Can a Font be Racist?

There is some controversy at my university over this poster: Image

Some students have found the chop suey font used in this poster to be offensive, because the font emphasizes Margaret Cho’s ethnicity, and pigeonholes her into an asian stereotype which could be particularly alarming because she is Korean American and supposedly the font has some sort of Chinese history.

Well, I think in some cases using a font like this could be very offensive and racist. But, in this case, Margaret Cho’s comedy strongly revolves around her asian-american identity so I don’t find it offensive to use a font tied with asian-ness to advertise her performance when the content will be all about being asian. Whereas I think the font would be racist if say she was adopted from Korea and her comedy had nothing to do with asian-ness.

This is still difficult because someone not familiar with her comedy might be alarmed at stereotyping her with that font. I agree, and perhaps it would be best to simply leave out any racially tied type face. But it’s a font. Just a font. Let’s also try to keep that in mind.

It’s difficult to make any compelling analogies to emphasize my point because there really aren’t any other fonts that have an easily identifiable national connection – but I’m going to try anyway.

For example if a female comedian was coming and the poster had like flowers and pink things, then I might be offended. But if her comedy is all about being a girly-girl, then I don’t really see a problem with it because the poster isn’t stereotyping her – it’s just a reflection of how her comedy and stage personality really is.

Putting a rainbow flag on a poster of an openly gay comedian who’s content largely focuses on being gay would also be acceptable. Is it necessarily a great idea or something I would promote doing? no.

Others claim that it would be inappropriate to put shamrocks on a poster for an irish American performer. Yes, it would be unless his performance was centered around being Irish-American.

I also can’t help but feeling like of all the things, why hone in on this? Race tensions rage very high between Asian students and American students, so there are a variety of issues more significant than font style to focus on.


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2 Responses to Can a Font be Racist?

  1. twindaddy says:

    I guess the bottom line is this: I would assume the Margaret approved this advertisement since it’s advertising, you know, her show. So if she doesn’t have a problem with it why does anyone else?

    It’s almost embarrassing how sensitive everyone is about everything these days.

  2. Miriam says:

    I agree with you. Not only is this not racist, but it’s hardly even worth noting.

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