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The problem with ‘ching chong’

05:03 AM August 06, 2019

Don’t become the people you hate.

It was just an ordinary Media Information Technology class. I was taking notes and listening to my teacher when suddenly a girl in front of me uttered “ching chong.”

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I quickly called her out and said it was an offensive thing to say. She quickly put her hands over her mouth in shock and uttered “sorry.”

I admire this girl; she was hailed as one of the best students of our school. I do not know if she said what she said unconsciously and unintentionally, but maybe she said it because she was not well aware of the stories the term “ching-chong” entails.

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“Ching chong” and “ching chang chong” are pejorative terms sometimes employed by speakers of English to mock or play on the Chinese language, people of Chinese ancestry, or other East Asians or Southeast Asians perceived to be Chinese. Sometimes, “Ching chong” and “ching chang chong” are also used against us Filipinos.

These terms carry with them a gruesome history of intense bullying, prejudice and racial discrimination. These terms are weapons of hate, bigotry and antipathy. These words are knives thrown again and again at many people, including children. And these words, too, are proof that one can be ignorant, racist and a bully even with a good education behind him or her.

I have encountered different websites, people and organizations that have used the expressions as a form of protest in the issue of China and the West Philippine Sea (WPS), and the bad behavior of certain Chinese tourists in the Philippines and other parts of the world. But do these protesters differ from the target of their protests? After all, the WPS issue and the bad behavior of some Chinese tourists are influenced by the fact that they think of us as people below them, and our country as inferior to them, and thus deserving of less-than-respectful behavior from them.

“Ching chong” and “ching chang chong,” however, partake of the same mindset. They’re also often used to flaunt superiority against people who are perceived to be not that fluent in English, or unable to speak the language at all, such as immigrants, people of color and other minorities.

People who employ the labels to make fun of and put down other people think of themselves as the better, superior race, and that kind of prejudice only does no one good. Protesters who employ the words “ching chong” and “ching chang chong” to denounce Chinese actions against the Philippines are making the situation worse, not better. Unconsciously or not, they are becoming the people they denounce. Intentionally or not, they are propagating and intensifying hate against an entire race of people. The actions of the Chinese government are not the actions of the Chinese people.

Such hate can one day be the cause of mental health issues or the suicide of a bullied person, or outright violence against immigrant or minority communities. That hate can fuel harassment and intimidation all the way to mass murders and massacres, the way anti-immigrant rhetoric has targeted blacks, Mexicans, Jews and, yes, Asians, in the United States and elsewhere. People who spread this kind of hate are accomplices in those crimes — no, culprits even. Blood is in their hands.

“Ching chong” and “ching chang chong” may just be words. But words have power to give life, or to kill. “Ching chong” and “ching chang chong” are words that spout hate, that intensify evil — words that can kill. Protest, make memes and joke more creatively, but be sensitive about loaded words, and be sure that before you utter them, you know their meaning, the stories behind them, and the impact they may cause.

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Jack Lorenz A. Rivera, 17, is a Grade 12 student. He won first prize (Kabataan Sanaysay category) in the 68th Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature.

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TAGS: ching chong, Jack Lorenz A. Rivera, racism, Young Blood
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