Fifa World Cup: ‘slant-eyed’ gesture is pure racism – even the well-mannered South Koreans have had enough
Latest case of offensive behaviour defies belief but Koreans are still prepared to forgive with a ‘heart finger’
In what conceivable scenario would pulling the ‘slant-eyed’ gesture towards an Asian be considered acceptable? And in what possible stratosphere would the Asian in question, or any Asian for that matter, receive it with a smile?
US-based Telemundo television hosts James Tahhan and Janice Bencosme will forever be tarnished for using the gesture during a live broadcast dissecting South Korea’s surprising 2018 Fifa World Cup win over Germany – ensuring Mexico’s qualification for the knockout stages. .
No scenario should be deemed acceptable to pull your eyes to the side in an attempt to imitate an Asian’s physical features.
If Korea had a hand in salvaging your World Cup campaign, then thank them like you would any other country: a handshake, a hug, a dab … whatever the congratulatory convention is these days.
The argument that the gesture is some sort of symbol of solidarity or appreciation of the Asian nation is remarkable.
If Korea coach Shin Tae-yong had scaled down the Luzhniki Stadium in an elaborate heist of the World Cup trophy and gave it to the Mexicans out of the pure kindness of his heart, it is safe to say he would prefer a pat on the back over a reminder of the size of his eyes.
Granted, most of the post-match celebrations were mutual and heart-warming. Fans lifted the Korean consul general of Mexico on their shoulders, parading him around with chants like “Korean, brother, now you’re Mexican” and giving any passing Koreans shots of tequila.
Colourful, drunken scenes made for several viral videos with the #BeautifulGame hashtag, but the racist undertones will always remain.
It should not be forgotten that Argentine football deity Diego Maradona made the same gesture only a week prior towards a couple of adoring Korean fans – or as he called them, “Asian boys wearing Argentina T-shirts” – attempting to brush it under the carpet with a “come on, guys” via Facebook.
Colombian international Edwin Cardona made the gesture in a fiery 2017 friendly against South Korea, with captain Ki Sung-yueng labelling it as “racist” and “unacceptable”.
Cardona insisted it was not his intention to disrespect and apologised. He was subsequently fined and not selected for this World Cup.
The same year, Cuban Major League Baseball player Yuli Gurriel did it to Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish during the World Series, for which he was suspended five games; Brazilian tennis player Guilherme Clezar did it to Japan’s Yuichi Sugita in the Davis Cup, to which he was fined for “offensive behaviour”.
The common thread here is that all culprits return asking for forgiveness for an act that they “never had any intention of offending anybody with”.
They receive a slap on the wrist from their respective national governing bodies along the lines of “similar discriminatory acts will not be tolerated in future”.
It has become such a farce that even the well-mannered Koreans have finally had enough. National television network company Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS) posted perhaps the nicest post-game PSA video of all time, entitled “Una carta a Mexico de Corea del Sur [A letter to Mexico from South Korea]”.
The two-minute video – in Spanish – congratulates Mexico for qualifying for the round of 16. It continues: “However, we saw some photos of Mexicans doing slant eyes on social media. A lot of us Koreans do not like this gesture because it makes fun of Asian eyes and implies our eyes are small.
“We take the gesture as a symbol of racism. We assume these Mexicans are doing it without knowing its true meaning.
“Instead, how about the heart fingers? This gesture is formed with your thumb and finger. In Korea, we use it to show our appreciation or love for someone. If you have the chance to meet a Korean, do this ‘finger heart’ gesture.
“Although we didn’t make it to the round of 16 of the World Cup, we think the Mexican football team will perform well in our name. We hope Mexico can win its next game! From the other side of the world, SBS News, South Korea.”
So, how about it, Mexico? And to any person or society who thinks the slant eyes are still appropriate in 2018 – sport or otherwise. Shooting finger hearts may be getting cringier by the day, but they sure are a lot better than the other thing.