Kat Chow

Kat Chow is a journalist covering race, ethnicity, and culture for NPR's new Code Switch team. In this role, Chow is responsible for reporting and telling stories using social media, sparking conversations online, and blogging.

Prior to coming to NPR, Chow worked with WGBH in Boston and was a reporting fellow for The Cambodia Daily, an English-language newspaper in Phnom Penh.

While a student at the University of Washington in Seattle, Chow was a founding member of a newsmagazine television show and freelanced for the Seattle Weekly. She also interned with the Seattle Times and worked on NBC's Winter Olympics coverage in Vancouver, B.C. You can find her tweeting away for Code Switch at @NPRCodeSwitch, and sharing her thoughts at @katchow.

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Code Switch
11:00 am
Thu March 26, 2015

Some Messy History Behind A Fight Over A Restaurant Called 'Chop Chop Chinaman'

The logo of Chop Chop Chinaman restaurant sits on a window outside the dinning area Thursday in Chicago.
Armando L. Sanchez Chicago Tribune/TNS/Landov

Over in Chicago, a restaurant called Chop Chop Chinaman has been getting a lot of heat for its name. In February, Chicago-area resident Jeannie Harrell was arrested for scrawling "F*** this hate crime s***. It's 2015" in lipstick on the restaurant's window, right next to the shop's decal sticker of a rickshaw and a man wearing a triangular hat.

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Code Switch
7:03 am
Thu March 26, 2015

Why It's So Hard For Us To Agree About Dong From 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt'

The gesture Kimmy's making doesn't mean the same thing to Dong.
Eric Liebowitz Netflix

Originally published on Thu March 26, 2015 11:01 am

The very first time we encounter Dong Nguyen, one of several hotly debated characters in Tina Fey's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, he has just introduced himself to Kimmy in their GED class. And, as surely happens to Dong all the time, ever since he immigrated to New York from Vietnam, she's stifling a giggle over his name.

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Code Switch
12:22 pm
Fri March 20, 2015

The Time A Cartoonist Was Told To 'Lighten Up' A Character

Cartoonist Ronald Wimberly was told to "lighten up" a Mexican and African-American character.
Ronald Wimberly The Nib

Originally published on Fri March 20, 2015 3:02 pm

In a beautifully illustrated comic over at The Nib, cartoonist Ronald Wimberly relays the story of working with an editor who asked him to lighten the skin tone of a character he was working on, Melita Garner, who has been described as Mexican and African-American, a reporter, and Wolverine's ex-girlfriend.

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Code Switch
3:47 pm
Wed March 18, 2015

Starbucks Campaign Already Inspiring Awkward Conversations About Race

"It's also interesting because I'm actually black, but you assumed otherwise," Jay Smooth told Nancy Giles.
MSNBC's All In With Chris Hayes

Originally published on Wed March 18, 2015 4:12 pm

Starbucks' campaign to get people talking about race has already birthed a very public, very cringeworthy conversation about race. Jay Smooth, a radio DJ and video blogger, was on MSNBC's All In With Chris Hayes Tuesday night, discussing the coffee company's "Race Together" campaign with fellow guest Nancy Giles, a contributor to CBS Sunday Morning.

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Code Switch
10:58 am
Fri March 6, 2015

The Fascinating Story Of New Orleans' Two Lost Chinatowns

Chinese who operated small shops in New Orleans' Chinatown for many decades learned in 1937 that their small city-within-a-city was doomed to make way for a parking lot. Shown in front of one of the shops on Tulane Avenue between Elk Place and Rampart Street are Big Gee, seated, and Lee Sing, standing.
The Times-Picayune/Landov

New Orleans is known for its enormous Vietnamese population, one of the largest in the country. But we recently came across a story about a now-lost Chinatown in New Orleans — two of them, in fact — and how they came to be. To understand how these hubs came about, and why they disappeared, we have to rewind the clock 150 years, to the end of the Civil War.

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Code Switch
1:39 pm
Thu March 5, 2015

Study: At 'Rate My Professors,' A Foreign Accent Can Hurt A Teacher's Score

The biggest gaps overall were in the South.
Kat Chow/NPR

Originally published on Thu March 5, 2015 6:21 pm

"So-and-so is really, really hard to understand." Or: "His accent is so distracting." I remember hearing off-the-cuff remarks like this a few times in college, complaints by classmates about teaching assistants and instructors, almost all of them of Asian descent and non-native English speakers.

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Code Switch
8:50 am
Wed March 4, 2015

Rapper Jin Tries To Stretch His '15 Minutes' Of Fame

Jin poses for a photograph during an interview with the AP in Hong Kong in 2008.
Jerome Favre AP

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Code Switch
9:03 am
Sat February 28, 2015

A 'Show Boat' With An Asian-American Cast Hits The Rocks

Originally published on Mon March 2, 2015 12:45 pm

A heads-up to our readers: This post quotes a racial slur.

When actress Erin Quill saw a casting notice earlier this month for a Show Boat musical revival with a completely Asian-American cast, she raised an eyebrow.

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Code Switch
12:41 pm
Wed February 25, 2015

African Emoji CEO: Apple 'Missed The Whole Point' With Its Diverse Emojis

Here's a set of Afro-centric emoticons that Oju Africa's CEO thinks trumps Apple's new diverse emojis.
OjuAfrica.com

Originally published on Wed February 25, 2015 6:23 pm

Alpesh Patel, the CEO of African-based emoji company Oju Africa, thinks Apple missed the mark with its new set of iPhone emoji options, which offers more skin-tone options than before.

"Look at their new emoticons — it's all about skin colour," he told Vice's Motherboard. "Diversity is not about skin colour — it's about embracing the multiple cultures out there that have no digital representation."

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Code Switch
3:47 pm
Tue February 24, 2015

Here's Where Emoji Skin-Tone Colors Come From

Here are the latest set of emoji.
AP

Originally published on Tue February 24, 2015 7:14 pm

In emoji news (one of my favorite types of weird news, ever): Apple this week released a beta operating system to its testers that finally includes noticeably browner — and, um, yellower — choices.

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Code Switch
3:20 pm
Thu February 19, 2015

Oscars Voter Says 'Selma' Cast's 'I Can't Breathe' Tees Were 'Offensive'

A scene from Selma.
Atsushi Nishijima Paramount Pictures

Originally published on Fri February 20, 2015 6:18 pm

The Hollywood Reporter is doing a series of interviews with voting members of the academy, the folks who decide who gets an Oscar. Yesterday's (anonymous) interviewee had this to say about why Selma didn't get a nod:

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Code Switch
3:08 pm
Wed February 18, 2015

After a Racial Attack, A South Philly School Tries to Heal

Duong Nghe Ly, center, at a news conference in 2011, in which Asian and community leaders discussed a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into a series of racial attacks, in Philadelphia.
Matt Rourke AP

Originally published on Wed February 18, 2015 3:21 pm

In December 2009, 30 students at a high school in South Philadelphia, mostly recent Asian immigrants, were beaten up at school by their peers. Several had to be hospitalized.

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Code Switch
3:24 pm
Tue February 17, 2015

Some Thoughtful Words — And Many Unanswered Questions — After Chapel Hill

Kheira Benkreira and Hasnia Bekkadja attend a vigil for the slain Chapel Hill victims in Washington, D.C., last week.
Win McNamee Getty Images

Originally published on Tue February 17, 2015 5:49 pm

Since the killing of three young Muslims in Chapel Hill, N.C., last week, a grand jury has indicted the victims' neighbor Craig Hicks for the murders of Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, Deah Shaddy Barakat and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha.

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Code Switch
1:12 pm
Thu February 12, 2015

'Community' Actor Ken Jeong Might Be Getting His Own Show

There's more good news in Asian-American TV land.

ABC recently greenlighted a pilot starring Ken Jeong, best known as quirky Spanish language teacher Señor Chang in Community, also The Hangover villain Mr. Chow. Jeong, who worked as a doctor for seven years before turning to acting, will play a frustrated MD who's struggling to keep the rest of his life afloat.

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Code Switch
11:10 am
Wed February 11, 2015

One Of The Chapel Hill Victims Was Raising Funds To Help Syrian Refugees

Yusor Mohammad, 21, and Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, were shot and killed on Tuesday evening in North Carolina. The couple married last December.
Courtesy of Our Three Winners

Originally published on Wed February 11, 2015 2:28 pm

On Tuesday night, three young Muslims were shot dead near the University of North Carolina's Chapel Hill campus.

From member station WUNC:

"46-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks has been charged with 3 counts of 1st Degree Murder for the murders of Deah Barakat, a second-year student [at UNC] in the School of Dentistry and his wife, Yusor, who had planned to begin her dental studies here in the fall. Her sister, Razan, a student at NC State University, was also killed."

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Code Switch
10:41 am
Mon February 9, 2015

Graphic Novelist Adrian Tomine Takes On The Notorious Long Duk Dong

In 2001, graphic novelist Adrian Tomine (Shortcomings) published a pungent one-page comic describing his own history with the legacy of Long Duk Dong.
Adrian Tomine

Originally published on Mon February 9, 2015 2:35 pm

On Friday, I explained what's "cringeworthy" about Sixteen Candles' Long Duk Dong, whose broken English and social ineptitude left a painful stamp on many Asian-American children of the '80s.

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Code Switch
3:16 pm
Fri February 6, 2015

What's So 'Cringeworthy' About Long Duk Dong in 'Sixteen Candles'?

Gedde Watanabe as Long Duk Dong in Sixteen Candles.
Universal/The Kobal Collection

Originally published on Thu March 26, 2015 7:21 am

In Thursday's post about failed Asian-American TV shows, I called actor Gedde Watanabe's notorious performance as Long Duk Dong in Sixteen Candles "cringeworthy." Some of you piped up to ask, Hey, what's wrong with Long Duk Dong?

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Code Switch
1:02 pm
Thu February 5, 2015

A Brief, Weird History Of Squashed Asian-American TV Shows

David Carradine played a Shaolin monk and martial arts expert in Kung Fu.
ABC Photo Archives Getty Images

Originally published on Mon February 9, 2015 9:54 am

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Code Switch
12:44 pm
Tue January 20, 2015

Barbie Has Some Royal Competition In Nigeria

Taofick Okoya sells between 6,000 and 9,000 of his Queens of Africa and Naija Princess dolls a month and reckons he has 10 to 15 percent of a small but fast-growing market.
Akintunde Akinleye Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Thu January 22, 2015 8:26 am

In Nigeria, Barbie has some fierce — some brown — competition: Taofick Okoya, a 43-year-old entrepreneur, has created Queens of Africa dolls and Naija Princess dolls that are outselling Mattel's classics. Okoya tells Reuters that he sells about 6,000 to 9,000 dolls a month and that he has "about 10-15 percent of a small but fast-growing market."

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Code Switch
3:24 pm
Wed December 31, 2014

2014 Stories At The Intersection Of Race And Sports

Former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, pictured with associate V. Stiviano. Her recordings of his racist remarks about blacks sparked an NBA scandal this spring and cost him his team.
Associated Press

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Monkey See
6:54 am
Thu December 18, 2014

The Many Rabbit Holes (Or Should We Say Labyrinths) Of Serial

Sarah Koenig and producer Dana Chivvis in the studio.
Elise Bergerson Serial

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 4:01 pm

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Code Switch
1:22 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

A Brief History Of Racial Protest In Sports

Members of the St. Louis Rams raise their arms in a "hands up, don't shoot" pose as they walk onto the field before an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders.
L.G. Patterson AP

On Sunday, five St. Louis Rams players jogged onto the field with their arms raised by their heads, a stream of fog behind them: hands up, don't shoot.

The players — Tavon Austin, Kenny Britt, Jared Cook, Chris Givens and Stedman Bailey — were invoking the gesture that's been widely used in protesting the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson. This followed the announcement that a grand jury would not indict Wilson in Brown's death, and the release of a hefty batch of evidence shown to the jury by St. Louis prosecutor Robert McCullough.

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Code Switch
2:51 am
Thu November 27, 2014

Stories Of Your First Thanksgiving In The U.S.

We don't endorse using a trident to carve your turkey.
floodllama Flickr

Originally published on Thu November 27, 2014 11:12 am

This past week, we called for stories about your first Thanksgiving in the United States. Who'd you spend it with? Where were you coming from? What'd you eat? What'd you think of it? we wondered.

And many of the stories we heard from you were about food: You had issues roasting the turkey properly. Your mom found, um, a creative solution to making your bird golden-brown. You ate a lot of different alternative Thanksgiving meals. Your stories were goofy and weird, but most of them made us smile. Here are some of them:

Leticia Ortiz

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Code Switch
7:57 am
Wed November 26, 2014

In Ferguson, A Trove Of Evidence — But No Trial

A photo of officer Darren Wilson released as part of evidence shown before the grand jury.
CBS News

Originally published on Wed November 26, 2014 11:23 am

On Monday night, St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch delivered the news that police officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted in the shooting death of Michael Brown. And in an unusual move, the announcement was accompanied by the release of an enormous batch of evidence presented to the grand jury — including much-talked-about photos of Wilson, taken after he shot and killed Brown.

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Code Switch
1:38 pm
Sun November 23, 2014

Running Late? Nah, Just On 'CPT'

Almost there! Always delayed.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Mon November 24, 2014 8:19 am

In our semi-regular Word Watch feature, we take a look at a word or phrase that has caught our attention, whether for its history, usage, etymology, or just because it has an interesting story.

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Code Switch
6:02 pm
Tue November 18, 2014

Ex-Georgia Gov. Carl Sanders, Racial Moderate In A Split South, Dies

Former Georgia Gov. Carl Sanders shakes hands with members of the crowd at a campaign event leading up to a runoff against Jimmy Carter for the Democratic nomination for Governor in Atlanta.
AP

Originally published on Tue November 18, 2014 8:26 pm

Carl E. Sanders, who served as governor of Georgia from 1963 to 1967 and is credited with bringing about more racial integration to the state, died in Atlanta on Sunday. He was 89.

Sanders was considered to be a Southern moderate, and fought to create a "New South." His politics set him apart from lawmakers who tried to keep public schools and facilities segregated.

In his inaugural address in January 1963, Sanders said:

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Code Switch
11:19 am
Tue November 18, 2014

The Many Stories Behind Double-Eyelid Surgery

Double eyelids, single eyelids — ” why do we change our eyes, or keep them the way they are?
Claire O'Neill/NPR

Originally published on Fri November 21, 2014 12:23 pm

This is the second half of a look at the history and motivations behind the Asian blepharoplasty, popularly known as "double-eyelid surgery." On Monday, we dug into its background and some of its history. Today, we'll explore the "why."

A lot of assumptions are made about why people undergo double-eyelid surgery. Assumptions like: They wanted to look more white, or they wanted to look less Asian.

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Code Switch
4:15 am
Mon November 17, 2014

Is Beauty In The Eye(Lid) Of The Beholder?

A plastic surgeon performs a double-eyelid surgery on a patient at the BK Clinic in Seoul in August 2007.
Han Jae-Ho Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Fri November 21, 2014 12:25 pm

This is part one of a two-part series looking at the history and motivations behind the Asian blepharoplasty, popularly known as "double-eyelid surgery." Find part two here.

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Code Switch
6:03 am
Tue October 28, 2014

A Timeline Of Sitcoms Featuring Families Of Color

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in the early days — with the original Aunt Viv, too!
AP

Originally published on Thu February 5, 2015 1:19 pm

We've heard some of the same comments a lot about this fall's television lineup, which includes the shows Black-ish, Cristela, Selfie and Fresh Off the Boat: "Why is diversity all the rage now?" asked Robert Rorke of the New York Post. And Esther Breger called this season the "most diverse in recent TV history."

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Race
6:50 am
Thu September 18, 2014

Jacqueline Woodson On Being A 'Brown Girl' Who Dreams

Author Jacqueline Woodson reads from her newest novel, Sept. 15.
Kat Chow NPR

Originally published on Fri September 19, 2014 1:37 pm

The first time author Jacqueline Woodson says she really understood poetry — and loved it — was after reading Langston Hughes in elementary school.

"Until then, I thought it was some code that older white people used to speak to each other. I didn't know what was going on with the line breaks and the words," Woodson recalls. "Once the floodgates opened, they opened."

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