On Friday July 26, 2013, in Little Tokyo, attorney Karen Gee, director Stanley Yung, writer Koji Steven Sakai and I finally met with the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition represented by attorney Dan Mayeda, MANAA’s Guy Aoki and actor/director Aki Aleong regarding our movie CHINK. I remember that it was particularly a curious place to meet—a small dressing room in the rear of the East West Players building where I could see myself reflected in several angles in the surrounding mirrors, reminiscent of Bruce Lee’s climatic fight scene in Enter the Dragon.
First, the “coalition” was not even unanimous in their complaint against the titling of our feature CHINK as Visual Communications, one of the seven members, has “recused” itself from the letter that started it all. Visual Communications did not only world premiere the feature at their annual Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival but also gave Jason Tobin the Best Actor Award for portraying the titular character. Besides, Visual Communication also advocates for artistic freedom.
Nevertheless, because we had offered to hear out their side of the story as a courtesy, we had to sit down and do the meeting. The main disagreement was that “the coalition,” per the three representatives, considered the word “chink” a derogatory word in any use so that titling our movie CHINK was problematic in their eyes.
Anyone who has the slightest understanding of language or linguistics should agree that words are meaningless unless they are contextualized. Whether a word is derogatory or not entirely depends on the context. And whether a word becomes an insult or “fighting word” is dependent on usage.
“Well, Quentin, you didn’t grow up here, did you? That’s why you have no idea that the word ‘chink’ is derogatory and offensive to Asian Americans,” said one of them.
It was at that point I realized those people were full of shit. They were doing exactly what the mainstream oppressors would do—trying to reduce me into a non-American FOB who didn’t know the American way or “Asian American” way.
“I am insulted that you, as an Asian American advocating for diversity and progess, would try to discount my argument just because I didn’t grow up in America. Does that make me less American? I’m American as much as you are as I’ve lived in this country for more than two decades. I’m an American citizen.”
“You were naturalized, weren’t you?” said one of them.
“The Asian American community is a diverse community made up of both immigrants and natives who were born here. Without immigrants like me, no Asian Americans would have existed,” I said.
Well, let me tell you, titling our movie is our artistic choice. If you don’t like it, so be it. And check our latest music video “Chink” for your entertainment above.