I grew up in a place called Birmingham, AL. Since moving to the Northeast for school and work in 2000, I’ve been forced into the role of the reluctant defender of the South. Yes, I would tell countless Yankees after they recovered from the shock of meeting an Asian person from the South, Birmingham has a sordid history of racism, but things are much different now. And that’s true.
What’s also true, however, is that there was plenty of racism to go around when I grew up there in the 90’s, and I took my fare share of lumps for being one of the only Asian kids in my middle and high schools. Those lumps came in a variety of forms, including squinting eyebrows to make a “Chinese face,” accusations that my ancestors were kamikaze pilots, and, you guessed it:
“Wax on, wax off.”
Said in an exaggerated accent, of course. Perhaps in combination with the squinting eyebrows.
Now, you might be wondering why I have such a problem with “wax on, wax off,” when it seems benign compared to the squinting eyebrows, “kamikaze,” “chink,” etc. True, at face value, it’s more benign, but it’s not so much “wax on, wax off” that I have a problem with. Instead, I take issue with the fact that for countless children growing up in the 1980’s, Mr. Miyagi was their introduction to Asian Americans, Asian American culture, and the “otherness” of Asian Americans.
Please Note: This is not a Christian article but we have included it in our resource section because it contains material that you may find helpful for discussion.