the ch!cktionary

I'm Lena Chen, a writer, activist, and media producer who's been called a "skank" (by Bill O'Reilly) and "a small Asian woman" (by The New York Times). My favorite part of my workday is the hate mail.

For the unlikely story that is my life, read on.

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irregular features
Ask Lena: Reader Questions Answered
Anatomy of an Outfit
Bad Feminist Confessions
Freelance Friday: Career Advice for Young Writers
Hate Mail
Gratuitous Photos Of My Bulldog
Notes & Snapshots from Abroad
Recent Tweets @lenachen

This could have been a satirical article on The Onion, but instead, it’s a rude wake-up call to the world we live in:

Relatives of a man who allegedly shot himself dead in a police car after being searched twice and handcuffed are questioning that account of his death. Chavis Carter, 21, was arrested in the state of Arkansas for a drug offence in Mississippi, and possessing cannabis.

Jonesboro police say Carter concealed a gun and, while handcuffed, raised the weapon and shot himself in the head in the back of the police car on 28 July.

Let me get this straight: Carter managed to conceal a gun from officers despite being searched twice, then maneuvered the gun into his hand despite being hand-cuffed, and shot himself in the right temple despite being left-handed? Also, if one really were that agile, would you not at least attempt to kill someone else before offing yourself?

If you were hoping that the video footage would answer some questions, you’re sadly mistaken, because “while it shows [Carter] being questioned and handcuffed, it does not include the moment the fatal shot was fired”.

How convenient.

Why can’t American news outlets be talking about topics like this instead of Gabby Douglas? How lucky for us that this year, in addition to raising the hopes and spirits of an imperialist nation besought with insecurities over its continuing economic dominance and relevance, the Olympics also has left mainstream America with the impression that racism is over because black girls can win medals too. It’s like that time we elected a black president and black people everywhere immediately ceased to be victimized by the criminal justice system and the prison industrial complex. Oh, wait.

I’d much rather see the injustice against Chavis Carter get airtime than some feel-good bullshit about the American Dream and everyone in this country being able to achieve whatever they set out to achieve. The Olympics are the reason why I haven’t gone outside this summer. They’ve been an omnipresent force pervading all public spaces and conversations, yet this nationalistic pissing contest is nothing more than the triumph of sheer ego over community, good will, common sense, and basically, all measures of humanity. It’s a spectacle of everything I hate: the media, competition, and patriotism. And then NBC has the audacity to apologize for ridiculous things like monkey commercials. MONKEY COMMERCIALS. How about apologizing for the existence of Matt Lauer and all the other clueless commentators too focused on the teleprompter to see their own white privilege?

Douglas was maybe the least annoying part of the Olympics. I saw her floor exercise during the all-around finals, when I was out to dinner one night. I don’t even like sports, but I was mesmerized by her energy but even more struck by how well-adjusted she appeared and the interactions between her and her coach. Yet I don’t believe for a second that the athletic achievements of a single girl is at all indicative of racial politics in this country having changed, and even Gabby Douglas has learned that when you’re black, you don’t get to simply enjoy the benefits of being an Olympic champion. She’s forced to carry - along with that gold medal - the burden of representing an entire people, even as I’m sure she realizes that what she’s accomplished is not within the grasp of most Black Americans. In fact, for most, it is far more likely that they become the next Chavis Carter.