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The Most Racist Team Name Ever?
In his most recent links post, Scott Alexander mentioned an offensive sports team name from the past that was unusual in being targeted at white people.
Upset that the Atlanta Braves unfairly stereotype Native Americans? Apparently Atlanta is an equal opportunity offensive-sports-team-haver: their team used to be called the Atlanta Crackers (and their Negro League team was the Atlanta Black Crackers!)
Racism towards asians has (rightfully) been in the spotlight lately, so in the spirit of inclusivity I would like to present the Chinks of Pekin, Illinois. Shout out to my friend Kevin aka Coach for sharing this with me - from the Chinese American Museum of Chicago archives:
The town of Pekin Illinois, just outside the city of Peoria, got its name from its location, which residents believed was on the opposite side of the globe from Pekin (i.e., Peking or Beijing) China. The town of Canton Illinois was named because of a similar belief: that it too was opposite a famous Chinese city, in this case Canton (i.e., Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong). As the two towns are much closer to each other than the original Pekin and Canton, it seems that some early Illinoisans were a bit shaky on geographical details. Pekin has another claim to fame, however. Until 1981 it had a high school athletic team called the Chinks and a roller skating arena called the Chink Rink. The decision to change the team name to the Pekin Dragons is still remembered bitterly by certain residents, as shown by this apparently genuine email sent to a liberal website:
“I graduated from Pekin Community High School in 1960. I was also voted by the student body to be the mascot ‘Chink’. It was a great honor and still is to me today. Another girl in my class was voted ‘Chinklette.’ We wore Chinese costumes and greeted cheerleaders from the opposing team in the middle of the basketball floor before each home game. It was a gesture of a welcome and good sportmanship. I’m still upset today that the school buckled under and changed the name to Dragons in 1981. It was the result of pointy headed pablum sucking liberals who run the polictical correctness gestapo in this country. I do detest them so much. I am attending my 45th high school class reunion this weekend in God’s little acre called Pekin, IL and I will proudly wear my PEKIN CHINKS shirt. Liberal and their pathetic ilk can go to Hell!!
1960 Chink, Bob Brown”
As far as we know, the high school in Canton Illinois never adopted a racist slur as the name of its athletic team.
1) The above picture is what I imagine the mascot looked like. It was probably worse.
2) I tend to think of the hysteria over political correctness as being a more recent phenomenon; it is interesting to see good ol’ Bob Brown expressing anger over PC culture back in 1981.
3) “Pointy headed pablum sucking liberals” – have liberals had pointy heads this whole time and I didn’t notice?!?!? Also I had to look up the word pablum – “bland or insipid intellectual fare, entertainment, etc.” Nice, definitely adding pablum to my lexicon.
4) I love that they had a faux Chinese greeting ceremony before the game. If you are going to have a super racist team name, you might as well lean into it 100%. It was a sign of respect and sportsmanship, damnit!!!!
5) “The Chink Rink”
6) Good on Canton, Illinois for never adopting a racist team name. Though maybe I’m giving them too much credit - they might have wanted to be the Canton Chinks (+1 for the alliteration) but Pekin just claimed it first.
Shout out to my Chinklette girlfriend who has a Stop Asian Hate T-shirt brand that donates all proceeds to asian charities, check it out.
Bonus racist costume!