Monday, February 20, 2012

The 'chink in the armor' hubbub

Anthony Federico, who was fired for writing the 'chink in the armor' headline on regarding the many turnovers Jeremy Lin had committed in one game, says he had no intention of being racially offensive.
"I'm so sorry that I offended people. I'm so sorry if I offended Jeremy," Federico said.

Federico said he was "devastated" not only because he unintentionally insulted Lin, but because he slighted a fellow "outspoken Christian."

My guess is that Federico is being honest when he says he did not mean to be offensive. But I think he was also being stupid to not think that connecting a Chinese-American with the term 'chink' was not going to be perceived as an insult. Unless Mr. Federico has a history of doing other stupid things, I think it was excessive to fire him. I do think he earned a week off work without pay for his mistake.

One thing I was curious to know was how often the term 'chink in the armor' is used in news or sports stories having nothing to do with Jeremy Lin or any other people of Chinese heritage.

I Googled news stories from 2005 to 2007 (before Jeremy Lin was well known). The search yielded 1,450 results. Every sort of publication, from the New York Times to the Washington Post to little read blogs use this expression. Every three days, this term comes up an average of 4 times. I could not find one use of the term which was explicitly or implicitly offensive.

What the 'chink in the armor' story at ESPN says to me is that we, as Americans, are hypervigilant when it comes to being sensitive to the feelings of racial or ethnic minorities. Given how little real prejudice we have in our country, compared with every other multi-ethnic nation on earth, perhaps we would do well to turn down the sensitivity meters?

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