Happy 4th of July! Okay, that was nearly a month ago, but this little bit of holiday ignorance is worth sharing. The good people of Vinalhaven, Maine celebrated Independence Day in style, with a parade that included this wonderful little China-themed float. Fortunately, someone snapped some photos and shares them on Facebook for all to see. Here are a couple more:
I'm pretty sure that's not actual Chinese writing. But nice try -- random scribbly lines will do the trick every time. Oh, don't worry -- no actual Asian people were harmed in the making of this float. But there was at least one Asian person in attendance at the celebration. Erica Tsai was so offended by the float, she wrote a letter to the editor that got published in The Working Waterfront:
To the Editor:Digging those kimonos, gentlemen. So glad to know that Vinalhaven is the kind of American small town that really celebrates difference. What better way to celebrate the birth of our great nation than creating a giant culturally insensitive, stereotype-filled float and dragging it down main street? That'll teach the kids something nice. (Thanks, Erica.)
My recent trip to Vinalhaven was filled with good times over lobster rolls, creemies, and tide pools, but I also attended the island’s 4th of July celebrations. I was appalled at the racist float of “Chinamen” protesting the ferry service. I have no issue with the political point the float was trying to make, but why did they feel the need to dredge up these outmoded stereotypes? How is it still okay to reduce Asians to an army of slant-eyed, bucktoothed Fu Manchus? They could have made their displeasure with the ferry service known without insulting and diminishing an entire culture of people. My memories of the island are unfortunately clouded by this experience, and I’m not eager to return to a place where I felt so distinctly conspicuous and unwelcome as an Asian American.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana