4.06.2016

Why was it necessary to use "Chinaman" in this headline?

"Hall of Famer Yao Ming redefined 'Chinaman' for the NBA and brought the game to hundreds of millions"



Former NBA player Yao Ming was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame on Monday, prompting a multitude of reflections on the towering Chinese All-Star's historic career and legacy. Including this one from the Washington Post, which has me wondering why this particular headline was necessary:



It has since been changed, but this is the headline that originally ran when it was published on Wednesday.

The racial slur "Chinaman" -- yes, people, it is indeed a derogatory term for Asians dating back to the 1800s -- appears in the article and is used in the headline in reference to the racism and ignorance Yao Ming endured when he first arrived in the NBA. During a Rockets game in 2004, former basketball player and TNT broadcaster Steve Kerr referred to Yao as a "Chinaman." Kerr later apologized.

This isn't specifially about that incident. So why was it necessary to include the term in a current headline about Yao Ming? The piece doesn't delve into the usage of "Chinaman" as a racial slur. It's about how Yao Ming's arrival to the NBA challenged western stereotypes about the Chinese -- reflected in the post-edit headline, "How Yao Ming subverted stereotypes and brought basketball to millions."

It's ridiculous that this issue has to be raised, but the headline made it to print. Some copy editor thought it was totally okay. Didn't know or didn't care. It's hard to imagine another racial slur in the same context begin used in a headline for similar effect. But hey, at least it wasn't "chink in the armor."

Thanks for listening. This has been your far-too-regular reminder that "Chinaman" is a racial slur.


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