Sunday, December 03, 2006
I was pleased and surprised that the "Not In Our Town" conference (community responses to hate crimes) was held in Bloomington, Illinois. I grew up 40 miles away in Peoria, Illinois. I don't think of that area as a leader in the realm of diversity awareness. The town next to Peoria is Pekin, named originally after Peking, China. The high school moniker was the "Pekin Chinks!" I remember one year in the late 60's when Pekin High went all the way to the state basketball finals. I imagine newspapers all over the state carried a headline about the "Chinks Victory" without thinking anything about it. At least as a kid, I never thought about it. There was also an ice skating rink in Pekin. You guessed it..... "Chink Rink." They had a local TV commercial that portrayed a simple line drawing of an old Chinese man on ice skates, mixed with their voiceover and maybe some music. "Institutional racism" is the boring term for when racism is so pervasive it is invisible or like wallpaper. I'm sure it wasn't like wallpaper to any Chinese folks who lived around there, but I didn't know any.
I went to Wikipedia and found that there was an attempt to change the high school moniker around 1974, but it didn't actually get changed until 1980. (My family moved around 1969.) Now they are called the Pekin Dragons.
Link to a blog with more detail.