain’t a thing to laugh about.

Scot Nakagawa

By Scot Nakagawa

Scot is a community organizer, activist, cultural worker, and political writer. He has spent the last four decades exploring questions of racial injustice and racial formation and effective forms of resistance and strategies for change through community campaigns, cultural organizing, popular education, writing, and direct political advocacy.

Scot’s primary work has been in the fight against vigilante white supremacist groups, white nationalism, Nativism, and authoritarian evangelical political movements. In this work, he has served as a strategist, organizer, and social movement analyst. Scot is a past Alston/Bannerman Fellow and the Association of Asian American Studies 2017 Community Leader. He is busy at work on a number of projects, including writing a playbook for anti-fascists, and a primer on race and power. His writings have been included in Race, Gender, and Class in the United States: An Integrated Study, 9th Edition; Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence; and Eyes Right!: Challenging the Right Wing Backlash.

3 replies on “Racism for Sale”

man that shits hilarious stop hating on shake junt u obviously dont understand what its about if the nuge wasnt insulted by it why should u be?

Wow! Thanks, that totally changed my mind. If one Asian dude isn’t offended by something then it makes it completely inoffensive. Now I get it. So if one white person isn’t offended by my saying something as idiotic as, say, “all white people are idiot racists” it’s just not offensive…am I getting that right? Thanks for clearing that up for me.

Leave a Reply