Last night, the Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) tweeted an off-colour remark using an anti-Asian slur in a headline about China’s president, Xi Jinping. As pictured in the screen capture above, WSJ publicized this article (now headlined “Crises Put First Dents in Xi Jinping’s Power“) with a tweet referencing the phrase, “a chink in the armor”. The phrase typically refers to an exposed vulnerability, but when paired with a story about Asian or Asian American people can take on the additional connotation of the anti-Asian slur, “chink”.
Several years ago, ESPN used the phrase “chink in the armor” twice in reference to rising NBA basketball star, Jeremy Lin. The recurrence of the racially insensitive and easily misinterpreted phrase in stories about Asians and Asian Americans exposes the desperate need for added diversity in the newsroom: the presence of racial minorities will increase the likelihood that headlines and tweets like these will be considered through a racial lens before they are published. Yet, minorities still make up only roughly 10% of staff working in the newsroom of major media outlets. On the other hand, of course, the Wall Street Journal shouldn’t need an Asian American present to understand that pairing the word “chink” with a story about a Chinese person is just bad form.
Less than three hours later, the Wall Street Journal deleted their offending tweet and issued this tepid non-apology:
We recently removed a tweet on our Xi Jinping article because a common idiom used might be seen as a slur. No offense was intended.
— Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) August 31, 2015
To be honest, I only ever read Wall Street Journal for Jeff Yang’s regular Tao Jones column for SpeakEasy. When he moved on to bigger and better things earlier this year, I discontinued my regular perusal of WSJ. This anti-Asian gaffe gives me one less reason to want to return.
Update (9/2/2015): The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund’s Emil Guillermo demands an apology from the Wall Street Journal.
People can’t talk about us like we’re not in the room, because we’re in the audience. We’re subscribers, employees, readers.
We’re here. We care. And we matter.And these days, we’ll definitely let you know when you’ve crossed the line.
Wall Street Journal, take a note from ESPN.