Limbaugh Parrots Racist Mock Language for Asians

Our “famous” talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh now often get away with aggressively racist comments and performances. We have sunk so low that we as a country give them of millions of dollars to create this high level of disrespect for people who are a little different. In a recent comment using stereotyped mocking of the Chinese president we got this racist framing from Limbaugh:

Hu Jintao — he was speaking and they weren’t translating. They normally translate every couple of words. Hu Jintao was just going ching chong, ching chong cha.

He continued for a bit more with this mocking stereotyped dialect. This is the type of stereotyped mocking that all too many schoolchildren—mainly white children–do on the playground, and apparently in this regard Limbaugh is living out what he learned as a nine or ten year old on the playground. He is not alone in this racist mocking, as I note here is this passage from a recent book:

Asian American children and adults often are forced to endure hostile mocking such as: “Ching chong Chinaman sitting on a rail, along came a white man and snipped off his tail”; “Ah so. No tickee, No washee. So sorry, so sollee”; and “Chinkee, Chink, Jap, Nip, zero, Dothead . . . Flip, Hindoo.” A Toledo radio station’s white disc-jockey recently phoned Asian restaurants using mock-Asian speech, including “ching, chong chung” and “me speakee no English.” On her talk show prominent comedian Rosie O’Donnell repeatedly used “ching chong” to mock Chinese speech.

Such language stereotyping and mocking has long been part of the dominant racial frame and has been directed not only at Asian Americans but also earlier at African, Native, and Latino Americans. This hostile language mocking is usually linked to other important racialized images that whites hold of those Americans of color they often oppress.

Language researcher Rosina Lippi-Green has noted a very important point about such routinized mocking: “Not all foreign accents, but only accent linked to skin that isn’t white . . . evokes such negative reactions.” (Full source references for these examples and others can be found in notes to Ch. 5 of The White Racial Frame)

One very striking thing about this racist mocking and language is how unoriginal most of it is. Whites, including those “well educated,” seem to repeat it again and again and again and again, and almost verbatim. One obvious conclusion is that the white racial frame, and its originators and maintainers, score close to zero on the racism originality scale, if there is such a thing.


  1. John D. Foster

    Thanks for pointing this out, Joe. It’s as if Limbaugh does stuff like this just to rub it in our face, given the fact that the airwaves are public yet the FCC apparently won’t do anything about it. An interesting caveat to this story is the coverage of this on Colbert’s show (I think it aired last Thursday): although their criticism of Limbaugh was good, they replayed his racist rant and the laughs from the live audience was rather disconcerting…were they laughing at his ridiculousness or did they actually find his portrayal of Chinese people funny? Meanwhile, Colbert then shows his own racist portrayal of an Asian stereotype that he accused Limbaugh of copying. Regardless of his intentions, should entertainers like Colbert be a little more aware of how damaging these images are, and how they actually perpetuate such steretypes?

    • Joe

      Good points, John. There is always that danger of reinforcing frames by reproducing them in critiques of them. Framing 101 always tells us to reframe immediately into the alternative frame of fairness of liberty and justice.

  2. edna

    I particularly appreciate this post because I too remember being taunted with the epithet “ching chong Chinaman” as an elementary school student,by an older boy who was sitting on a fence at the time and calling out to me as I walked by on the way home. I can recall this incident as an indelible childhood memory. Speech like this in public media only reinforces negative stereotypes and promotes the continued use of such mocking language by others. I like the idea of reframing immediately. More education on how to respond when these things happen would be invaluable.

  3. blahblahblob

    Joe while I firmly agree with your point, I think your attitude as reflected by parts of your article perpetuates the problem just as much. The idea that white people are the only people who engage in this behavior is absurd, and you know it, whether or not your man enough to admit it. I agree what Rush did was wrong, what others have done and continue do do is wrong and there is no excusing it, but for god sake take off the blinders.
    What people don’t realize is that by constantly playing the victim you are subconsciously reinforcing what you are trying to speak against.
    It is possible, and often most effective, to say that something is wrong, or that you disagree with it objectively.
    Stop fighting Fire with Fire.

  4. Joe

    Nowhere do I argue that whites are the only ones who do racist mocking. They are just the most powerful founders and maintainers of the US racist system. Only by misreading what I wrote, and thus defending white racist thinking and action implicitly or explicitly, can you make that argument. I often write about how people of color target each other, as in my 9th edition Racial and Ethnic Relations textbook, among dozens of other books. Check that text out, for detailed evidence….. Moreover, whites (esp. elite white men) created the dominant white racial framing and its anti-others subframes. All this mocking language of Asians was created by whites, mostly elite whites. One has to define the cause to deal with the problem.QED.


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