a left-eyed girl

living in a 2 dimensional world

Posts Tagged ‘ethnicity

You speak-a chinese?

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While volunteering to help set up a local 4th of July celebration, I met a bunch of people, including one asian woman, presumably of Chinese descent. One and a half hours after we had started setting up, during a lull in the work, she introduced herself. She did not do it in the typical way of starting with her name. Instead she chose to ask me a question in her heavily accented voice:

“You speak-a Chinese?”

I told her that no, I do not speak Chinese, and that I am not even ethnically Chinese in the first place (thanks for assuming that I’m Chinese). When she learned that I was Filipina, she then asked if I speak Tagalog. The woman was hell-bent on assigning a spoken (Asian) language to me. When I replied that I do not speak Tagalog either, she once again did not respond with the regular response. Most people simply say, “Oh ok” when I state the sad fact that I only speak one language fluently, but not this woman. She then demanded:

“Why not?”

Why not? Did she really just ask me that? Needless to say, I was annoyed. I then told her that my dad speaks only English, to have her say, “Why’s that? You must have been born here.” Ah… assuming my place of birth now, as well as the ethnic descent of my father to still be Asian. Even the replies that, “No, I was born in Manila,” and “My dad is from NY” were really not enough for her. I could see more questions brewing as to this mystery why my assumedly Asian dad did not speak Some Asian Language and how it could be that I wasn’t born in America and my parents still did not make me learn Some Asian Language. I think she was starting to think that my parents were terribly irresponsible for not teaching me Some Asian Language at some point.

I really did not feel like getting into the fact that my dad is a white half-polish Jew from NY, because it would only make her more confused and also make it more difficult for her to put me into a neat little ethnic category. What? Your dad is white?  But you don’t look like you’re mixed. And then the person will Care Bear Stare me into the ground. I am well versed when it comes to the standard responses when it comes to discussing my family background.

The entire exchange made me a bit angry because:

A) She does not have the right to ask me about my ethnic descent
B) She could not accept that I do not speak another language and was quite argumentative
C) This was our very first verbal exchange after an hour and a half of me trying to catch her eye and introduce myself to her

By the way, the top ethnicities that I get mistaken for are Chinese and Korean, especially round these parts of the Bay Area. Being mistaken for Korean is very rare, and I never get mistaken for Vietnamese or Filipina. I think that most people make the mistake of assuming that I’m Chinese because Frank looks really Chinese and if I was with him, then I must be Chinese too, right?

Written by Reese

July 6, 2008 at 8:48 am

Posted in random encounters

Tagged with ,