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Much of the items available for sale at the Con deal with comics and pop culture, but one Torrance-based T-shirt manufacturer is more focused on culture and racial politics.
Ryan Suda is a Japanese-American who runs Blacklava.net, a T-shirt company that started out making surf wear in 1992 but moved its focus to satirical shirts spoofing stereotypes about Asian-Americans.
Some of the more outrageous shirts in Suda’s catalog have slogans like “I Suck At Math,” “Nobody Loves An Asia Phil” and “I Will Not Love You Long Time.”
Suda says Asians are stereotyped by many Caucasians as a “model minority” and he came to realize the parody potential of this in 1996 after attending a class in Asian-American history at Cal State Fullerton.
He was inspired to make his first protest shirt after hearing a poem called “Asian, Not Oriental” and put that slogan on a shirt.
Since then, Suda has been dedicated to using the T-shirt to raise culture awareness of the stereotypes facing Asian Americans, but admits his best-selling shirts tend to feature food, such as tofu or the Filipino dish adobo.
Recently, he has started selling shirts that read, “I Love North Korea. It’s Kim Jong Il I Hate” but admits that’s still a slow seller.
Although many Asian Americans love Suda’s scandalous slogans, he says one shirt has garnered negative controversy from females.
It’s a parody of a Craig’s List personal ad from a single white male who is seeking a submissive obedient Asian female to be his comfort girl and give him back rubs.
“Some women think I’m making fun of them – and I’m not. Others think I’m protesting interracial dating – but I’m not. I’m just against the stereotypes.”
Check out www.blacklava.net