AAJA Urges News Media to Retire “Chinaman”

Wapo Chinaman


Once again, we at the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) find ourselves confronting an episode of a major U.S. news organization using an offensive Asian slur.

As Yao Ming was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame on Monday, The Washington Post took a shot at a creative headline. Unfortunately, it was an air ball.

“Chinaman” is a slur from 19th-century America, specifically for Chinese workers who worked for low wages building the transcontinental railroad.

The headline has since been updated by The Washington Post. A Washington Post spokesperson explains:

We always welcome the input of AAJA and are happy to chat on this and other stories.

The story deals with the bigotry Yao Ming encountered and had to overcome. The headline was an effort to convey that, and the story also makes it clear that this is a derogatory term.

“During a Rockets game in 2004, former basketball player and TNT broadcaster Steve Kerr also referred to Yao as a “Chinaman,” a derogatory term dating back to the mid-1800s, when Americans feared that the “Yellow Peril” would dominate the labor force. (Kerr later apologized.)”

In this case, the headline was modified to ensure clarity. Since there was no factual error, no correction was made.

We urge all news media to reference AAJA’s “Handbook to Covering Asian America” as a guide to accurate and fair reporting on our communities.

AAJA MediaWatch committee