Somehow out-woking its mainstream media allies, CNN published an article Wednesday entitled “Karate, Wonton, Chow Fun: The end of ‘chop suey’ fonts,” and the virtue-signaling is palpable.
Initially, author Anne Quito explored the origins of said “chop suey fonts,” the typefaces most Americans see used in logos and advertisements for Asian restaurants and kung-fu movies, in the article.
She cited historian Paul Shaw, who traced these fonts to the Cleveland Type Foundry and the chop suey grandfather font of “Mandarin.” Shaw, in Print magazine, mocked the font itself, writing, “It’s a fitting name — just as chop suey is an American invention, so, too, are the letters of Mandarin and its many offspring.”
“Neither the food nor the fonts bear any real relation to true Chinese cuisine or calligraphy,” Shaw added. “But this has not prevented the proliferation of chop suey lettering and its close identification with Chinese culture outside of China.”
Never mind, of course, that Asian-owned and operated restaurants and businesses, albeit in the U.S., frequently use these “Asian” fonts as part of their brand. As the rule goes, if it’s been touched by a Caucasian male, it’s diseased.
Quito went on, writing that it’s “hard not to cringe” at the supposed racial stereotypes these fonts imply, “especially when seen through the lens of today’s heightened vigilance toward discrimination and systemic racism.”
According to Quito, critics have even said these fonts are “downright racist,” particularly — but not exclusively — when used by non-Asians. And, seemingly, none provide better examples than modern Republicans. She attacked two ads in particular.
First on the chopping block was former U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands Pete Hoekstra’s controversial 2012 congressional ad, which Quito said included “a caricature of a Chinese woman and a website with chop suey lettering.” Second, Quito mentioned a 2018 New Jersey Republican State Committee ad attacking Korean-American Democratic Rep. Andy Kim of New Jersey, which used a “chop suey” font.
Regardless of intentions, which in these cases do not seem pure, it’s simply ludicrous to say that a font — even when used in controversial material like these ad campaigns — is inherently racist or otherwise prejudiced.
Quito then took a step back from openly attacking Republicans, taking a look into the “racist undertones” of chop suey fonts, using it as a diving board to explore the question on everybody’s mind: Can a font truly be racist?
She quoted Japanese-American journalist Gil Asakawa, who wrote of the fonts, “I think of words in anti-Asian or anti-Japanese signs.”
“I see [the font] Wonton and I see the words ‘J*p,’ ‘n*p,’ ‘ch**k,’ ‘g**k,’ ‘sl*pe.’ I can’t help it. In my experience, the font has been associated too often with racism aimed at me.”
Asakawa, as Quito pointed out, started his career during a specific time of anti-Japanese prejudice. Others use these fonts for their businesses year-round, which Quito later noted in her piece. There was not a specific consensus at the time against these fonts, and Quito attempting to speak for the entire Asian-American community is dishonest at its heart.
Finally, the author asked the million-dollar question: “Can a font, in itself, truly be racist?”
For years, the West has relied on so-called “chop suey” fonts to communicate “Asianness” in food packaging, posters and ad campaigns. But such fonts perpetuate problematic stereotypes. https://t.co/w85xSXp0iN
— CNN (@CNN) April 7, 2021
In short, thankfully, Quito’s answer was “no.” However, she coated it in such a way as to continue to vilify those who, typically harmlessly, use “chop suey” fonts. Quito wrote that, according to University of California historian Yong Chen, “it is not the font, per se, that’s the issue — but how it’s used.”
Chen wrote in an email, “The font issue never came up during discussions of the cover design,” referring to his 2014 book “Chop Suey, USA: The Story of Chinese Food in America,” which features the font.
Chen explained that problems only arise, for him, when the font is used to “depict Chinese Americans and Chinese food as the Oriental other.”
Chinese typography scholar Chris Wu “echoed” Chen’s thoughts, according to Quito, but in truth only validated the fact that not everyone is offended or otherwise negatively affected by these fonts. Wu said, “I am not offended by those typefaces, rather intrigued by them.”
Quito went on to paint an erroneous picture of the future where humanity is able to go beyond the crudeness of “chop suey” fonts and become enlightened in racial sensitivity, ignoring the key issue within her piece — the entire idea is ridiculous.
Washington Times columnist Tim Young put it quite well in a reply to CNN’s tweet, writing, “This is what you’re trying to get clicks off of? Pathetic.”
Sooo… fonts are racist now?
This is what you’re trying to get clicks off of? Pathetic.
— Tim Young (@TimRunsHisMouth) April 8, 2021
Young is spot-on. It’s ridiculous that CNN, and Quito specifically, would go so far in attempts at out-woking their media competition and coming to the top of the “racially sensitive” ladder that they would attack typefaces.
But, in the current political climate, it seems as though liberals will do what they have to in order to pander to their woke audiences.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.