Why You Need to Stop Calling Asian People ‘Ling Ling’ and ‘Ching Chong’

When William Hung first appeared on American Idol in 2004, the face of White America lit up like a Christmas tree at this in-real-life Asian stereotype. White people thought they saw the Asian Sasquatch.

With his school boy haircut, buck teeth, thick accent and high-waisted slacks, 21-year-old Berkeley engineering student William Hung became the personification of every racist Asian stereotype. He was studious, awkward around women, and naively charismatic — in a Long Duk Dong kind of way.

William was the one person White people could point to and say, “See? I told you! Those goofy ‘Ching Chong’ Asians really do exist!” From their racist perspective, only two types of Asians exist: the “Ching Chong/Ling Ling” Asians who eat dogs, have small penises, and can’t drive, and everyone else.

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When you call Asian people Ching Chong, you’re not referring to a specific Asian individual, but instead, a hypothetical one. Ching Chong serves as a placeholder for any Asian person you don’t like. The Asian who cut you off on the freeway? He’s a Ching Chong. The Asian woman who didn’t hold open the door for you? She’s also a Ching Chong. Those Asians across the globe who we’re about to go to war with? They’re Ching Chongs too.

Ching Chong, Ling Ling, and other ‘Chinglish’ terms are a way for racists to circumnavigate social rules that discourage the use of well-known racial slurs like Chink and Gook. What you’re left with is a coded slur that doesn’t look familiar from the outside but when you’re the target, it all feels the same.

People Who Have Used “Ching Chong” To Target Asians

In 2006 during an episode of The View, Rosie O’Donnell impersonated the Chinese media with a horribly racist Asian rant. Rosie denied accusations of racism and claimed that Asian audiences simply didn’t understand her humor. For her punishment, ABC renewed Rosie’s contract for nine consecutive years.

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In a similar act of xenophobia and anti-Asian racism, UCLA student Alexandra Wallace uploaded a notorious YouTube video where she ranted about “hordes of Asian people” living at her on-campus apartment. “Oooh! Ching chong ling long ting tong! Oooh!”

Last July, YouTube beauty vlogger Cocomadkilla went viral for her racist Facebook post about Korean beauty companies. “As you may have noticed, you discover a lot of funny stuff in the east, many of us don’t always understand the ‘Ching Chongs’ with the black hair and funny clothes (hihi).”

In all three examples listed above, Rosie O’Donnell, Alexandra Wallace, and Cocomadkilla weren’t referring to specific Asian people, but rather, a hypothetical Asian person. Why do they do it? Because it’s easy to get away with racism if your racism is directed at an abstract concept and not a real, living person.

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Used to mock the way Chinese — and by extension, all Asian-Americans — people speak and their supposed lack of English comprehension, Ching Chong is only a step removed from calling someone a chink/gook/nip.

And yes, White supremacists mock other ethnic/religious minority groups in a similar fashion.

The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Dog Whistling

Black Communities

If you’ve spent any amount of time in a Fox News comment section you’ll find excessive use of “We Wuz Kangs” and “Dindus” — two White supremacist terms used to mock Black culture, African American Vernacular English (AAVE) and to delegitimize Black civil rights activists. These dog whistles depict Black people as inherently guilty and “Dindu” is a slur often chanted after police shootings of innocent Black civilians.

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Middle Eastern/Muslim Communities

“Allahu Akbar,” which translates to “Allah is greater,” has been bastardized by white supremacists as a mockery of the Muslim faith and a depiction of Muslims and Middle Eastern-Americans as terrorists. Islamaphobes use Allahu Akbar to harass Muslim (and strangely, Hindu) homes in an attempt to blame Islam for any and all terrorism. This form of Islamaphobia was implemented on a government level when the Manchester police force hired a fake suicide bomber to yell Allahu Akbar.

Cardi B. vs Kim Jong Un: What Happens When POC Rely on the ‘Ching Chong’ Slur

In a deleted tweet posted over the weekend, rapper Cardi B referred to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un as “Won Tung soup.” Even though Kim Jong Un deserves every bit of criticism for his long list of war crimes and human rights violations, including the execution of pregnant women, Cardi B didn’t have to pull a page from the Ching Chong handbook and disparage all Asians in the process.

First off, Won Tung Soup (I assume Cardi B meant wonton soup) is Chinese, not Korean. Second, Cardi B could have called Kim Jong Un an infinite number of insults, so why resort to the racist one?

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Do I think Cardi B is a full-blown racist? Of course not. People of color, by definition, cannot be racist given their inability to implement systemic racism, but their actions, when examined on their own, can indeed be described as racist. The act of calling Asian people (yes, even Kim Jong Un) Won Tung soup is racist as fuck, but someone like Cardi B isn’t in the position to actually benefit from that racism — only White supremacists can. At best, Cardi B said some ignorant shit; at worst, she validated the racist terms that White supremacists use.

White supremacists are always looking for opportunities to bring their bigotry from the confines of anonymous forums like Reddit and 4chan into real life. So when POC like Cardi B freely throw around terms like Won Tung soup when referring to an Asian person, White supremacists interpret that as you clearing a path so they can follow in your footsteps.

“Racist? How is it racist for me to call you Ling Ling when Cardi B called Kim Jong Un Won Tung soup? Stop being so offended.”

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Why This Matters

Racism is a game of all or nothing. The minute you agree to participate in the White man’s game of “Which Racist Stereotype Is True?”, all types of racism are on the table. If you entertain the possibility of a world where Asians are indeed split between the dog eating Ching Chongs and the “regular ones,” then your ideology must also exist in the same universe of Black superpredators, lazy Mexican immigrants, and brown-skinned Muslim terrorists.

That’s how racism works.

White supremacists want as many reasons, lies, and excuses to hate on us. When you go around using terms like Ling Ling and Dindu Nuffin, you validate the racist stereotypes that they invented to disparage us.

But let’s be clear: these ethnic character tropes don’t exist, and they certainly can’t define the life of POC. We are more than Black thugs, or illegal aliens, and small-dick shop owners. We are more than Ching Chongs, Ling Lings, Allahu Akbars, and Dindus.

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They call us that.

But we are not them…

Image via Wikimedia Commons / Yanping Nora Soong (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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