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Callahan Online
Hate Mail from America

Wok of Shame


I am writing to express my indignation at the Callahan cartoon that stated, "Let's wok the dog," while portraying an elderly Asian couple sitting in their living room dressed in what appear to be traditional Chinese garments.

The illustration of the woman, with her hands folded in her sleeves, her hair pulled back in a severe bun and feet clamped together, suggest passivity and docility, stereotypes Asian American women are trying to dispel.

The cartoon fails to distinguish the specific countries that practice the consumption of what we in this country consider to be domesticated animals from those that do not.

While we, here in America, openly disapprove of the consumption of dogs, some of us eat cows without a second thought. Many individuals living in India, however, consider the cow to be a sacred Hindu symbol and may view Americas' beef-eating habits as sacrilegious behavior.

I would like to emphasize that while we do not personally eat dogs, we must be aware that some people in other countries do so out of necessity or because the practice is culturally accepted

Finally, the image and caption fail to differentiate Asians living in America from those living in Asia, thus lumping the two groups together and reinforcing the perception that all Asians are either foreigners or recent immigrants, regardless of the generations that preceded them in calling America home.

An extreme example of the detrimental effects this kind of misunderstanding can lead to is reflected in the beating death of Vincent Chin, a Chinese American man who was mistaken for a Japanese national and blamed for the lagging domestic automobile industry in Detroit.

We appeal to you for increased sensitivity to other cultures (in America and abroad) in your news coverage, especially now, when the multiethnic Los Angeles community is struggling to heal from the wounds of civil unrest. Even in the selection of a cartoon, your editing decisions influence public perception of numerous ethnic communities in Los Angeles.

Sophia P
Korean Youth & Community Center

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