Andrew Dickens: Is describing someone as Asian racist?

Author
Andrew Dickens ,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Monday, 11 February 2019, 1:10p.m.
A waiter at Falls Restaurant & Cafe in West Auckland had written "Asians" to identify a group on Sunday and then provided it to the group. Photo / Social media

So I woke up this morning and turned on the radio at 6.15 and the first words I heard was Niva Retimanu saying, “café that wrote Asians on docket called racist, read more at NZHerald.co.nz".

I thought here we go again. More excessive outrage, more calls for retribution, more explosive reaction back, more argument.

Why are we all so up for a fight these days? Easily offended and then ready to fight back with no holds barred, often about relatively minuscule things. One can only suppose that we are so comfortable in our lives that the irritants in it get amplified. Mosquito bites become snake bites.

So I’ve read the article. On Sunday, a café wrote Asians on their docket to identify the party that had ordered. The New Zealand born, Asian woman concerned has complained and posted to the cafes Facebook page. The paper has reported that the page was inundated with complaints.

READ MORE: Racism row: Comment on Auckland restaurant receipt leaves woman shocked

So I wandered over to the café’s Facebook page. Funny sort of inundation. There was the original complaint and one other poster who was supporting her. So firstly this is not outrage but it’s worth a moment’s reflection

Is describing an Asian as Asian racism? If so here’s a question, was the film called Crazy Rich Asians racist? Should we have complained and got the thing called Crazy Rich Singaporeans?

The thing about racism is that the victim gets treated worse or given some sort of prejudice based on their race. This looks as though all they were doing was trying to ensure the order went to the right people, and they wanted the most unique or differentiating aspect of the group to do it.

The other thing about racism is that it has to be a slur. That the race offended has to be thought of as inferior. But there’s no suggestion of inferiority on the docket. There was another racist docket affair at the end of last year in New York but there the Asian was described by her eyes and a descriptor that I won’t use on the radio. So that was definitely a thing

On Friday, when we were discussing a bit of low-level sexism a guy phoned the show and said when trying to understand another’s point of view you need to put yourself in their shoes. So if I was the only European at a restaurant that serves Asian food and the waiting staff put European on the docket would I be offended? I don’t think so. If they called me white trash or honky or something I might for a moment.

My problem with this story is the original complainant who found being described as her own race an insult. I wonder why that is? I presume that throughout her life she’s heard being described as an Asian as being part of a slur, and now it’s got to a point where in her own mind whenever she hears herself described as an Asian she takes offence.

That is sad. The ultimate goal of racism is to reduce the power of a race and this complainant has just played along.

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