Earlier this week, Cardi B made headlines because she used the c-word on social media. It’s the word some would use to describe a dent in the armour: “chink”. Per Page Six:
“Cardi B is in hot water for using an Asian slur while describing her sister Hennessy Carolina’s eye shape.
The media maelstrom started when the “Bodak Yellow” rapper shared a composite photo of what her 2-year-old daughter Kulture might look like as an adult.
A fan noted that the image looked like a combination of the rapper’s husband Offset and her 24-year-old sister Hennessy.
Cardi replied in a now-deleted exchange, writing: “I think cause Hennessy got c----y eyes like offset and so [does] KK. Its the only think (sic) I could think off (sic).”
When people called her out on it, she responded:
“I didn’t know that c—-y eyes was a slur like wtfff I DONT KNOW F–KIN EVERYTHING !!” she wrote in a since-deleted tweet. “We don’t even use that as a (sic) insult and I didn’t use it as a (sic) insult.”
Then she said she was “sick of the internet”.
Sasha and I talked about this on the What’s Your Drama? podcast last year. Technically, by one definition, the word is not racist. But Sasha wishes people would stop using the word even in a non-racist way, like “chink in the armour”, because it’s so triggering for East Asian people. And it has a long history. The first documented use of the word was back in the 1880s. Some people think it’s because of the spelling and sound similarities between “China” and “chink”, further strengthened by those who disparage Chinese language as “ching-chong” talk. Did you know that there was a machine used to can fish that was invented around that time that was actually called “The Iron Chink” because Chinese people – cheap labour to Americans at the time – were so good at scaling fish?
When Cardi talks about “chinky” eyes then, she means Chinese looking eyes, or East Asian looking eyes. And she was referring to her daughter so there’s not necessarily malice in the usage but that doesn’t mean it’s not a slur. Just because she didn’t intend to harm doesn’t mean the word isn’t harmful.
Earlier today, Cody wrote about the recent instances of anti-Semitism in pop culture. He referenced Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s piece in The Hollywood Reporter that called out anti-Semitic rhetoric by Black entertainers. Prior to that Jemele Hill wrote an essay in The Atlantic about her own blind spots and her anti-Semitism in the past. A couple of weeks ago, some people (fans of Barstool Sports) tried to cancel Jemele for transphobic tweets that she posted in 2008. In an interview with Outsports, she talked to Cyd Zeigler about how she has learned and unlearned and explained that she was aware of her past tweets, and she left them up because:
“I wanted to use this moment as a teachable moment. I wanted to sit in it, because I wanted it to be an opportunity for me to talk about not just my evolution on this topic, but the fact that it says something to me that in 2009 no one batted an eye about it. There was no reaction to it whatsoever. And I’m glad that there is a conversation now because of how much we’ve changed.”
And she has demonstrated that change by being an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, as we have all seen over the last few years. Jemele defended Zaya Wade, daughter of Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union, when anti-trans assholes were trolling her and Zeigler calls her a “true ally” for “not burying her mistakes” and setting an example for how to move forward.
On top of that, you probably know about me being called out recently for the many posts on this website during the early years of this blog (most of which were not deleted and still aren’t deleted because I couldn’t bury my sh-t and shame either) and my subsequent apology. Which brings us back to Cardi B and her use of the c-word, an anti-Asian slur.
Racism, as we know, is systemic and institutional. Which is why it’s so deeply embedded in almost everyone who’s been shaped by these systems and these institutions – even people of colour. Like Nick Cannon, as a Black person, Cardi knows the pain of anti-Black racism but is still insensitive, like Nick Cannon, to the other casual forms of racism out there: anti-Semitism and anti-Asian racism. The fact that the word “chink” is still used liberally, both in its non-racist definition and in its racist connotation speaks to the fact that in too many spaces, racism against Asians is still acceptable, especially now, during the pandemic (“kung FLU”). This is not about the Olympics of oppression and who has it worse. Rather it’s about what Maya Angelou said, “The truth is, no one of us can be free until everybody is free”. Allyship isn’t perfect, it’s why we have to do it together.
So where Cardi is concerned, she has in the past been homophobic and is now an ally to the LGBTQ+ community. Now she is showing here that she has some work to do with anti-Asian racism. Is this… a good start though?
Reacting like this, in anger, probably isn’t. Blaming the internet isn’t. But Cardi is smart. And she’s demonstrated that she’s capable of taking criticism and thinking on it and getting to a place where she can use her platform to model change and action. Up to you if you give her the grace to do that or cancel her now and forever.