NPR: How ‘Ching Chong’ Became The Go-To Slur For Mocking East Asians

I saw this blog posting on Facebook the other day by NPR, and their series on ‘Code Switch’, discussing race. This particular post discusses the one the earliest uses of ‘ching chong‘ as a racial slur against Asians (and specifically the Chinese):

stephen-colbert-ching-chong-ding-dong-foundation-for-sensitivity-to-orientals-or-whatever“But “ching chong” hurled as an insult at Asian folks in the U.S. stretches back all the way to the 19th Century, where it shows up in children’s playground taunts. … A book by Henry Carrington Bolton from 1886 — The Counting-Out Rhymes of Children — tersely describes this rhyme:

“Under the influence of Chinese cheap labour on the Pacific coast, this rhyme is improved by boys brought up to believe the ‘Chinese must go,’ and the result is as follows: —

Ching, Chong, Chineeman,
How do you sell your fish?
Ching, Chong, Chineeman,
Six bits a dish.
Ching, Chong, Chineeman,
Oh! that is too dear!
Ching, Chong, Chineeman,
Clear right out of here.”

You have to admit, that’s pretty messed up when a children’s book casually uses a racial slur.

I really liked how Jimmy Wong turned the rants of former UCLA student Alexandra Wallace

into his own viral video to inoculate the slur into a nice tune. The NPR goes on to document the amazing endurance of this ridiculous slur, but doesn’t really go into the actual origins. Nor does a Wikipedia entry. I guess there is no definitive first use of the term documented out there?

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About John

I'm a Taiwanese-American and was born & raised in Western Massachusetts, went to college in upstate New York, worked in Connecticut, went to grad school in North Carolina and then moved out to the Bay Area in 1999 and have been living here ever since - love the weather and almost everything about the area (except the high cost of housing...)
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