Thursday, November 26, 2009

Miley Cyrus "chinky-eye" lawsuit dismissed.

Remember this?

That's teen star Miley Cyrus and her entourage photographed at a party making the "chinky-eye" gesture.

If you remember this case, you'll also remember that there was a bit of an uproar over what is generally considered a racist gesture. One woman, Lucie J Kim, was so outraged that she launched a $4 billion class action against Cyrus, on behalf of every Asian person in LA, for "emotional distress".

Unsurprisingly, the judge dismissed the lawsuit this week. And a good thing too. It would have been better for everyone if Lucie Kim had found something better to do with her life.

It's not that the gesture is inoffensive. For many Asians growing up in the West it represents bullying and belittlement. But let's be reasonable.

No one apart from those in the photo knows the context of why they are making that gesture. Clearly it is not meant to signify hostility to the sole Asian guy in the photo. It seems to be some joke within that small group of people. I know myself that within my fairly mixed circle of friends, we have the occasional in-joke about each others' ethnicities which is completely acceptable in that context. I have no idea what Cyrus and crew were getting at with that pose, but I'm not going to assume that she is some horrible racist because of it. It's certainly not offensive enough to be worth $4 billion.

In the journey Asian people have for respect in the West, frivolous lawsuits like this don't do us any favours. Neither do some of the completely over the top reactions as seen around the Asian-American blogosphere, which attack the Asian guy in the picture as some sort of self-hating race traitor. We should condemn racism where it exists, sure. And sure, let's point out that Miley's gesture has an unpleasant history. But ridiculous stunts that present Asians to non-Asians as over-sensitive crybabies do nothing to engender respect at all. I believe in picking your battles, and there are plenty of other things we should be more worried about.

See also:
Putting a racist slant on things - the "Chinky-eye" Hall of Shame


  1. It does look like they are being each other. The asian guy eyes are open wide to mimick westeners while the others are doing the same to him.

  2. white people will be white people.