I note with displeasure that the perpetually offended among us are getting all worked up about a poem in the New Yorker.
Eighty-year-old Calvin Trillin's “Have They Run Out of Provinces Yet?", which was published in the latest issue of The New Yorker, takes as its subject the vast variety of Chinese food available today.
... The poem begins:
Have they run out of provinces yet?It goes on to list all the different cuisines of China which have become popular in recent years, and laments the stress of keeping up with changing trends:
If they haven’t, we’ve reason to fret.
Long ago, there was just Cantonese.
(Long ago, we were easy to please.)
But then food from Szechuan came our way,
Making Cantonese strictly passé.
Now, as each brand-new province appearsCommentators were quick to criticise Trillin, with the novelist Celeste Ng saying that the poem could be interpreted as asking “Why are there so many kinds of Chinese people?”
It brings tension, increasing our fears
Could a place we extolled as a find
Be revealed as one province behind?
Old racist white man tosses off rhyming hate speech, then defends it. Time to shuffle off, #CalvinTrillin. https://t.co/UGMLBTk6iA
— Jinho Choi (@GoldenTalon) April 7, 2016
white man expresses distress that Chinese food is so diverse. More self-centred white indulgence at 6.
— Polly is a nice name (@__catpower) April 7, 2016
On The Stranger website, Rich Smith called the poem "casually racist", writing: “This longing for a time of chow mein—which is, as I’m sure the food writer knows—a westernized dish—is a longing for the days of a white planet. Those days when we white people comfortably held power, when they made food for us, when the only fear was the fear of another cuisine to conquer, the days before we had to ask ourselves stuff like—does this poem rest on an unexamined racist sentiment?”
There's more at the link. The offending (?) poem may be found here.
Personally, I found the poem very amusing - typical satire, directed at its Western audience rather than Chinese cuisine. However, it seems that those of a more liberal or progressive bent are, indeed, bent out of shape about it.
Would I be guilty of racism if I accused Mr. Trillin's critics of being pointy-headed idiots with empty spaces where their brains need to be? As far as I can see, I haven't used a single racist term in that sentence. Your thoughts, readers?