Dammit, can you stop using the word "Chinaman"?

West Virginia, please tell your people.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice

It's 2018. Can we all agree that some phrases are racist and just need to be retired? In West Virginia, both the governor and a state school board official have recently been on record using the term "chinaman."

Yes, people, the word is a slur.

WV governor, state school board VP have used what's considered an anti-Asian slur

Back in February, at a live streamed town hall meeting, Governor Jim Justice was discussing issues that later led into a statewide public school workers strike. He was trying to dissuade teachers from backing a proposed tax increase to fund more substantial pay raises, saying the bill had no chance of passage in the legislature.

"There's not a Chinaman's chance in the whole wide world that will happen," Justice said. "It's not getting out of committee."

May this be your semi-regular reminder that "chinaman" is a racial slur.

Aside from the fact that Justice clearly doesn't know -- or doesn't care -- that he's using a slur, this was just plain unnecessary. How was the governor's point enhanced by slapping the phrase "Chinaman's chance" on top of this statement? Like, "in the whole wide world" wasn't enough hyperbole? Had to throw in that racial slur for good measure, because hey, it sounds funny. Or "silly," as the governor would later claim, two days later.

"I use a lot of silly phrases and stuff like that," Justice said. "If that offended somebody, then I'm sorry."

Doesn't have a "Chinaman's knowledge."

On Friday, state school board vice president David Perry told the Charleston Gazette-Mail "I don't have a Chinaman's knowledge" in response to an unrelated question in a phone interview.


When asked about his use of the term, Perry said he was "absolutely not" using it as a racist term against Asians. How about just explaining what the hell it means? Apparently, a Chinaman's knowledge is somehow different from a white man's knowledge, and Perry does not even possess the Chinaman version of knowledge.

Perry admitted that he didn't know the origins of the term, despite apparently hearing it and using it his entire life.

"I have no idea other than just through my 66 years, I've heard it used down through the years," he said.

It's exhausting to revisit this every time the term flares up in current events, but let's simply and definitively declare that yes, "Chinaman" is a derogatory term. It's a dehumanizing slur that traces its roots back to the very painful, traumatic beginnings of Chinese immigration to the United States.

For a little history lesson, I point you to this illustrative passage from Jenn Fang at Reappropriate, who also affirms "Yes, the Term "Chinaman" is Derogatory":

The history of the term "Chinaman" is telling: it is a word that invokes the 18th and 19th century American idiom "a Chinaman's chance in hell", which refers to how Chinese American coolies were given the most dangerous jobs in the building of the Central Pacific Railroad -- tasked with running live dynamite into half-dug tunnels so that mountains might be blasted. Thousands of Chinese American labourers perished in the construction of the railroad; today, their sacrifice is only just earning popular recognition. Subsequently, it was used alone or as part of "Johnny Chinaman" as a generic reference to Chinese coolies; here, it emphasized the dehumanization and lack of individuality of Chinese Americans -- we were not even worthy of having distinct names. The phrase "Chinaman" is not ambiguously offensive. It is a relic of a time when Chinese Americans and other Asian Americans lacked most basic legal rights; when the vast majority worked as indentured servants; when rape, beatings and lynching were commonplace; when the life of an Asian American was jokingly worth so little, a common idiom arose around it.

Look, I genuinely believe that this is the very first time that anyone has bothered to point out to the governor or school board vice president, in the history of their existence in West Virginia, that "Chinaman" is a derogatory term. They've probably used it, unchecked, because it's just some racist shit they learned. Racist shit from America's racist past, and it goes back deep. That doesn't mean people get to keep saying it.

So I ask again: can we all agree that some phrases are racist and just need to be retired?

West Virginia, tell your people.

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