Threadless promotes yet another racist T-shirt

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

People sure love to display their racism proudly on their T-shirts. Last June we told you about Threadless’s questionable milk bottle miscegenation shirt, and now they’re back with another racist shirt called “Flied Lice.” (thanks Gina for the tip!)

Ew! A yucky fly on the rice! How unhygienic! And “Fried Crap with Spicy Sauce,” who knows what’s really in that dish! You know what they say about those rat-swallowing, cat-eating Chinamen!

It’s just a t-shirt, you say? Actually, no. It’s just one instance in a long history of defaming Chinese people as unhygienic and primitive. And when you tie it into the recent tainted pet food scares, you start to see a pattern. Word to Jeff Yang:

China has been portrayed as a nation blind to hygiene and blissfully unconcerned about recent reports of food contamination. That’s troubling, because it reinforces the notion that befouled food is the consequence of a foul culture. Chef and gustatory adventurer Anthony Bourdain may have said it best in a 2006 Salon interview in which he noted that there’s “something kind of racist” about culinary xenophobia: “Fear of dirt is often indistinguishable from the fear of unnamed dirty people.”

And this, in turn, spells danger. What one might call “food libel” has long been an aspect of a larger fear of China. The association of Chinese with dubious edibles has insinuated itself into our cultural consciousness in small and seemingly trivial ways — in schoolyard taunting, in sitcom gags about takeout food, in standup monologues about puppy chow mein.

But when the stakes are raised, as they have been by recent scandals, such jokes turn deadly serious. The fringes of the pundit set have already been intimating that these tainted-food incidents are deliberate.

About This Blog

Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at

The founders of Racialicious are Carmen Sognonvi and Jen Chau. They are no longer with the blog. Carmen now runs Urban Martial Arts with her husband and blogs about local business. Jen can still be found at Swirl or on her personal blog. Please do not send them emails here, they are no longer affiliated with this blog.

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