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An Open Letter to the Mahjong Line

Updated: Feb 19

Dear [Asian Youth and] The Mahjong Line,

As a Chinese-Canadian who has faced lifelong racial struggles that delayed my appreciation for my culture, I stood in shock and frustration when I came across the Mahjong Line in January. I shared my honest viewpoint along with many members of the Chinese community and Asian allies under your posts. The Mahjong Line is a business that may have started off with good intentions which I recognized, but that did not change the detrimental impact it had on my community as we felt our culture and tradition were exploited for profits without recognition. There was a complete lack of respect and acknowledgement for the Chinese history and culture linked to Mahjong, no matter what subsequent versions were adapted when it left the country.

I was very disappointed with Mahjong Line’s reaction to the hurt and frustration from my community as well as the ensuing apology and history posts. Your business has continuously shared the message that you are open to constructive criticism, honest opinions, sincere outreach to express viewpoints. Ironically, comments were shut off as soon as backlash emerged, which can be understandable if any comments extended beyond frustration and justified anger to threats or direct attacks. However, a story posted this past week criticizing the Mahjong Line for its cultural appropriation and gaslighting apology led to my account being immediately blocked and my post was taken down before anyone had seen it. When I kindly messaged on another account asking to discuss the post instead, I was blocked again. I was confused and disappointed that not only the business was harming my community, but it was silencing me from voicing my opinion when you claim to welcome my honest viewpoint.

I was not the only one to go through this experience. Many others had reported that they were completely ignored when they sent DMs and weren’t able to share their opinions, especially after the accusatory post to the “social media mob”. Let me ask the Mahjong Line this: If one Chinese person had messaged you guys back in November, would you have restructured your business to credit and acknowledge the Chinese creation of the game and centuries-old history? Historically, as a racialized minority, this never happens– because one voice is never enough. Why would we have expected any different for a business that consistently ignored or blocked our criticism and even shut us out from sharing our opinions?

The Mahjong Line also mentioned social media users adopted a mob mentality. Our collective criticism was not because we saw other people do the same and wanted to “join in”. I can assure you showing the November 2019 Mahjong Line to a Chinese individual would warrant the same reaction received on social media. It was extremely insensitive to suggest our frustration was not genuinely our own and rather the influence of others, as if our viewpoints were not authentic or real. Not to mention the social media mob was justifiably frustrated people that have lived their lives being oppressed by the same people who profit off of us as has happened too many times before. The fox-eye trend? White people using our eye shape as an aesthetic while we were bullied and discriminated against for naturally having the same eye shape growing up. The Mahjong line? White people using our culture to profit off a traditional game without any recognition while we suffered discrimination and oppression for simply being born into the same culture.

The same post says there is an accusation towards the rhetoric in national news outlets. The headlines from a Google search show “cultural appropriation” “xenophobia” “racism” “culturally insensitive” “white-washing”, none of which are false. The line between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation is the recognition of the origin and history, unlike how the Mahjong Line conveniently left out the roots of the original Chinese game, saying the American game was completely different and had a separate history. Whitewashing explores the concept of draining a culture of its culturally significant aspects and makin