How One Word Sparked a Crisis
A poorly chosen word recently sparked a social media war in an affluent East Coast town. A local yoga studio owner wrote a Social Media post in which she used the word “chinky” to self-effacingly describe her eye shape. She is, to the best of my knowledge, a white woman, and not of Asian heritage.
The subtext that “chinky” aka Asian features were undesirable came across as tone-deaf and insulting, and her Social Media followers attacked her for the word choice. Rather than delete the post and humbly apologize, she then doubled down by posting a video defending herself.
She talked about being teased and bullied as a child for these features, and her self-pity did not play well.
Another local woman was offended on a personal level by the word choice and proceeded to publicly shame her on Social Media, calling her out by name as a racist. She reportedly approached members of the yoga community to rally against the studio owner in what looked an awful lot like a smear campaign.
Subsequent Social Media bullying followed, leading the studio owner to delete her accounts and effectively go into hiding. These “armchair liberals” vented their anger in a torrent of posts and comments, and the level of vitriol was stunning and disheartening.
Why are all these well-off white people so angry, I wondered?
Leaders within the wellness community were pressured to publicly pick a side. Failure to denounce the studio owner (i.e., the villain) would be viewed as an implicit agreement with alleged racism. Publicly chastising her would promote the cycle of anger and shaming, which goes against the purported philosophy of the yoga community.
Portsmouth, New Hampshire prides itself on its liberal values, although roughly 90 % of the town’s population is white. Less than 5 % identify as Asian and around 3 % as black or African American. http://worldpopulationreview.com
The community responded to the Social Media uproar by staging an open meeting in a local co-working space to discuss the controversy. Reportedly, the group was comprised of 20 citizens, 18 of which were white.