When I look in the mirror, i see chapped lips, a fresh nose-piercing and streaks of hair bleached just a few shades yellower than the tone of my skin. I don't see Charlie the laundry guy or Jackie the kick-ass guy.
And while I do have a crooked front tooth, I sure as hell don't resemble the bucktoothed caricature that adorns the newest shoe from that other international sporting goods conglomerate, Adidas.
The shoe is called the Y1 HUF, and in addition to the buckteeth, the cartoon Chinese guy sports short hair, a snout and super-slanted (i.e., Asian) eyes.
The image, replicated on a metal toggle on the lace, is the work of San Francisco graffiti artist Barry McGee, aka "Twist," who, incidentally, is half Chinese. In case you have any doubt what the image is supposed to represent, it's one of a series in Adidas's "Yellow" collection.
The unflattering image has touched off a racially charged controversy in online postings and message boards.
Ed Wong, one of those who got wind of the shoe online, says it represents another affront to the Asian male.
"[Consumers] will see it simply as a Chink face," he says.
Adds Anh Phan of the Organization for Chinese Americans, "Historically, damaging images of Asians with yellow skin, slanted eyes and buckteeth have reinforced the false notion of Asians and Asian Americans being the foreigner, and in some cases less than human."
Of course, this isn't the first time a multinational conglomerate has tried to navigate the fine line between style and slag, and failed miserably.
In 2002, Abercrombie & Fitch pulled a dumb and dumberer with "Wong Brothers Laundry Service - Two Wongs Can Make It White" T-shirts. The company showed its smarts later by putting out a women's T with "Who needs brains when you have these?" scrawled across the front.
Am I being too sensitive?
One person who thinks so is Toronto stand-up comic and writer Sabrina Jalees, who wrote a wonderful column ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination defending the racially powered comic Russell Peters. In an e-mail, she writes that a little perspective is in order.
"Calling an Asian-themed shoe series 'Yellow' is the same thing as having an African-themed series titled 'Black,' an Indian-themed shoe called 'Brown' or one designed by Michael Jackson classified as 'So White You've Gotta Squint. '"
Jalees is half Pakistani, half Swiss, and affectionately refers to her mix as Piss. She says Adidas would have to step further across the line before she'd get upset.
"When they start decorating the shoes with railroad track patterns and attaching tiny pouches of rice to the box they come in, then we can start talking."
Talking, however, is not something Adidas is doing on the subject. Calls to the company's Canadian headquarters were directed to the global office, but a promised statement explaining the company's position never materialized despite repeated requests. I did manage to squeeze from one spokesperson that there are no plans to sell this shoe in Canada.
Yet considering that following Abercrombie & Fitch's lead into Asian stereotyping could pay big bucks (sales in the weeks after A&F's Two Wongs debacle jumped 29 per cent), the publicity may be too much for Adidas to resist. A&F, though, was also forced to pay $50 million to settle various discrimination lawsuits.
I'll leave the last word to Jalees. "The bottom line is, the shoe series has no prospect of shifting people's views of Asians for the worse. At the end of the day, a racist is a racist. If the shoe fits, it doesn't matter what its name is."