I recently got a comment on one of my posts at idreamwords, and guess what? The author shared this video with me! It’s super short and very entertaining, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard at least half of these. The ones I’m most familiar with:
- Where are you really from? (when I tell them I’m from California, I usually get the question again with added emphasis on the “really” or I get the more irritating (because of the underlying assumptions it belies) question, Yeah, but where are your parents from?)
- So, your mom is…Asian? (although typically people won’t venture their own guess, so it just drags on into uncomfortable silence until and unless I supply an answer)
- So you’re, like, half…?
- You don’t look Mexican. (sub in “Asian” for “Mexican” and I get this one all the time…or I get something along the lines of, You’re part Asian? I would have guessed Mexican/American Indian/other)
- You look so exotic! (I hate this one, even though it’s often intended as a compliment)
- What are you? (not quite as annoying as you might think, probably because there’s something refreshing in its straightforward nature)
- What do you celebrate? (growing up, this one was always, You celebrate ____ (any mainstream holiday, such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, the 4th of July…)? But I thought your family was Asian. It’s an interesting commentary on perceptions of race, nationality, and religion.)
- I love your hair. Can I touch it? (wouldn’t think I’d get that, but apparently straight hair is also “exotic” enough to warrant fascination…especially since the comment usually includes the caveat, Your hair is so straight/shiny/thick!)
One of the ones I get most frequently, which isn’t in the video, is So…do you speak Spanish? This one sometimes takes the alternate form of What languages do you speak? I mean, other than English. It’s ironic because people often ask me why I do what I do, why I’m so preoccupied with race, or (in the case of more defensive or resistant people) why I insist on dragging race into the conversation all the time. My answer to that is that I’ve been reminded of my race through others’ questions, guesses, and not-so-subtle interrogations about my so-called origins for as long as I can remember. How can I forget about race when everyone else is so intent on figuring out what I am so they know what box to put me in? It’s as if people feel that if they can’t label me, they can’t interact with me without potentially offending me.
In any case, I found this short video entertaining and insightful. It kind of lets the situation speak for itself by refusing any sort of interpretation or analysis.