How to celebrate Chinese New Year or make Super Bowl ads without being offensive

Originally published on Sumner Newscow on February 12, 2021

Happy Friday.

And a happy Chinese New Year to all who celebrate and all who don’t celebrate yet.  2021 marks the year of the Ox, which has many qualities associated with it, but considering this happens every 12 years like clockwork, please don’t read into any zodiac readings or predictions.  Chinese New Year, or Lunar New Year to others, is one of the most important holidays on the Chinese calendar to not only the country itself, but the millions of Chinese diaspora around the world.  So when a holiday this important comes around, we have to be careful not to botch it.

In the US, we are blessed with a diversity of people and cultures that should be celebrated whenever one our populations has a holiday, but we consistently mistreat (to put it lightly) any holiday that doesn’t cater to the majority of white people.  I don’t want to place all the blame on white people, but we really are the worst offenders when it comes to cultural appropriation.  But luckily, this is a simple problem to solve so everyone can celebrate without alienating and offending a huge chunk of our county’s people.  Firstly don’t:

  • Wear whatever you think people in China are going to wear because you’ll probably get it wrong (kimonos are Japanese, not Chinese, and an entire country wearing the same thing is insane anyway)
  • Text every person of East-Asian descent that you know, even if you’re “pretty sure they’re Chinese” to tell them about your own Chinese New Year plans
  • Ask your only East-Asian coworker what their family is doing to celebrate

On the bright side, Chinese New Year is like every other holiday in that it is celebrated in countless different ways all over the world so it’s easy to commemorate it without being rude.  Try:

  • Setting off those firecrackers you saved from 4th of July.  Fireworks were invented in China so it’s unsurprising that they seeped their way into such their holidays, and today is the perfect time to set those leftovers off
  • Ordering Chinese Food.  This one is a little trickier than it sounds, however.  I don’t mean to order from the Panda Express your kids go to; instead, order from a Chinese-owned business if you can.  Chinatown’s all over the world have suffered disproportionately this pandemic (because of all the racism) so if you can, please order big and tip bigger (or make your own surprisingly simple dumplings)
  • Wearing a new outfit.  Again, this doesn’t mean to ball out on your cultural appropriation uniform (kimonos are still from Japan, quit asking), but donning some new threads is a great way to usher in the new year in any culture

Chinese New Year is a holiday that I am also getting used to, so if you’re friend of East-Asian heritage tells you to do something different, you should listen to them and not bring up the advice of the white guy you read online.  Above all, holidays are meant to be enjoyed, even by people who aren’t from the same culture, because the world isn’t so isolated anymore and we live with myriad cultures every day, each of which is important and worthy of celebration.

Speaking of regional cultures and honoring where people came from, I believe, as a native Kansan (as native as a white person can be in this country) it’s my duty to beat the sh*t out of corporate shill, Bruce Springsteen.  If you missed the Big Game, Springsteen narrated a commercial for America’s 3rd worst auto manufacturer, Jeep, where he implored us to “meet in the middle” by venturing to Lebanon, Kansas, the geographic center of the lower 48 states.  I’ve written previously about how ludicrous this unity messaging is, but I understand the urge to preach it (especially if your side was the one who tried a terrorist attack).  The problem with the ad, however, was that it only advocated for the type of unity where everyone comes back to be nice to the religious white people who’ve spent the last few years taking your rights away.

The commercial itself is a boring slideshow of some of the “down home American” scenes that Kansans would recognize; from muddy roads still thawing from an ice storm, to a dumpy looking church that will hopefully blow over next time the wind picks up.  That’s all fine…for us, but isn’t this commercial about unity?  Jeep clearly has no idea what Kansas is really like by showing Lebanon, of all places, but it really doesn’t know what the country is about if it thinks anything in this commercial resonated with anyone not directly from the Midwest.

Jeep tried its best to be more diverse by picking Bruce Springsteen to be the spokesman because Springsteen is really the Joe Biden of the music industry: he did some cool stuff for unions way back in the day, but now needs to shut up and enjoy his money, yet we’re somehow still stuck with him.  Jeep also found one of the literal 4 Black people in Lebanon to put on screen and while I know Jeep didn’t get to pick the racial breakdown of the city’s population, it did get the freedom to scrap this commercial concept months ago when it was apparent it would come off as advising everyone to sympathize with the people who are having a hard time since their Nazi left office.  On top of all of that, they couldn’t help but shove as much Christian imagery down our throats as they could in the short time allotted.  If you aren’t religious or belong to a different faith, I guess you aren’t part of the unity they’re looking for.

Jeep quickly realized how bad they messed up and pulled the ad from YouTube and their websites, but instead of admitting that it was a horrible misstep, they cited Springsteen’s DWI charge from months ago.  Bruce Springsteen has somehow remained a figure of working class Americans for decades now, which makes sense if you think about it: he’s an ultra-wealthy capitalist that made his fortune speaking on behalf of a class he hasn’t been a part of for years, he thinks he speaks for all Americans despite being a white guy from New Jersey, and no one sees the irony in the fact he still cosplays as a cowboy after all this time when we know damn well the boots on his feet cost more than our cars.  As Kansans, we’re better than Bruce Springsteen and next time a big company wants to preach their “unity” virtue-signaling, they should keep our state out of their mouths.

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