Eugene Cho

“my name isn’t lady chinky eyes”

Did you see this?

Probably not  because who cares about receipts from fast foot joints like Papa John’s? But if you look carefully, you’ll notice that an employee tried to be “funny” and wrote in “lady chinky eyes” to identify the Asian customer.

Here’s 6 things you should know:

1. Umm, don’t hate. My slanted eyes are beautiful.

2. The customer’s name was 24-year-old Minhee Cho – the exact same name as my wife. Some of you asked and emailed me. Unless my wife has a private jet, she was not in New York this past weekend. She was home in Seattle so this was a different Minhee Cho.

3. Minhee Cho posted the picture on her Twitter account and the next thing you know, it went viral. The last time I checked, it was viewed 209,154. Wow. And before you knew it, it was posted on Huffington Post and the New York Daily News.

Can someone say “the power of social media?”

4. I was pretty upset. Bummer that this still happens. Sad to say but it happens to my kids at school. Real bummer.

5. I obviously don’t know the 16-year-old employee and honestly, I really wished she wasn’t fired. Really. I know that our initial mindset is usually inclined towards thinking that justice = firing but I disagree in situations like this. Jobs are scarce. 16-year-olds that are working seem scarce.

Rather,  I just wanted Papa John’s to invest time and money on cultural awareness and sensitivity – not just for the employee but for all the employees including the manager who blamed this incident on the influence of “modern music” or “hip-hop music.”  Double huh.

And wished that other companies would see this as a great opportunity to check their company’s cultural sensitivity.

Wonder if cultural sensitivity should happen even at churches. Another post later on this.

6. This is a big deal despite what folks sometimes think. Why is this important? I know what you ‘re thinking. Someone always thinks this way:

  • This isn’t a big deal.
  • There are more important things in the world.
  • Grow thicker skin.
  • I’m sure they were just trying to be funny.
  • They meant good.
  • It’s a pizza receipt.

Yes, I’ve heard them wall – w/ the exception of “it’s a pizza joint.”

But  it is a big deal. Small things matter. They add up. They impact people. You should know that slitting your eyes or calling someone ‘chinky eyes’ has been used and said historically in the past and present as a way to mock, offend, and degrade Asians locally and globally. And if we don’t make a big deal of this and other instances, it will continue to not only occur but be perceived by some as acceptable.

But it’s not acceptable. Not in my face. Not to my children. Not to this Minhee Cho. And not even on my fast food receipt.

But want to know what’s awkwardly funny?

I – temporarily – made a decision to boycott Papa John’s Pizza when I saw this receipt on Saturday morning – until at least some formal apology and plan for cultural sensitivity was shared. Yesterday,  I went to church and after our morning services, we had a meeting at our church basement. While we occasionally serve pizza, we’ve NEVER served Papa John’s but behold…12 boxes of Papa John’s Pizza.

Couldn’t help but to laugh – awkwardly.

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27 Responses

  1. Firing one employee = window dressing. You’re right. Papa Johns (and many other corporations/businesses) need to institute cultural credibility training.

  2. The weird thing is this appears to be a copycat. Just a couple of weeks ago, there was a story of two Asian guys finding that their food server had put “Ching and Chong” on the receipt. Are we looking at a rash of fast food racism?

  3. Dennis says:

    Seriously, why was she eating Papa John’s Pizza in New York City. What!?!

  4. Tony Lin says:

    Justice = every “chinky eye” person gets two large Papa John’s Pizza of their choice… one for each eye.

  5. nicky vender says:

    totally agree. but it’s not just cultural sensitivity that is needed, we need human sensitivity all around. my daughter has special needs and i can’t tell you how much the R word hurts. it’s not even appropriate to use as a medical term any longer, but people continue to use it as a term for stupid, ugly, a joke, etc. words matter.

  6. Thanks for “going there” Eugene. I would say you are being a bit too diplomatic however. People who hide behind this kind of lamely-claimed “humor” are holding up a thin veil behind which there is hostility, anger, even hatred. To the recipient, they want to devalue, degrade or worse. Unfortunately the extent to which our thought leaders/ civil society go is to implement ever more shallow exercises in political correctness. And we have a media that cavalierly deals in caricature and sound bite. Given that, why should we be surprised that a pizza guy gets passive aggressive? Awesome of you to “go there” with clarity, depth and grace.

  7. Stacy Chan says:

    I completely agree with you. And, for the last paragraph- God is funny, isn’t He. :)

  8. Rick says:

    Now I have a second reason to boycott, beside the really bad pizza issue.

  9. Kathryn Sciba says:

    The single best class I ever had in school was called Counseling Class. We went twice a week during elementary school. We learned about self-esteem and diversity. I loved it and I’m sure it would pay dividends for our students for years to come if all schools had a similar program. Peace!

  10. Jay says:

    At the risk of offending people, there are more important things to be addressed in the world.

  11. paul says:

    if there is a bright side, this event is being reported and is getting media attention. many direct slurs happen each day and go unreported. young people like cho should be commended for what she has done as these are the steps that lead to change in mainstream attitude.

  12. […] the Church? Yes, it’s true: These portrayals will likely continue to happen. Incidents like Lady Chinky Eyes – sadly – will continue to take place but imagine the pain of these incidents happening […]

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10 days ago. Unforgettable slow boat journey in the Delta rivers of Myanmar. Lots of reflecting and praying. Came to the conclusion - again - that in the efforts to change the world, I especially need to be changed by God's love, character, and justice. #Myanmar #slowboatreflections #onedayswages The 2nd baby turns 14 today. Oh my. How time flies. Every birthday now is bittersweet. So amazed at the young woman she is becoming ... and that much further away from being that little baby. Happy Birthday, @trintaay! The world is fallen, broken, and messy. This is the truth.

But the story is not yet finished. God is not yet done. This is the Truth. There is Hope. God is our Hope.

#Advent #MyanmarSunset #NoFilter #BackHomeSafe In solidarity. From Thailand. #ICantBreathe I'm in Thailand for two days to meet @theexodusroad - one of @onedayswages' partners doing compelling work in the fight against child sex trafficking in Thailand and other countries.

Several of their team members took me and Phillip (one of my staff ) into several brothels as part of their investigation. Needless to say, it was very disturbing but an important experience. Women were scantily dressed and places on stages ... as commodities. As part of the investigation, we spoke with some of these young women to collect information, liberate underaged girls, and shut down brothels that exploit underaged girls. To be honest, it's complicated... The evening was intense and my heart was beating so rapidly...but as the hours passed and my initial shock and fears subsided, I felt the Holy Spirit remind me that God loves each and every person and desires to draw them until Himself.  And so I prayed for these women, men, girls, pimps, johns, mamma sans... Lord, break these strongholds.
Lord, give us courage. When in a remote village in Myanmar, ask local fishermen to teach you their techniques. Then catch a big sea bass with them and have it prepared over a wood fire. Then enjoy it. #thankyoujesus #bucketlist

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  • Last week. Myanmar river. Slow boat ride. Sunset.Needed that time to reflect & pray. Grateful. instagram.com/p/wzJrJeyWSI/ http://t.co/0npoLW5UBQ || 3 hours ago
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