Stereotypes and Slurs: Chink

Feminist Elizabethan is introducing a new segment called “Stereotypes and Slurs” where stereotypes and slurs will be defined and the history of the word or stereotype will be explored. This is not an in-depth analysis but rather a brief examination of complex topics. The goal of “Stereotypes and Slurs” is to shed light and educate on the history behind hard to talk about stereotypes and slurs.

Definition

“Chink” is a well-known racial slur that targets Asian individuals (especially Chinese individuals). The slur can be used as a noun or adjective, and when the word is used as a slur, it is typically used in reference to the slanted-eye appearance that is typical of East Asians.

Some other definitions of “chink” are:

Examples

Noun – “Look at that chink.”

Adjective – “That person is chink-eyed.”

Etymology

“Chink” as a racial slur was first used sometime during the late 1800s, which not so coincidentally, was when Chinese immigrants were working on the American railroads. It was also during this time that Chinese immigrants were perceived by White Americans as a threat, and much like modern-day Mexican immigrants, Chinese immigrants were viewed as stealing jobs from White Americans. Chinese immigrants were thus viewed with much hostility by White Americans and this hostility resulted in the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act which prohibited all immigration of Chinese laborers.

As to the actual origins behind the slur “chink,” it is not definitively known how this slur came to be. The following are some of the possible origins of “chink”:

  • The slur comes from the sound that was made when Chinese immigrants worked on the American railroads during the 1800s.
  • The slur comes from the Chinese courtesy ching ching.
  • The slur is derived from “China.”
  • The slur comes from the “chink” definition “a narrow opening” and is a simile for slanted eyes.
  • The slur has evolved from the Indo-Iranian word for “China.”
  • The slur is derived from “Qing” (the word “Qing” from Qing dynasty is pronounced as “ching”).
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