An in-depth CNN report about the allegedly racist roots of Asia-inspired fonts has left many wondering whether the outlet has simply run out of things to be outraged about.
According to a feature published in CNN’s style section, fonts designed to communicate “Asianness” that appear on restaurant menus, food packaging and other items are offensive and perpetuate “crude” stereotypes.
CNN revealed this category of so-called “chop suey” scripts has a dark and exploitive history that can be traced back to American propaganda posters and campaigns to stoke xenophobia. There is even some background information about the Nazis and their views on typography, just to illustrate how fonts really can be racist.
“It’s hard not to cringe at the Chinese stereotypes bundled up with each font package – especially when seen through the lens of today’s heightened vigilance toward discrimination and systemic racism,” the author of the expose, Anne Quito, noted. Citing “critics,” she explained that anyone using such fonts is probably engaging in racism, especially if they are not Asian.
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 fact, Quito conceded that many of the “problematic” fonts were adopted by Chinese immigrants who came to the United States as a way of marketing their Asian shops or restaurants.
While the story seemed intent on reinforcing the idea that the fonts were outdated and dangerous, it also included the viewpoint of a scholar of Chinese typography, who said he didn’t find anything offensive about the scripts and cautioned against oversimplifying the narrative surrounding their development and use.
Judging from reactions on social media, plenty of others struggled to see what the issue was.
Comedian Tim Young grilled CNN for its “pathetic” attempt at stirring up controversy.
Sooo… fonts are racist now? This is what you’re trying to get clicks off of? Pathetic.
— Tim Young (@TimRunsHisMouth) April 8, 2021
Many who identified themselves as having an Asian background said they weren’t bothered by the fonts and thought CNN was intentionally looking to stir up outrage.
“There are certain cultural insensitivities that definitely should be addressed, but let’s not purposefully look for it in the minutia,” read one comment.
Others were so perplexed by the feature that they wondered if the outlet was actually trolling its own readers.
Observers also questioned whether CNN’s logic could be extended to Roman fonts based on Greek or Celtic characters, just to name a few. Are such scripts also culturally insensitive and potentially racist?
As a kid, I used Ancient style fonts on assignments re: Greece, Olympics, Democracy. Family used similar fonts on menus in their Greek themed food business.Kind of feel like I need to request CNN’s permission to use it now.I’ve attached an image of the font I’m talking about. pic.twitter.com/RCqXtTQMRE
— Georgios (@georgios197) April 9, 2021
There were some who were more sympathetic to CNN’s argument, however. Several people suggested that the allegedly problematic fonts were fine when used by Asians, but should otherwise be avoided.
As with many things, it depends on who is using it. I have no problem with an Asian-themed restaurant that’s run by Asians using the fonts. They have the right to determine what’s offensive to them. Other ethnic groups do not, so they should avoid it.
— BugDoll 1.0 (@BugDoll614) April 7, 2021
CNN has gone into woke hyperdrive in recent months. In March, it argued that there’s “no consensus criteria” to determine child’s sex at birth, in a poorly-received retort to executive orders related to transgender issues signed by South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem.
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