NY Daily News Picks Up Toby Keith “Chinky Eye” Controversy


Yesterday, I posted about how Toby Keith, country crooner, made a racial faux pas in Norway immediately following the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. Today, the New York Daily News  picked up on the blogosphere buzz about Keith, and wrote an article describing the controversy.

In it, they obtain quotes from representatives of the Asian American Justice Center, who said:

“Toby Keith embarrassed himself and his country, denigrated the Nobel Peace Prize and offended Asians and Asian Americans by using a crude, racist hand gesture,” a spokesman for the Asian American Justice Center tells TMZ.

A spokesperson from the Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA), mis-cited as the Media Action Network for Asians in the article, also said:

“By doing this, he is telling Asian fans, ‘You don’t matter, you’re not on my radar,'” chimes in a representative from the Media Action Network for Asians.

Well, to be fair, I’m not really pissed at Keith because I’ve been let-down by one of my country singin’ idols. In fact, I really don’t care if I’m on Keith’s radar. I would just prefer if folks didn’t think they could get away with derogatory, schoolyard racism aimed at folks like myself, without at the very least being called out on it.

The NY Daily News also contacted Keith’s spokespeople for a quote.  Keith has yet to issue an apology for his behaviour, but his publicist did have this to say:

“No one at the concert thought Toby was out of line,” his camp said. “Everyone was impressed with his rapping skills and that’s it . . . all of the artists liked each other, hung out, and it was a very friendly, genuine, and supportive atmosphere.”

Ri-i-ight. Because it’s only racist if the impromptu concert went something like this:

Wyclef Jean: Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! The first black president got a Nobel!

Toby Keith: I’m cool because I’m on stage with musicians people actually respect! Never mind that people can’t name a single song I’ve ever sung — I’m hard to the core!

Will Smith: Turn the mic up, everybody! Let’s get jiggy! I would freestyle, but I’m too old (and too famous) for that mess anymore, so let’s just throw on some Rapper’s Delight. And anyways, these Norwegians are just excited that I’m even here instead of home with Jada! (rapping) … Well, I am Will Smith and I’d like to say hello. To the black —

Toby Keith: Haha! He said Black! He must mean him! (points at Will Smith)

Will Smith: — to the white —

Toby Keith: Hey, I’m White! (points a self) Shoot! This is easier than identifying numbers on Sesame Street! What’s next Will?

Will Smith: — the red and the brown —

Toby Keith: Shucks, that’s harder. Well, if I wave my hand around, I’m bound to point to someone who’s red or brown somewhere on the planet, right? (waves hand in a circle)

Will Smith: — the purple —

Toby Keith: Derrr…?

Will Smith: — and yellow!

Toby Keith: Hahaha! Yellow means Asian and Asian people have funny eyes. (does the “chinky eye”)

Will Smith: But first I gotta bang bang the boogie to the boogie…

Toby Keith: Whew, now I’m back in familiar territory. What was with the purple thing? Bang! Bang! Bang! (does the finger gun)

Will Smith: Say up jump the…. wait, wait, hold up.

DJ grinds the music to a halt.

Toby Keith: What, Will? I was just getting my jiggy on!

Will Smith: Did you just do the “chinky eye”? You know that is profoundly racist and derogatory to people of Asian descent? In fact, I am so offended by what you just did that I can’t even perform anymore. You have taken the joy out of President Obama’s receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize, and for that, I cannot forgive you. You, sir, are a racist, Mr. Keith, and I cannot bear to share the stage with you any further.

Will Smith drops the mic and stalks off.

Toby Keith: Wha’ happened?!?

Wyclef Jean: For shame, Toby. For shame.

Yeah, of course that’s not going to happen. But just because nobody called Keith on his racism then and there, doesn’t make Toby Keith’s behaviour inoffensive. In other words, just because people who didn’t have the privilege to be in Norway only now got to see the video footage doesn’t render their (or my) argument that Keith’s behaviour was racist inadmissible.

And more importantly — how many drugs do you have to be doing to think that the reason Keith wasn’t called out on his racism in the heat of the moment was because people were too impressed by Keith’s rapping skills. I mean, do I really even need to make a joke about that, or can I just let that statement stand on it’s own?

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