I stopped by my favorite new dispensary on Friday to grab some candies and a new strain before a weekend getaway with my girlfriend. I was looking for a good middle-of-the-road hybrid. They had a lot of 70+ sativa and indica dominant strains available, but I was really trying to find something that would be fun but functional–nothing too ampy and nothing that would bog me down. So when the 60/40 indica-dominant Connie Chung strain caught my eye, and the budtender told me it was a good daytime smoke despite its i-status, I grabbed an eighth. Didn’t give it a second thought.
On our way to the vacation spot, my girlfriend and I were chatting and the dispensary visit came up. When I told her that I had bought an eighth of “Connie Chung,” she gave me an inquisitive look and asked how it got its name. I had no idea. I know that a lot of the names for hybrids are actually hybrids themselves: “Blue Dream” is so named because it’s a cross between “Blueberry” indica and the spacey sativa “Haze.” And “Purple AK-47,” for example, is not Sarah Palin’s favorite assault weapon as one might reasonably suspect. Well, maybe it is–wouldn’t surprise me. But it’s also an energetic indica-dominant cross between the “AK-47” sativa plant and “Granddaddy Purple” (itself an indica hybrid of “Purple Urkle and “Big Bud”).
So why the name “Connie Chung”? The only logical answer we could agree on was my girlfriend’s first suspicion: The eyes.
There’s a long history of using the stereotypical appearance of Asian eyes to describe the stoner’s appearance. Two of my favorite hip hop tracks ever, actually–GZA’s Shadowboxin‘ and Eminem’s Bad Meets Evil–contain lyrics relating the consumption of cannabis and the physical appearance of Asians. In Shadowboxin‘ Method Man spits, “Ticallion stallion, chinky-eye and snot-nosed/From my naps to the bunion on my big toe.” And in Bad Meets Evil, Eminem goes ahead and specifies a nationality: “Cause this is what happens when Bad meets Evil/And we hit the trees til we look like Vietnamese people.” You see, “hitting the trees” is also slang for smoking weed. Method Man just assumes you know exactly what he’s talking about. A Google search for “chinky eyed weed” turns up about 323,000 offensive results ranging from more rap lyrics to deep philosophical inquiries at wiki-forums like, “Why do peoples eyes get small when they smoke weed like their chinky eyed when they smoke weed why does that happen?”
To its credit, Google does its best to prevent you from asking these kinds of questions. I got shut down by its Instant feature after hitting the space bar following “chinky.” I mean, there’s no question that this is racist. Right? It is not acceptable in our modern culture to stereotype or even jokingly connect pejorative characteristics with an ethnic group’s physical appearance. Caricatures of Jews with big noses were–and still are–used by right-wing xenophobes all over the world to send a very specific message about the trustworthiness of the Jewish people. And while some white folks just can’t seem to wrap their minds around it, Blackface is not tolerable for its hurtful, dehumanizing portrayal of African Americans and the indecent appropriation of an oppressed minority’s culture for the entertainment of a privileged class.
When Stephen Colbert recorded a segment mocking today’s most prominent racist portrayal of an ethnic group in America, he did so in character as a moronic right-wing bloviator talking up his faux-charity, “The Ching Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.” And he got slammed. The Twitter hashgtag #CancelColbert trended at light speed, and conversation about race, progressives, and Colbert’s show dominated social media and mainstream press coverage for a solid week. Some “hashtag activist” actually made a name for herself out of the whole thing.
So my weed is racist. Really great weed, for what it’s worth, but totally racist. The realization has been had, but what should the resulting action be? For now, and for our purposes, let’s just say that changing weed culture in general isn’t possible. It’s too widespread, disconnected, and–ironically, enough–diverse. There is no leadership to approach, no board of directors or president to petition. There is a small group of people struggling to convince the world that the word “marijuana” is itself actually derogatory. How would something like this even register?
As Blatto discussed in his recent SMS, race is an important issue. But how do I instigate change? Do I even attempt to? I do take moral stances with my money; I don’t eat at popular fast food restaurants, for example, because of the minimum wage issue. Chik-fil-A has been off-limits for a long time due to their anti-gay stance. Hobby Lobby is a total no-go. But the owner of my dispensary isn’t a racist. At least, I don’t think he is. I don’t really know the guy, and nothing about his business would give me that impression. He’s just buying for a buck and selling for two. But, do I talk to him about it? Mention it in passing? And how do I do that without coming across as a hysterical progressive with so few first-world problems that these are the things I worry about?
Do I never buy the strain again? And, without any way of getting the message to growers and distributors, what difference would it make? I never bought the Connie Chung strain before, and I don’t think that my one-time purchase made a blip on any radar so my absent dollars won’t exactly be a powerful voice.
How do you combat something so ingrained and accepted that it’s not even considered by somebody like me making a purchase?
I think maybe I’ll talk to the guy.