Today, seeing or hearing a racial slur can feel like a slam backward through time. In general, as progressive as our society would like to think it is, there are reminders that there are still many living in the dark ages of socially acceptable language.

Pejoratives that have addressed or referred to other people from other cultures once peppered the English language. Although many are archaic and have lost meaning to those who have been blessed with never having heard them, or even knowing their ugly origins, mean-spirited racial slurs brought about by hate and lack of understanding of a culture or race have all but been eradicated.

Clearly this is the case as with a recent slur which made its way into a Pasadena Department of Transportation citation appeal denial letter that was sent to former PCC student, model and current Pasadena resident Sean C. Ching, addressing him as Sean “Chinks.”

“The letter is the least of my concerns, actually. If it was just the letter, I’d be fine,” said Ching, who said the handling of the matter by the city was more troubling.

But in the interim of official responses, a portion of the letter made its way the press via postings on social media, where the Asian community and concerned community activists called for an explanation.

Ching, a martial arts instructor at Kerr Mixed Martial Arts on Foothill Boulevard, posted some comments about the letter on his own Facebook page. But YouTube content maker Jerry Liu, who has worked with Ching, posted the image of the letter on his Facebook and Twitter accounts. He shared it with groups like Global Asians for Action and Social Change and Asians Not Brainwashed by Media, prompting a call for the community to respond.

“They feel that in Hollywood that Asians are portrayed a certain way, and not always the best, so they try to call it out,” said Liu of the groups.

Once the media took hold and brought awareness to the issue, then representing parties from the city of Pasadena and the Department of Transportation began to contact Ching.

After the citation was paid and no longer contested by Ching, many of these contacts came almost a full year after the initial offense was reported and improperly handled. The apology letter that came nearly eight months after the first complaint was somewhat back-handed in nature. According to Ching, a letter of apology from Frederick C. Dock of the Pasadena Department of Transportation stated that the slur was a mistake. The letter also inferred that it was his own fault as the “staff was unable to clearly read your handwriting,” resulting in them writing “‘ks’ instead of a ‘g.’”

Dock apologized further in a phone conversation to Ching, but a full acknowledgment was never made as to the back-handed nature of the apology letter sent by him previously and the “mistake” referenced. Ching was even under the impression that the call was intended to indicate erasure of the ticket and that Dock did not know it had already been paid.

Addressing the apology letter, Ching said his response to Dock was “Do you think that is an acceptable answer? My name has never been misread.”

With official responses like this, it’s no wonder that we are having so much difficulty getting past the use of such words. It seems that our own institutions cannot be bothered to step up to not only condemn the use of these words, but to prevent their own staff from using them as well.

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