Years ago someone asked me if I considered myself “colored” and I think about this from time to time.
The person asking was (and still is) herself black, and I wonder if she did not consider me to be colored because I’m not black. Not colored enough? But all the nonwhites in South Africa’s apartheid era could have told her: If you’re not white, you’re colored.
So, yes, I consider myself colored. But more to the point I feel colored because America has not let me forget that I am not white for all of my life. It also happens that being faced with how the rest of the world sees you when you’re made up into merchandise is another clue that you’re colored. Like a slit-eyed fan. The manufacturers are Dutch. You know, the Boer War and the slaughter of the Zulus.
Or how Dr. Seuss sees me: A slanty-eyed, conniving traitor. Ouch, Theodor, what gives! You know where you can shove your green eggs and ham.
Well Dr. Seuss was in his full adulthood (and race hatred) during the fifties when it was the thing to muck people up into carciatures without breaking a sweat. He did so with blacks and Arabs as well. I could go on, but read this good article on Dr. Seuss and his outdated books instead: Horn Book.
And don’t forget about the people who coopt your identity for their own selfish commerical purposes, like this girl trying to get customers into her (or her boss’s) “sushi” resturant. I’ll just have a hot dog, thanks.
However it is important to understand that Seuss Geisel, helped fuel that racism and war hysteria with many racist cartoons that he published during that time. His cartoons targeting Japanese Americans directly contributed to the public support of Executive Order 9066 (the executive order that incarcerated Japanese Americans). This is not an opinion, much like Hitler’s anti-Semitism is not an opinion, for Geisel’s hatred of Japanese is well documented, and is chronicled in American history books. Unfortunately our family has had a direct impact and has suffered directly from Geisel’s cartoons.
––Steve Wong, Curator, Chinese American Museum, Los Angeles
Read his full letter here