The Los Angeles Times this week caused controversy by running a piece declaring that mispronunciation of Asian names is “casual racism.”
There has been a heightened awareness of anti-Asian bigotry in recent weeks following last month’s shootings at three Atlanta-area massage parlors that left eight people dead. While there is no evidence the gunman in that spree targeted Asian-Americans, the fact that six of the victims were Asian Americans has triggered a rush to declare the shooting a hate crime.
The article, by Times staff writer Ashley Lee, stemmed from a previous report on a local theater’s award ceremony “where organizers mispronounced the name of an Asian American nominee and displayed a photo of the wrong actor.”
“The Ovation Awards’ snafus — and some of our readers’ reactions to the news coverage of them — are emblematic of the casual racism in the theater world and the world at large,” Lee wrote. “Mispronouncing someone’s name, accidentally or on purpose, at the very least demonstrates a selective laziness to learn the correct way to address or acknowledge a person. The name is perceived as particularly difficult only because it’s beyond the [W]hite European names that have been deemed normal.”
She continued, “When done willfully, it’s a conscious decision to weaponize one’s name — a deeply personal signifier of ethnic background and family lineage — against them, othering and invalidating them in a culture that already upholds [W]hite supremacy.”
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