From various newspapers around the country:
If there has been one chink in the Lakers’ armor this year…
Twitter’s rise, however, exposed a chink in Facebook’s armor…
“It was a chink in the armor,” says Billboard senior editor Ann Donahue.
She knows the chink in Princeton Plainsboro’s armor: House.
Notice a pattern here?
For non-Asian folks, “chink” probably doesn’t strike the same uncomfortable chord, but for me, every time I see or hear it, I wish I hadn’t. Of course in this case, it means a cleft or an opening, but more often than not, it is a racial epithet hurled towards Asians. Look up the word on Merriam-Webster Online, and you’ll find the first listed (and therefore the most common) definition is the offensive variant.
Out of curiosity, I searched for the phrase “chink in the armor” on Google and came up with a whopping 1.47 million hits. I’m certain this isn’t a vast East-wing conspiracy, but there are apparently a lot of holes in the Kevlar of the Internet.
Do white folks feel the same way when they walk through the supermarket aisle and pick up a box of Saltine Crackers? Or how about Latinos who stop for a bottle of Windex and see Spic and Span on the shelf below? I have no idea.
Now I’m not some kind of a politically correct nut who wants to eradicate all vestiges of anything sounding possibly hateful. Instead, what I ask is for people to choose not to use this particular phrase. Because it is a choice, you know?
Let me give you another example. The other day I was walking my dog, and a man came up to me and asked, “What a beautiful dog. It’s a bitch, right?” Yes, I suppose she is, in both sense of the word (sorry, Ginny, but it’s true), but that’s not the point. Words often carry more than one meaning, and it’s okay, even preferred, if you were to refer to my gorgeous German shepherd as a girl.
At the same time, I don’t want to encroach upon our First Amendment in any way. So if you consider my request as a form of self-censorship, how about doing it for the sake of originality? Just say no to clichés! Put on your best Don Draper thinking cap and create that next great catch phrase. Before you take the lazy route and declare that so-and-so has a few chinks in its armor, maybe you can say there’s “a gap in the fence.” Or “a rent in the fabric.” Perhaps even “a leak in the pipes.” You can also go fancy and be topical: “There are at least a couple of cocktail waitresses hiding in that team’s supposedly solid marriage.” Or show off your literary chops: “Boy, you just know there’s a Titus Andronicus in that corporation’s Shakespearean portfolio.”
And just for the record, “Asian in the armor” isn’t an option.