Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | New Apple iPhone app gives fortunes in stereotypical “ching-chong” accent
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New Apple iPhone app gives fortunes in stereotypical “ching-chong” accent

The Lucky Fortune iPhone app tells fortunes in an offensive "ching-chong" accent.I realize that when I point out how something as seemingly benign as the “won ton” font bugs me, readers might think I’m being petty and overly sensitive. But I hope those readers will respect my opinion if something does piss me off. Plus, I hope everyone can understand why certain things are just plain offensive to Asian Americans, not as a result of over-sensitivity but simply because they’re racist stereotypes.

One of them is the “ching-chong’ accent that comes out of the http://www.funvidapps.com/Site/LuckyFortune.html“>Lucky Fortune iPhone app, which Apple has approved for its iPhone App Store while they turn down other apps.

Both Jennifer 8 Lee’s Fortune Cookie Chronicles blog and Gawker have pointed out that this app is racially offensive. The Gawker post includes a video of the app in action.

It’s a cute idea at first: You break open a fortune cookie, and hear one of a series of pre-recorded fortunes.

The problem is the voice that reads the fortune is a fake Chinese accent — the kind I’ve heard all my childhood and even as an adult, when a racist taunts me. “Go back where you came from, Jap/Chink/Nip/Gook,” go the echoes in my head today.Asian Americans call it a “ching-chong” sound, a phony rendition of what a white person think is the sound of Chinese.

It wouldn’t be such a sore point if it weren’t for the fact that this vocal stereotype keeps cropping up from time to time, even in my adult life. I faced down some punk kids on a suburban street who “ching-chonged” me a decade ago, and told me to go home because I drove a “Jap car” (They drove a Honda, which I not-so-gently reminded them was also Japanese). Rosie O’Donnell raised the ire of AAPIs on “The View” a few years back when she “ching-chonged” on Camera… and then made a flip non-apology apology (the “I’m sorry YOU were offended” type of apology). Shock radio jock Adam Carolla thought it was funny to “ching-chong” his way through a joke routine on CBS radio, and got a swarm of angry protest from Asian American groups.

This form of verbal “humor” wouldn’t be tolerated if it mocked African Americans, or Hispanics. But it always seems acceptable, even in the 21st century, to mock Asians. What’s with that?

On the Lucky Fortune iPhone app, the voiceover is accompanied by the familiar sound of a gong (supposed to evoke Asian cultures) and the familiar notes of the phony melody often associated with Japan even though it’s not Japanese at all, but like the ching-chong accent, an approximation of what westerner think sounds like a Japanese melody. It’s the Asian equivalent of the Atlanta Braves war chant that Native Americans hate, and if you know the new wave rock song “Turning Japanese,” it opens that single.

I sent off an email to the company, FunVipApps, pointing out that it’s an offensive stereotype and asking them to change the voiceover (and the music track), or remove the app altogether. I’m sure there’s a way to submit a complaint to Apple too.

We really shouldn’t have to put up with such obnoxious portrayals of Asians in America. It’s 2009, and there are multiple generations of Asian Americans who have no accent, and are as American as anyone else.