Thursday, August 7, 2008

Senator McCain, tell us what you REALLY think about race in America?

This Monday I wrote that there was more to say about John McCain and the topic of race in America. But the truth is, I have actually written about this topic before. In March, I called on journalists to start asking John McCain to talk about race ("Calling on McCain to talk about race")--because doesn't it strike anyone that as a white American man detained in an Asian country as a POW and one who regularly used a racial slur against Asians, "gook," until he disavowed its use in the 2000 campaign--doesn't anyone think that John McCain has opinions about race in America? Particularly since his family is mixed-race with the addition of the daughter that Cindy McCain brought back from Bangladesh unannounced.

[By the way, does it strike anyone else as a bit odd that Cindy McCain was able to just bring back a baby from Bangladesh into this country and she seemingly did it without first discussing the matter with her husband and the rest of her family? And then there's the whole background check, the paperwork, the months and sometimes years of waiting. She went to Bangladesh, toured an orphanage, and then brought back two little girls, one she kept and the other that got adopted by friends. And John McCain's reaction is "Whoa, honey! Didn't realize you were bringing back souvenirs!" but then he quickly says how delighted he is, but how much would you give to go back in time and be a fly on the wall at the McCain house?]

And besides one audience member at a town hall event in Ohio, doesn't anyone want to ask John McCain about women and gender issues, especially in light of the sexist slur he used against HIS OWN WIFE? ("Who is John McCain?").

Plenty of other bloggers I respect have also commented on John McCain and race and who this straight talker REALLY is:

Tenured Radical has an excellent post about the use of the phrase "the race card" and the McCain campaign's invocation of this specter.

What Tami Said has a post detailing the various racial slurs that McCain is overheard to have made at bar he liked to frequent in DC.

Angry Asian Man also has commented about John McCain's racism and his use of the slur "gook," plugging a book by Irwin Tang--and here's a video in which Tang talks about the importance of understanding John McCain's particular brand of Asian racism:

Finally, in case you haven't heard, there's been a scuffle between John McCain and...Paris Hilton! McCain used images of Hilton and Britney Spears in his latest negative campaign against Barack Obama, calling Obama a . . . CELEBRITY and likening him to Spears and Hilton. Paris Hilton then shot back with a video of her own with the help of the Internet sensation "Funny or Die":

See more Paris Hilton videos at Funny or Die

President Hilton? I hope not. But this campaign season just got a bit wackier.


Matt said...

Do you know the etymology of "gook"? I had thought it was from "Hangook" or "Migook," Korean for Korea and America (or Koreans and Americans - my Korean isn't very good), respectively. Tang says it goes back to the Philippines.

Evan Carden said...

The link here:

Is pretty clear, but what she basically says is there are a couple of theories. Yours is one of them:

"Cao and Novas, the authors of Everything You Need to Know About Asian-American History, explain the term’s origins as follows: "Gook, the American racial epithet for all Asian Americans, is actually the Korean word for "country." Koreans call the United States of America Mee Hap Joon Gook, which they shorten to the more familiar Mee Gook. Similarly, Koreans have shortened Dae Han Min Gook or the People’s Republic of Korea to Han Gook. During the Korean War, American soldiers gave the word gook a derogatory slant and used it to refer to Koreans. The term gook went through yet one more transformation when American servicemen in Vietnam used it to refer to the Vietnamese, particularly the Vietcong.""

On the subject of Vietnam (how's that for a segue?) when talking about Iraq, I heard a horrible Vietnam era joke:

After a bombing run, the pilot asks the planner "Are you sure that was an enemy village?"

"It is now," the planner answered.

The two punchlines (if you can call them that) are that the people doing the bodycounts would count them all as Vietcong and that anyone who survived the bombing was sure as hell Vietcong now.

That's been preying on my mind for a while now, just thought I'd share.

Misery loves company...

Jennifer said...

Matt & Evan,
Thanks for your comments as well as you questions/clarifications.

Matt, I had also always thought it dated from the Korean war rather than the Spanish-American war, but having never done any firm research into this, I would defer to Tang, who may himself have deferred to Robert Lee.

Of the two sources mentioned in Kim Pearsons reference (which is the link that Evan provided) I have to say that I think Robert Lee's scholarship is more thorough. I am familiar with Cao and Novas's book--but it actually contains some errors (they cite William Peterson's coinage of "model minority" as 1980 rather than 1963) and some inaccurasies or a certain type of phrasing that isn't quite as rigorous as the scholarship of Lee's book ORIENTALS.

At any rate, the important thing to take away whether we want to go back to the Spanish-American war or the Korean war is that "gook" was a term used specifically by the U.S. military to describe/vilifiy/minoritize/dehumanize (choose your preferred word) non-white, specifically Asian enemy aliens.