Let’s Not Call The “Gooks Of Hazzard” Tee Hipster Racism, Or Racism Against Asians, Let’s Just Call It Racism

August 3rd, 2012 | 0 comments | Posted by Jen

Baker Skateboards’ “Gooks of Hazzard” t-shirt, featuring two of its sponsored professional skaters, Don Nguyen and Daniel Shimizu, seems like one of those ideas that started out as an inside joke between friends, got elaborated upon over a few bowls–Let’s make the General Lee a street tuner! And call it the “General Li,” he he–got further elaborated upon, within an inch of its life–More wordplay! Let’s call ‘em “good orr boys” since Asian accents are funny! And this shirt is funny! And we are oh-so-clever!–got approved, inexplicably, as a t-shirt design exactly one minute later, and got printed onto a baseball tee and pushed to market for $18.99 before Visine ever hit the clouded eye.

It’s a shame Baker didn’t spend more time fleshing out this idea–no pun intended–because it seems all they left out in the execution of this tee was only the most important figure in this familiar cast of characters–and of course I’m talking about the racist corollary to Daisy Duke and her short shorts. I mean, just think of the possibilities. Lazy Gooks, anyone?!

The Asian American Justice Center has issued a statement protesting this shirt that said, in part:

“Baker Skateboards, and the outlets that sell this shirt, should be aware that use of the term ‘gook’ on their apparel is offensive and quite simply amounts to racism for sale. No one should seek to profit from racism.”

Media reaction, however, has been limited and, I’d venture to say, highly forgiving. TMZ, bastion of racial tolerance that it is (#sarcasm), was, incredibly, the first to report it. Adweek picked up the story and then painted the controversy as a generational rather than racial clash:

“Our prediction: Non-skaters try to turn this into a cultural debate over self-referential racism, while skaters just laugh at the rest of us for being old and lame.”

ESPN.com essentially gave the “Gooks of Hazzard” tee a pass, writing, “Asian-American pro skateboarders Don “Nuge” Nguyen and Daniel Shimizu expected to get plenty of laughs for their new off-color T-shirt.” Writer Keith Hamm also noted that, in response to the backlash over the shirt, “Baker has maintained its sense of humor on the issue.”

But hey, this is the same site that brought you that Jeremy Lin “Chink in the Armor” headline, remember?

Nothing that’s been written by the media about the shirt, however, rivals what Baker Skateboards–owned by 34 year-old skate legend Andrew Reynolds–had to say about it themselves, i.e. what ESPN.com referred to as the company maintaining “its sense of humor on the issue.” Here’s a screengrab of the company’s official response to charges of racism, entitled “You Soo Funny”:

Yes, that actually reads: “ROLL OVER TO RETARD TMZ FOR HOW WE ARE DAMAGING THE ASIAN COMMUNITY WITH THIS NEW BAKER TEE! GOODLOOKS ON THE FREE ADVERTISING TMZ!”

Maybe it’s because two Asian skaters affiliated with Baker signed off on the “Gooks of Hazzard” t-shirt. Maybe it’s because skateboarding is a fairly diverse sport and some people will assume this is just some post-racial shit. Maybe it’s because Americans in general are completely inured to racism directed at Asians. Lord knows if the shirt had “f*gs” or the N-word emblazoned on it, this story would’ve been broken by CNN instead of some low-brow (and itself often-racist) tabloid website.

I think the tepid media reaction, though, has a lot to do with the cult of cool that this shirt’s hiding behind. Call it hipster racism if you like. Adweek’s correct when it writes that skaters would laugh at those of us who are offended by this shirt “for being old and lame.” Well, not quite correct. I believe the official operating word for people who don’t “get it” is “RETARD,” all caps.

What people don’t talk enough about is how the cult of cool isn’t all that different from other religions. If you don’t buy into the ideology of the cult of cool, then you aren’t a believer. When you’re not a believer in evangelical Christianity, the religion calls you a “sinner.” When you’re not a believer in racism as “cool,” the cult calls you a “retard.” There isn’t any difference really between one cult’s unwavering defense of its own fuckery from the other’s. Which is a funny thing, since pretty much everyone knows that all religions are old, lame, and…well, you get the picture.

[via Gothamist]
[TMZ: Backlash Over Asian Slur T-Shirt]
[Baker Skateboards: You Soo Funny]

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