Reading this post and especially the comments had me thinking about a couple of things from my childhood:
1. I grew up hearing a lot of Mandarin and Hakka. I don’t remember a time when I was not offended by people who’d do the “ching chong” thing to make fun of the “Chinese language” – was I always offended by this? did I learn to be offended by it? was I taught to be offended? I don’t know. But I was also puzzled. Of course it wasn’t supposed to sound perfectly like “Chinese,” but it was so far off I wondered where the sounds came from. Eventually, after hearing some Cantonese, I remember thinking, “hmm, maybe that’s what people are making fun of.” I have no idea if this is true or what the origins of that linguistic slur are.
2. I remember the pbs stations would run these short spots – public service announcements, I guess – that showed kids of various backgrounds doing various things and then would end with someone saying “I’m proud to be a [ethnicity]-American.” Every time I saw the ones for Asian- or Chinese-Americans (and I can’t remember if they ran “Asian” ones or if they kept it strictly to nationality) I’d wonder, does that describe me too? I never came to a real conclusion. Reading that comment thread I just linked above, I have to assume that these spots must have run only locally, or maybe in only a few places around the country.