Eugene Cho

those slanted eyed chinese people

Read Part 2: My slanted eyes are beautiful 

Why is it that we make fun and poke others through caricatures.  You want an example?  How about the entire Spanish men’s Olympic basketball team [and supposedly the women’s team as well] using their fingers to apparently make “their eyes like Chinese” [or Asian].

Depending on who you listen to, a common response is, “It’s no big deal.”

But, it’s always no big deal. 

But it is.  It is a big deal.  It is demeaning and has been historically used to denigrate Asians – past, present, and I’m sure, in the future.  Every single time someone slanted their eyes at me, [trust me], it was intended to hurt or poke fun.  And it hurts even now when my daughters come home from school [occasionally] to share how some jerk kid slanted their eyes at them.  Hurts me enough that I want to go challenge that 3rd grader boy to an Ultimate Fight Club  match…until I remember that I’m a pacifist…and a pastor.  Probably wouldn’t be good press for my church.

But I want to be gracious because I got the Olympic spirit but when folks get dumb and dumber and try to defend the picture or the actions, I get a tad upset. 

Just say sorry.  Plead ignorance and profusely say sorry.  Learn why people are offended but don’t say, “It’s no big deal.”  Yes, I know that the originators and creators of the photo have said t was intended as an “affectionate gesture” but this is why it’s so troubling.  There are people out there that actually think that mimicking Asians by slanting their eyes with their fingers is affectionate. 

Umm.  So, let me tell the entire WORLD and Pau Gasol and the entire Spanish basketball team that it’s not affectionate. 


Ok. I’d like to hear from you.  Be honest.  What do you think?  Is it no big deal?  Am I overreacting…too much angry asian man and not enough Jesus?  Is “it” racist?



Several news sources [CNN] have written about the pictures but the NY Times has the most thorough story:

Thanks to a comment by a reader named Will, on an earlier post about Spain’s basketball team, we were alerted to an article in the Guardian by Sid Lowe — a Madrid-based correspondent for the site’s excellent Football Weekly podcast — about the photograph above. As Lowe explains:

Spain’s Olympic basketball teams have risked upsetting their Chinese hosts by posing for a pre-Games advert making slit-eyed gestures. The advert for a courier company, which is an official sponsor of the Spanish Basketball Federation, occupied a full page in the sports daily Marca, the country’s best-selling newspaper.

The advert features two large photographs, one of the men’s basketball team, above, and one of the women’s team. Both squads pose in full Olympic kit on a basketball court decorated with a picture of a Chinese dragon. Every single player appears pulling back the skin on either side of their eyes. The advert carries the symbol of the sport’s governing body.

No one involved in the advert appears to have considered it inappropriate nor contemplated the manner in which it could be interpreted in China and elsewhere.

Our own Pete Thamel, who covered Spain’s victory over China earlier today for The Times, writes in from Beijing to point out that

The typically sedate Chinese crowds vigorously booed the Spanish basketball team at times in Spain’s overtime victory here on Tuesday night. It’s unknown whether it has anything to do with the publication of insensitive pictures in which the Spanish men’s and women’s team appear to be mocking people of Asian descent by pulling back their skin behind their eyes.

UPDATE: Pete Thamel has more from Beijing.

Roberto Hernandez, the Spanish press officer for basketball, said he was not aware of the picture when reached by telephone. When told about its contents and asked if the Spanish team had made any effort to apologize, he asked a reporter to call Li Ning, the Chinese Olympic hero from the 1984 Games and the man who floated through the air at the Bird’s Nest to light the Olympic torch at the opening ceremony. The Spanish team is sponsored by Li-Ning, the footwear company.

UPDATE 2: Jeff Klein, again demonstrating his inability to take a day off, writes in to add more context:

Li-Ning is the Chinese footwear company sometimes called “the Nike of China,” but the ad, wishing the two Spanish national teams good luck in Beijing, was sponsored by a Spanish courier company, Seur.

The Li-Ning company’s Web site boasts of its sponsorship agreement with the Spanish national basketball teams.

Li-Ning’s agreement with Spain basketball was noted in the U.S. press as long ago as 2004, in the L.A. Times , and the deal was signed in 2002, as noted. a couple of years ago in the English-language Beijing Review.

In Spain, the association with Li-Ning is hardly a secret. A blog for the business paper El Comercio took note of the visit of Spain basketball officials and players upon their arrival in Beijing to the Li-Ning hospitality center, Spain basketball federation president Jose Luis Saez among them.

Moreover, on Aug. 6 Spain basketball and Li-Ning renewed their sponsorship agreement through 2012.

So while the gesture of the Spanish teams in the ads might seem, or be, culturally insensitive, their ties to China are more complex when you look deeper.

Jeff also points us to a post on the Web site of the Madrid daily El Mundo, which asks whether the ad constitutes Racism or a Casual Wink?, in response to Sid Lowe’s article and the discussion on this blog.

El Mundo makes an attempt to answer the central question here: What were they thinking?

The photograph, widely disseminated now by the press, was made during the preparation campaign for the Olympic Games in Beijing. …

Jose Manuel Calderon, an icon of the national team, explains in his blog at that it was a wink of the sponsor, something they thought appropriate and affectionate. He is blunt: “Whoever wants to interpret something different, totally confused.”

“It turns out that in the photo shoot for the submission of our team, one of our sponsors asked us to make, as a ‘wink’ to our participation in Beijing, an expression of Eastern eyes. We felt it was something appropriate and that it would always be interpreted as an affectionate gesture,” says Calderon. “However, some European media have not looked on it well,” laments the linchpin of the national team.

Calderon denies any racist tinge in the gesture and expressed his “great respect for the East and its people.” The Extremaduran highlighted his great personal relationship with several Chinese friends by his team in the NBA, Toronto Raptors, and recalled that the sports brand Li Ning China outfits the Spanish team as one of its sponsors.

UPDATE 3 A reader named Carlos writes to us from Barcelona to bring our attention to another article in the Spanish press following up on this story. El Pais reports that the Chinese embassy in Spain has pronounced the ad “ni racista ni ofensivo.”

Filed under: politics, religion, sports, , , , ,

67 Responses

  1. mulloverthis says:

    This may not be “racist” in that the team could be trying to simulate some sort of similarity to the Chinese since they were on their turf. However, it is clearly tasteless and offensive. Bet your bottom dollar that if an Asian team would dare to go to Spain and make fun of some ethnic Spanish feature, they wouldn’t find it so non-offensive. I believe in trying to give the benefit of the doubt, but this was some unflattering, insensitive conduct for the team.

  2. Jeff Lam says:

    it blows my mind that anyone — asian or not — could look at that image and not conclude it’s racist. there is really nothing to discuss — it is racist. it is not affectionate, it’s not cute, it’s not funny. it is racist and insanely ignorant.

  3. Teresa says:

    Looks rude, racist, or at best, incredibly insensitive and dumb to me!

  4. thecrazymommafiles says:

    I think it is very insensitive. I try not to look at everything as being “racist” or I would be swimming in such things all day, every day. Whether, they meant any harm or not, I can see why you would be offended. But as a country, we are becoming so desensitized to things that many may not find it offensive.

  5. Kevin Davis says:

    I’m with you Cho – I post the picture on my blog when I saw it yesterday too. Ridiculous! It is sad and ignorant.

  6. chris bean says:

    As a fellow pastor who can also become enraged by the thoughtless antics my children sometimes face at school…I feel your angst. So far, the Spirit has helped me resist putting the smack down on any of my daughter’s cruel classmates. 🙂

    In regards to the Spanish team’s gestures…that’s what you call someone’s terrible lapse of judgment as well as cultural insensitivity at the very!

  7. Kacie says:

    Lest we get too angry….
    There is rascism that is overt, intentional, and mean-spirited.
    Then there is racism that includes cultural assumptions, clumsy caricatures and unintentional offense.
    This would at least appear to be the second. Both forms of racism are painful and offensive and should be fought against, but with the second part of the problem is simple ignorance.
    I speak honestly here – there may well be times when I say something or buy into a cultural notion that is painful to others and I just don’t realize it. I hate that thought, but when/if I do, I’d really want someone to honestly and gently explain to me that what I’ve said or done is offensive. I do not mean to offend.

    I guess I’d just say that I hope that this team just didn’t realize the message they were sending. Yeah, it’s pretty stupid not to realize that, but when you’ve been so far away from the Chinese culture, it would be easy to just not realize what stereotypes are painful or demeaning.

  8. Nat7 says:

    I agree that the gesture was dumb, but the intention was not racist. In my country that gesture it’s not normally used to hurt. I have never seen that used as an insult in my school to the Asian people there (mostly Chinese girls adopted by Spaniard families). Maybe some people used as an insult, they are racist people everywhere, I’m just saying that the gesture in Spain it is not automatically an insult. And I have never seen an adult or someone older than 4 years old? making that gesture.

    Maybe our problem is that we are always making jokes about everything, even about sensitive topics, even (mostly) about ourselves. Honestly I don’t like the gesture, it breaks my heart to know that so many people are hurt because of that.

    And mulloverthis, Spaniards, we are used to the typical tourist who thinks that all the Spaniards said “olé” all the time, that we are always sleeping (“la siesta” most spaniards don’t have time for that, only children and retired people maybe), all likes bullfighting (i hate it) and know how to kill a bull, that we all dance and like Flamenco, that we are lazy, that we eat Paella everyday… And most times they think Mexico and Spain are almost or exactly the same (nothing against Mexicans, one my best friends is from Mexico). And this is just ignorance, it is not because they want to hurt us, it is just because they don’t know anything about us, just ignorance. The same ignorance the Spaniard team show with this gesture. I’m very sorry.

    Excuse my English.

  9. Nat7 says:

    I’m not defending the photo, just to make it clear, I hate that photo. But I’m convinced that they are not racist.

  10. Donna says:

    Hello, Eugene,

    No, I don’t feel you were overreacting at all. I was extremely offended at the picture & frankly don’t care what the intent was…it was offensive & wrong.

    My daughter (adopted from China) has had, on rare occasion, kids do the same thing to her as you and your children have experienced. Then my Whump A** button switches into overdrive. Of course I restrain myself, thinking WWJD, but I fall woefully short on managing my anger when it happens.

  11. This reminds me of when Ben & Jerry’s produced an ice cream flavor called ‘Black and Tan’ in honor of the Irish and a (supposedly) popular drink there. But to the Irish it’s simply the name of the counter-revolutionary paramilitary that killed countless people.

    So it gets a little hard to claim that this photo is racist. Is it racist in the US? Absolutely. In Spain? Well, apparently they don’t have the sad history that we’ve got and they don’t see the symbol the same way.

    Still, Ben & Jerry’s immediately apologized for their ignorance.

  12. sis says:

    some are racist and do not know it.
    but ignorance does not justify the offense.

    i do not know what is worse,
    being racist and know it
    or being racist and not knowing it

  13. Gary says:

    Dude, Relax. It was a joke and the intent was very obvious.

  14. Keren says:

    that whole denial makes me angry, and they should have immediately apologized. and, even if the intention was “harmless”, the fact of the matter is that many people find it offensive. that alone should warrant an apology. isn’t that common cultural courtesy?

  15. elderj says:

    When I first saw the picture, I really didn’t know what they were doing, since it isn’t close up enough for me to see anything. I just thought, “Why are they pointing at their eyes? Maybe it’s some team spirit thing, like holding up the ‘we’re #1’ finger.” Reading the context of it makes me think twice of course. Clearly offensive though probably from ignorance less than from spite.

    I’m actually less offended when little children do stuff because they really don’t know any better and are sure to make fun of ANY feature that distinguishes a class mate from his or her peers. Children need to be taught, not drop kicked. I remember doing the same thing to my eyes when I was a kid, though I don’t think I knew any Asian people (maybe there was one in my 1st grade class) and all I knew about Asian culture I learned from watching badly dubbed kung fu movies on Saturday afternoons – after which my cousins and I would try to beat each other up while making all the “waaa-aah” sounds they did on the movies. Of course as you grow up you learn not to do stuff because its rude or offensive – and then later you learn why.

    All of that to say that people in contexts without a lot of exposure to other people probably don’t have ill intent in their minds when they do things that are offensive, and will if questioned often be extremely remorseful and plainly embarrassed because it is so far from their character. This is not racist. We should be very careful about throwing that word around carelessly.

  16. Matt EHH says:

    To me, this picture and the stuff it may represent doesn’t deserve the attention its getting.

    My eyes are very “asian”. I’ve been mocked and teased because of my eyes. It’s been overtly and subtly communicated all my life that my eyes don’t match the ideal in this culture. I’ve been hurt and upset and probably got into some fights just over they slant eyed thing. For me though, my hurt over something as trivial as what some people think of my eyes has as much to do with my own issues as they do with the offender.

    I’m not saying its not bad or hurtful or sinful to tease like that. it is mean

    But I don’t care that much about Spanish Olympians thinking its appropriate to playfully tease chinese about the something like race. There are a lot of foolishness like that going around.

    My little boy is VERY good looking. But some kid(s) will tease him about his eyes, or height, or hair or name or whatever. He’s going to have to learn to shake it off so he can be there to react to the real racism that is alive and well.

  17. elderj says:

    By the way, I still make the “waaa-aah” sounds when I practice taekwando. Its just more fun that way.

  18. gar says:

    >”Dude, Relax. It was a joke and the intent was very obvious.”

    This is the kind of attitude that can be problematic with issues like this. If I make a video of myself making monkey noises and say, “This is what I think black people are like”, I don’t think saying “it was only a joke” will let me off the hook. The excuse of “it’s only a joke” has too often been used by people as a free pass to gloss over their ignorance and lack of consideration for other people.

    I’m sorry to say it, but Spain doesn’t have a stellar history of racial sensitivity when it comes to athletics. I think the NY Times article mentioned this already, but when the English national soccer team came to play in Spain, its Black players were mocked with monkey noises and had bananas thrown on the field. One Spanish coach actually referred to black players as “black sh*ts”.

    While I’m sure not everybody in Spain is racist (including basketball team), that’s not the point. What they DID (the taking of the photograph), is definitely offensive. It doesn’t matter what their original intentions were – the actions speak for themselves. This video is particularly relevant:

    On a personal note, the whole “slanting your eyes” BS still goes on today at schools. As a teacher, I’ve personally reprimanded students for doing it at other students as an act of bullying and harassment.

  19. minnesotameetskarnataka says:

    I agree-the Spanish should apologize gracefully and we can all move on. Whether or not they meant for the gesture to be hurtful doesn’t really matter. If you accidentally hit someone, you apologize. Same thing.

  20. eugenecho says:

    i think we can all agree that it’s clearly offensive and was NOT intended to be directly racist.

    but why do we have to be careful in the conversation of labeling the ACT of being racist? isn’t this an example of systemic racism? …when we do things out of ignorance not knowing that this will hurt, offend, belittle, and degrade but it keeps happening?

    this reminds me of the “ching-chong” episode with rosie o’donnell:

    after the episode, asians and asian-americans kept telling her that the closest equivalent was using the n-word. she was shocked and had no idea. others had no idea. and the reason why i think people don’t get it is because we keep telling people:

    “it’s no big deal”

    and then, of course, asians are supposed to fall in line with the whole “quiet” and “passive” stereotype.

  21. brotherterrysimmons says:


    When I first started reading your post Eugene, I just knew I was going to run into another one of those “pc run amok” overreactions we’re all so used to. That’s not the vibe I got though. I was even more surprised that the tone of the comments ran toward “insensitivity” instead of “racism.”

    Look, I’m a 40 year old, white, male, Straight, Gun loving, Southern Baptist Preacher from Arkansas… I know racist, and this is racist! If people don’t think so, they should picture the Olympics in Nairobi with the Spanish team posing in black-face.

    Would that be considered racist?

    That’s what I thought.

  22. phyllisophy says:

    it is racist because it perpetuates the stereotypes mass society has of chinese people and asians in general. jesus is not about racism either. i think all people should have an upsetting and angry reaction to this… i think jesus would have also. IT’S A BIG DEAL!!! how many steps backward have we come if we continue to think stuff like this is ok?

  23. Who Cares says:

    Serously, who cares? Yeah its a pretty stupid thing to do, but honestly Spain is a pretty racist country so what can you expect? This is the same country that throws bannanas at black soccer players. What really bothers me is the blatant lie that China puts out stating that their women’s…I mean girls gymnastic team is of age. There is no way that those girls are 16, I doubt they are even 14. What a joke, and the IOC does nothing

  24. Peter Z says:

    What a dumb controversy, really… The picture may be unfortunate, but not really racist. Chinese don’t even understand that gesture, and you Americans just like to cry out about everything.

  25. Benjie says:

    I feel that it is mostly Euro-ignorance rather than racist. This is the Spanish basketball team, and they probably don’t have a whole lot of Chinese or Asians running around in Madrid or Barcelona, and the easiest way to refer to an Asian would be for them to slant their eyes. I don’t think there was any hatred in their actions. I’m sure they were doing it in jest.

  26. elderj says:

    I want to be clear when I say that this wasn’t racist that I do not mean to imply anything other than a fairly narrow description of racism. Racism always carries with it (to me) the issue of power and not simply bias based on physical characteristics. I can definitely see how more broadly defined the act is racist, especially if the intention behind it was bad. But ignorance and racism are not the same things and it is important not to conflate the two.

  27. Tyler says:

    I wouldn’t call it racist…but wrong for sure.

  28. Nick Ammon says:

    It seems that Asians everytime we think that they have gotten passed beyond the era of such ignorance they once again amazed at the stupidity of others. Its racist and this is not the first time a spanish-speaking team did this. look at the World Cup when Argentina beat South Korea or how about the Asian cup when the Australians beat Japan. someone will always be ignorant and copy some racist gesture unbeknownst to him its racist history and connotation.

  29. bookwormhub says:

    i’m an asian too and i support your opinion regarding this issue. even though people made this stuff for advertisement’s sake, they should be sensitive and aware of the impact it brought to other people.

  30. franksabunch says:

    Anyone who would do something like that is either ignorant or stupid…my vote is that the Spanish basketball team is BOTH. The Spanish tennis team also did the same thing in April:

    It’s no secret that Spain has had its share of problems doing inappropriate things, like harrassing opposing soccer players who were black. They also feel offended if anyone compares them to Mexicans, as if Spain is the new middle kingdom of the 21st century.

    Anyone who feels that this isn’t racist…try and imagine the Chinese basketball team showing up to a game vs. Angola with black face painted on. But it’s okay to make fun of Asians…and it will always be okay unless the Asians stand up and do something.

  31. queltica says:

    i have had this discussion with my older family members who have tried to defend what i consider to be racist comments that they called “affectionate”. in my opinion, if someone out of ignorance with the best of intentions “affectionately” or “jokingly” causes someone offense or causes them harm, it is their responsibility to listen carefully and openly to the people they have offended, to apologize, and to change their behaviour from that point on. it isn’t up to the person doing the “joking” to decide what is harmful! they can speak of their heart’s intent, but that only carries weight if they listen, acknowledge and change.

  32. sis says:

    Hong Kong airport
    Asian group at the check in counter. They are treated badly. One white person belonged to the group, but so far was busy elsewhere. This white person steps to the counter and the attitude of the airport staff changes immediately: friendliness, courtesy, respect! The Asian group benefitted because of the one white person.

    Do you call that racism? I do. (I was the white person, by the way.) There was a benefit because of racism this time, but the benefit does not nulllify the racism.

    Likewise, good intentions and ignorance do not qualify for calling racism a better name.

    We live in an educated world. Being ignorant when it comes to racism shows carelessness and indifference towards other nations and cultures, which exposes one’s egocentrism really. I find this alarming.

  33. fredsanjose says:

    I am Asian and the gesture in the photo conjured up hateful feelings from my youth. As a 10 year old immigrant, this is the first gesture I see from a caucassian boy, mouthing off ‘Chink, Chink’. It may seem like a joke for many of the posters on this blog but it certainly isn’t for many of us who were offended. Just like the Confederate flag symbolize racism for the African Americans, this gesture symbolize hatred for us Asians. There is nothing affectionate about any type of racist act.

  34. Aaron says:

    I am sorry for their actions. It is obvious they struck a deep and painful nerve among many people.

  35. chris says:

    dear eugene,
    a. it IS a big, hairy, shocking deal. this is the olympics. the WORLD is watching.
    b. you are not overreacting.
    c. it’s not too much angry asian man – if anything, far too few angry men and women. jesus got angry. besides, we can be angry and still love.
    d. it IS racist, no matter if they realize it or not.

    if we don’t say anything about this, who will?
    how else will this particular group of people realize the effect of their attitudes and actions, and be able to name them for what they are?
    how will it ever stop?

    i, a white woman, confess that as a child i repeated the ‘my mother is chinese… etc’ saying, while making eye slants. my friends and i had no idea that it may have been the cause of a lot of hurt to the one asian girl in our school. we were totally ignorant then. i am an adult now and know that it was inappropriate, wrong, and cruel. it is my duty to make sure my ignorance, my attitudes, and my thoughtless actions are NOT passed down and perpetuated.

  36. Steve says:

    It would be one thing if one person on the team did it but the entire team took part in this which tells me that they really didn’t know what they were doing. It is hard for me to judge there motives without understanding the Spanish and the way they do things. The bottom line is that the Olympics are a place where many different cultures collide and I guarantee you that there way more things going on which would seem racist to the naked eye.

    I am sorry about the negative feelings this picture conjured up and I do believe it is a big deal after it happened and the team learned the implications of the gesture but before hand who knows what they were thinking.

    I’ve watched comments like this tear up christian communities. I appreciate this dialogue because it helps us to reconcile and forgive where we need to forgive.

    I’m middle eastern and people call me a terrorist when I don’t shave. It doesn’t bother me. Some people would be really hurt by it.

  37. Oliver says:

    I’m Chinese and when I 1st read the story, I was pretty mad. More so from the standpoint of a group of guys being unkind and ungracious to the host of the games.

    But when I think about it now, if they didn’t mean any harm by it and they know now that it could hurt people’s feelings and, knowing that, they wouldn’t do it again…well, apology accepted, we can all move on, no bad feelings. If they say they didn’t know any better, I’m inclined to believe them.

    Chinese people have an expression which roughly translates to “large spirit” There’s a whole grab-bag of different interconnected ideas to it,, but the gist of it is you believe in the best of people, you’re not petty or belaboring, you’re slow to anger, quick to forgive and don’t bear grudges.

    I’d like to think that the best parts of Chinese culture would reflect that large spirited vibe when something like this pops up.

  38. K-man says:

    Again with the calling-it-anything-but-racism thing.

    Tyler says, “I wouldn’t call it racism… but wrong for sure.”

    Peter Z says, “The picture may be unfortunate, but not really racist… you Americans just like to cry about everything.”

    Benjie says, “I don’t think there was any hatred in their actions. I’m sure they were just doing it in jest.”

    Oh, well, that’s just hilarious. I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that it was supposed to be funny. Apparently, it’s just angry Asian-Americans talking conspiracy.

    I’m not quite sure what the stigma towards calling something “racist” is. Is it because if people acknowledge racism, some type of guilt starts to creep up?

    Racist people aren’t hideous monsters hiding in dungeons somewhere south of the Mason-Dixon. This isn’t some deluded call to action but if something is racist, call it racist.

  39. elderj says:

    K-man, as a person living well south of the Mason-Dixon line I resent the implication of your statement.

  40. K-man says:

    Which was an extreme attempt at hyperbole, as was the rest of that sentence.

    It was basically meant to address the “but I’m not racist because…” thinking that seems to have put the term “racist” at arms-length. I was not insinuating that people below that line are anything or nothing.

  41. Brian says:

    isn’t ignorance a form of racism? and more accurately, THE form of racism that charaterizes our more (post)modern, progressive society? I don’t quite agree that the the Spanish B-ball team needs to apologize “so we can all move on”…yes, an apology would be good and would signify some movement, but simply “moving on” leaves this issue in the laps of Asians. My white maleness is good at moving on, basking in my silver-spoon privilege; but what if I was willing to really dive into it, (deep into it)? What if i was willing to see the harm that this gesture caused, evidenced by (at least) Eugene’s words of anger and hurt? Then I would be uncomfortable…

    …because that could cause me to be reminded of my own racism as well as systemic racism that has been spoken of. Then Pau Gasol and the Spanish team’s “ignorance” (racism) doesn’t seem so far from home.

  42. alliehope says:

    Precisely, Brian. I think “moving on” is simply an excuse to say, “Well, what we did was pretty crummy, but we’ll cop to it. Let’s just move on already, and not go any further into it”. That’s BS.

    Part of moving forward from something like this is acknowledging that a wrong has been done, and sincerely apologizing, then entering into dialogue about how to live within a diverse cultural context, and leave racism in the past where it belongs. Without that dialogue, these issues are “left in the laps” of those they are most affected by (see the continuing drama about the N-word and all the stuff about “playing the race card” in American politics, for a great example of what non-dialogue creates).

    As for the Spanish team, I would call their stunt racist, childish, ignorant, tasteless and classless. I’m not even willing to give them that it was a facile attempt at humor that obviously fell flat on its arse. The stunt was sickening, period.

  43. nathan says:

    The photo is bad enough, but the subsequent reaction on the part of the Spanish press (and players) is even more troublesome for me. Calderon’s comments in Eugene’s post are an excellent example. It’s hard to admit that you don’t understand, and it’s harder to admit that you are wrong, especially when you believe that your intentions weren’t malicious. But if you refuse to look deeper and just dismiss the response, as alliehope said, that’s BS, and more than that, it is *willful* ignorance, which to me is a rather pernicious form of racism. I’ve never really experienced racism. If I did I feel like I may be able to let somebody of the hook if I felt that they flat out didn’t know any better. If I felt like they didn’t know, didn’t care, I’d feel differently. That’s what’s going on here, and that’s why it is a “big deal”.

    For what it’s worth: 119-82, and about 100 of the US points were on dunks.

  44. Oliver Jen says:

    @Brian, I assume your reply was in response to mine, as you quoted “we can all move on”.

    I think if you were to draw a Venn diagram with ignorance and racism circles, there very well could be overlapping regions. But not everyone who does something born of ignorance is racist. Not everyone who is racist is ignorant.

    Regardless I would concede that, malicious or no, posing for this silly picture in this day and age causes varying degrees of shame/hurt to asian people who see it.

    In any event, I firmly believe that the best way to compel the offender in cases such as this, is to show a graceful and good and kind soul behind the face that’s being mocked.

    There’s this dude Paul who seems to be pretty smart about stuff like this. 🙂

    I remember when Yao first came to the NBA, Shaq made fun of him and the Chinese language. Yao was kind and gracious in response and Shaq saw clearly how backwards it was to be unkind to a person like this. In fact, I remember an interview where Shaq said his dad called and scolded him, saying, “What are you doing? This nice young man’s parents are always smiling and polite and go out of their way to say hi to me whenever we’re in the same place…”

    In the five or so years since, Shaq has only ever had praise and respectful words for him.

  45. Nicole says:


    The way I see it is we have beautiful eyes. 🙂 When you really think about it, God is amazing. It is a waste of one’s energy to even respond to a picture such as that. It is only sad for them. It doesnt define who we are. So therefore it is not upsetting to me.

    Blessings Nicole

  46. eugenecho says:

    hey folks:

    my intent is not to vilify the spanish basketball team. but to easily dismiss the situation is a mistake. it’s a big mistake. people are eager to say, “let’s move on” but by moving on to quickly, we lose the opportunity to use this as a learning experience.

    this may have been a case of ignorant prejudice but we all know that we live in the real world, right? — where there are cases of verbal and physical assaults?


  47. KenBranch says:

    Assuming the players were ignorant of the insensitivity, to blame their photographer for asking them to do this as well as trying to turn this into an act of affection for asians is nothing more than finger pointing and not accepting responsibliities for their own actions.

    Grow up and appoligize.

  48. Tracy says:

    Yes, indeed it’s disrespectful and racist. It should be a big issue.

  49. Oliver Jen says:

    with all due respect, if you’re looking to “learn” and “not move on too quickly”, there are far closer to home, institutionalized and on-going examples of willful ignorance.

    Chink’s cheesesteaks, anyone?

  50. DK says:

    @Oliver Jen,

    I think you’re missing Eugene’s point. Obviously, there’s more closer to home. He mentioned some literally in his own home!

    But when something like this happens on a global scale with so much media attention, we should use a difficult situation to bring awareness, education, etc.

  51. Nat7 says:

    I read comments everywhere saying that the Spaniards are very racist. I have a question if we are SO RACIST towards Asian people Why Spain is the second country (the first is the United States) in international adoptions in China? It doesn’t seem very logical.

    Of course there are racist people in Spain, there are neonazi groups and football hooligans very racist (remember the match Spain vs. England? I do. But maybe the journalists should do a little research about the “ultra sur” before saying “Spaniards are very racist” Is it fair to label as racist a whole nation for an extremist racist group?)

    If there is one thing I detest (besides racism) is making generalizations. I understand perfectly your feelings. But understand that for me it is hard to read everywhere that we are racist. Of course, we are not perfect, Spain have not had time to grow accustomed to inmigration. 8-10 years ago the Spaniard politicians don’t talk about inmigration, because it was something very, very uncommon. That’s what I was trying to explain with the ignorance, integration is not always easy, but other europeans country had like 40-50 years for that and Spain has had 10. For some people (I’m not talking about the ones that are definitely racist, that had no excuse) it’s still, I don’t know, maybe something difficult to face? Different culture, different religion, different education, customs etc. I think it is not that they want to discriminate, it is just some people are not accustomed and unconsciously screw it up, even when their intention is good.

    Excuse my English!

  52. Oliver Jen says:

    what an interesting observation as I feel like my point is being missed. =)

    I didn’t mean to say we should gloss over anything or spend inadequate time educating the offenders, though I could see why one would think that based on my previous reply.

    I do think there’s an open question as to what the proper commensurate response should be. Moreover I think the answer to that question is largely a function of what you interpret the offender’s intent to be.

    racism and ignorance is going to happen, it’s inevitable.

    Given this reality, and as a minority, what are the different feasible ways we can respond? How effective are each of the different responses in achieving what we hope to achieve? What exactly is it that we hope to achieve?

    Most importantly, what does the Bible say and what examples do we draw from it that might apply today?

  53. gar says:

    Your English is good! =)

    Let me be the first person of Chinese descent to say to you that I don’t believe that everybody in Spain in racist – I agree with you that anyone (including the media) who makes that broad generalization is not right in doing so. I agree 100& that it’s completely unfair for people to say that everybody in Spain is racist.

    However, I think most articles point out incidents involving Neonazi groups and football hooligans in Spain as a frame of reference for what could possibly have made the Spanish basketball teams and the company that sponsored them think that it was OK to pull their eyes back. As I mentioned before, I think it’s indisputable point that what THEY DID (emphasis on their actions, not their intentions or character) was offensive and racist because one of the primary effects of racism is that it demeans people and sends a message that somehow, they are less than human.

    I can understand if you’re uncomfortable about the subject of racism, Spain, and this incident (I assume you are Spanish?), but if we don’t talk about the reasons behind why this happened and why people think that it’s only just a harmless “jest”, then how is it possible for everyone to learn, grow as human beings, and not repeat the same mistake in the future?

    >I have a question if we are SO RACIST towards Asian people Why Spain is the second country (the first is the United States) in international adoptions in China? It doesn’t seem very logical.

    While this might be difficult to explain clearly, just because there are a high amount of international adoptions from China to Spain, doesn’t mean that it’s impossible for Spain to be racist. While the adoption of foreign children seems a wonderful thing, the only thing that adoption statistics prove about the US and Spain is that people in the US and Spain have both the money and the interest in adopting Chinese babies.

    To give you an example: many people in the US have also adopted Korean babies, but there’s still plenty of racism against Koreans here in the US. Adoption, unfortunately, does not logically mean that it’s impossible for a country to be racist. I have several Korean American friends who are adoptees that have plenty of heart-breaking stories of the racism and discrimination they faced in this country, despite being raised by (mostly) white families.

    But forgive me… this is an off-topic discussion and we can continue somewhere else, if you want dialogue about the subjects of international adoption and racism (Unless Pastor Eugene happens to start a new topic… ha!).

    Please feel free to e-mail me, but it’s even better to read these:

    A Korean Adoptee’s memories of her childhood and her name

    A Korean Adoptee’s commentary on the racism of a PARENT of an adoptee

    A White Mother of a Korean Adoptee experiences with racism and ignorance

  54. gar says:

    Oop, sorry about the typos. I was typing fast.

  55. Katie says:

    Coming into this late, I know, but a couple of thoughts:

    1. Giving the Spanish teams the benefit of the doubt, let’s assume friendly intentions. Let’s assume the relationship between the teams and their Chinese sponsor is a good one and that this joke is one that would be seen in an affectionate manner by both parties. Let’s ascribe ignorance rather than malintent. (As someone who is a minority and has been a part of inside “stereotyping” jokes in the hopes of relieving anxiety about race in order to create a more affable environment to discuss cultural sensitivity and other similar issues, I am okay with giving the Spanish teams this. Please feel free to wholly disagree with this approach, but for the sake of discussion let’s move beyond those differences.) With that, I think that the issue here lies in the audience of such an act. A wink to one particular group in a very public action misleads everyone witness to the act other than the targeted group. And unfortunately for the Spanish team, this means that the original, albeit possibly friendly and mutually accepted, intention is lost and comes across as ignorant and offensive.

    2. I think it is less important to label the Spanish teams (or the entire country, which itself is a gross generalization that connotates stereotyping and discrimination), than it is to utilize the opportunity the incident provides to focus on the ignorance in our country. Others have said similar things in their comments, but I want to reiterate that on the one hand it should not be brushed off and excused. However, I think it is equally important to not jump to judgment either, but rather handle the situation with extreme compassion and acuity. The gravity of the situation does not lie in the designation of “racist” but in our collective response. Racial slurs and gestures were once just words and motions; it is the meaning that history and humans have infused in them that makes them offensive. People may not know this history but it is important to explain it to them. Instead of pointing fingers, why not take a hand and walk down that path with them? Reconciliation is born out of humility, forgiveness, dialogue, and grace.

  56. miles says:

    It was obviously racist. The Ben & Jerry’s example that Jack Danger Canty used was a poor analogy because Ben & Jerry were not aiming there title towards a race of people although it was misconstrued by other people as being aimed towards a race. Even if the Spanish team did not intend on hurting China’s feelings, they aimed it at Chinese people.

    I get pretty tired of hearing comments like “who cares”, “it’s a little statement”. I often find that the “who cares” statements come from people that are not minorities and have no clue what it’s like to be one or have never faced a day of racism in there life. I hope we’re not teaching our kids to think that statments like that are “no big deal”. People lose jobs for comments like that. Wars get started over things like that. It may be a little statement to you but I can assure you that where I’m from it is a major deal.

  57. […] I’ve received several emails this past week asking why I was making such a big deal in an earlier post of the photos of the Spanish Men’s AND Women’s Olympic Basketball Teams.  I suppose we […]

  58. びっくり says:

    Perhaps El Pais isn’t good at Spanish… “ni racista ni ofensivo” was a typo… it should read “muy racista muy ofensivo.” Keep up the good work. I don’t want to live in a PC world, but I don’t want to live in a world where making fun of others always gets pooh-poohed and swept under the carpet. Let’s hunt for the balance together.

  59. chairman tsao says:

    I am an overseas chinese who has lived in several countries including South America and have come to know first hand the attitudes of people from many spanish countries, so let’s drop all pretenses and call black black and white white. I will start by pointing out that latin people are no better or worse than any other people and not all latinos are racists; nevertheless, to all the latinos who argue what is the big deal, this is only an affectionate gesture, I say to you, if you are a racist at least have the courage and backbone to admit it, don’t be a coward and argue that it is a sign of affection; if that is a sign of affection so is someone flipping his middle finger to you! I have lived amongst you, I know your cultures and I know what is in your hearts. You make these slanty-eyed gestures only to insult and express your derogatory attitude and disrespect to the chinese people and other asians. How do you explain the observation that the 3 teams that have made slanty-eyes gestures are all spanish speaking? is this a mere coincidence or is this a pattern in spanish cultures in general? Are Gasol, Calderon, and the entire Spanish men’s and women’sbasketbal teams as well as the argentinian women’s soccer team just individual cretinos y cretinas malcriadas or do they reflect the general ugly racist attitudes that all spaniards find difficult to hide? Is it a coincidence that the spaniards and the argentinians share the same culture and have the same racist attitudes? remember when you wear your countries jerseys, your actions will be interpreted as reflecting the attitudes of your entire people. If you have something stupid to say or some obnoxious action to show the world, have the common sense to do it as an individual and not as a representative of your nation or the world will conclude that you come from a nation of retarded narcissistic and superficial cretins who have no respect for people who look different than you.
    By the way, I fail to see anything special about the looks of those people making the gestures, they are hardly any beauty queens, in fact one of the argentinian girls should do a DNA check for asian genes, all in all I only see lots of stupidity and a definite lack of proper upbringing; Que desgracia a sus familias!

    posted by Chinese and Proud

  60. […] Olympics Committee (or whatever they’re called), know that I’m just as frustrated by the antics of the Spanish basketball team.) These Olympics strike me as fake, kind of like a doped-up athlete. The Olympics on steroids – […]

  61. I’d just like to say this is all Jeremiah Wright’s fault. If he wouldn’t have been “preaching hate” all those years, this would never have happened.

    *tsk, tsk*

  62. mirianne says:

    it reminds me of adolescents bullying others at school. it’s trully a play-based attitude for some of them, if you ask… but trully agressive as well.

  63. […] picture.  Last summer, I was pretty furious about the Spanish Olympic Basketball team and their team picture as the entire time slit their eyes.  Numerous folks pushed back and said I was making a big deal […]

  64. […] picture.  Last summer, I was pretty furious about the Spanish Olympic Basketball team and their team picture as the entire team slit their eyes.  Numerous folks pushed back and said I was making a big deal […]

  65. Laura says:

    I came to this article after reading the Miley Cyrus/Jonas Brothers one.

    My comment here applies to the Spanish Basketball team, though. What I want to say it that it’s one thing for a North American like Miley or Joe to make a gesture that is pretty clearly offensive. Its another thing for a team from Europe.

    Just because we have a global press does not mean that we have a global culture. Having lived in Spain, there are not very many asian people there. They probably had no idea

  66. Laura says:


    They probably had no idea that it was offensive. They never encountered it on the playground. The Spanish have a strong sense of self-depricating humor. They probably thought they were making themselves look ridiculous to show affection to their hosts. The gesture most likely had no cultural meaning for them.

    That said, it does mean something in other cultures.

    But, when someone is learning a language or new to a culture and they make a mistake, we laugh with them, even if they just accidentally cursed us out. Because its apparent that they didn’t intend to. Spain doesn’t have a culture of instant apology to the press, either (which I think is a little ridiculous anyway, who ever means those forced on camera apologies?)

    I think this incident speaks more to how we view the press and its role in a global world. We must realize that culture is not and should not be global.

  67. […] was over on Eugene Cho’s blog the other day that my interest was thoroughly piqued. Cho posted a photo of the Spanish men’s basketball team “making their eyes Chinese,” along with his response. (I […]

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One Day’s Wages

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It. Still. Hurts.
#TamirRice Incredible news: @onedayswages is projecting to have our most impactful year as we grant out $1.3 million dollars! Thank you so much for your prayers and support...please read on to learn how you can join in our work.

As you gather with family, friends, and loved ones for Thanksgiving and the holidays, I wanted to share an opportunity. Often times, when I speak to people about the privilege of generosity, I remind them, "You don't have to but you get to." It's so true.

My wife and I (and our three kids) started ODW in 2009. We felt the Holy Spirit convicting us to give up our year's salary. It wasn't an easy thing to say "Yes" or "Amen" to but we made the decision to obey. As a result, it took us about three years to save, simplify, and sell off things we didn't need.

It's been an incredible journey as we've learned so much about the heart of God and God's love for the hurting and vulnerable around the world - particularly those living in extreme poverty. ODW is a small, scrappy, grassroots organization (with just 3 full-time employees) but since our launch, we've raised nearly $6 million dollars to help those living in extreme poverty: clean water and sanitation, education, maternal health, human trafficking, refugee crisis, hunger, and the list goes on and on.

So, here's my humble ask: As we do this work, would you consider making a pledge to support our that we can keep doing this work with integrity and excellence?
You can make a one time gift or make monthly pledge of just $25 (or more). Thanks so much for considering this: (link in bio, too) Don't just count your blessings. Bless others with your blessings. Here, there, everywhere. Be a blessing for this blesses our Father in Heaven and builds the Kingdom of God.

#ReThinkRegugees #WeWelcomeRefugees
@onedayswages Grateful. Still reflecting on the letters that I've received from classmates and students that have come before me and after me. Never imagined all that God would have in store for me. Lots of humbling things but in the midst of them, there were literally thousands upon thousands of daily decisions and choices to be faithful. That's what matters. Seen or unseen. Noticed or unnoticed. You do your best and sometimes you stumble and fumble along but nevertheless, seeking to be faithful.

Also, you know you're getting old when your school honors you with a Distinguished Alumni Award. Lol. 47 is the new 27. Or something like that. Here's to the next 47. In our culture, we can be so obsessed with the "spectacular" or "glamorous." The Church often engagws in thia language and paradigm...but what if God has called many of us to small, ordinary things?

Will we still be faithful?
Will we still go about such things with great love and joy?

I recently came across this picture taken by @mattylew, one of our church staff...and I started tearing up: This is my mother; in her 70s; with realities of some disabilities that make it difficult for her to stand up and sit down...but here she is on her knees and prostate in prayer. She doesn't have any social media accounts, barely knows how to use her smartphone, doesn't have a platform, hasn't written a book, doesn't have any titles in our church, isn't listed as a leader or an expert or a consultant or a guru. But she simply seeks to do her best - by God's grace - to be faithful to God. She prays for hours every day inteceding for our family, our church, and the larger world.

Even if we're not noticed or celebrated or elevated...let's be faithful. Our greatest calling as followers of Christ is to be faithful. Not spectacular. Not glamorous. Not popular. Not relevant. And not even successful in the eyes of the world.

Be faithful. Amen. #notetoself (and maybe helpful for someone else)

At times, we have to say ‘NO’ to good things to say ‘YES’ to the most important things.

We can't do it all.
Pray and choose wisely.
Then invest deeply.

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