not who you think i am

Interesting Newsweek article written by a Korean American author about her experiences in which people confuse her for other asian women. When she catches herself perpetrating the same "crime", she confesses that some situations are caused by carelessness rather than that old racial outlook that "all asians look alike"

Is this a problem that happens to Filipinos or is it more common among the Koreans, Chinese and Japanese? I admit that I've made the same joke that certain asians look alike. Hey, that asian girl that got kicked off Project Runway looks like Vera Wang too.

During my youth in the 90's, there seemed to be a style guide that enhanced the resemblances. I'm dating myself but the girls always had long straight black hair (the typical pinay dyed theirs), J.Crew top, designer bag, jeans with a slight flare at the bottom and a chunky shoe. Dudes either had floppy bangs or spiky hair. I'm sure times have changed but I'm not around enough young Asian kids to keep up.

In my experiences, people haven't confused me for other asians - instead they've been more confused about my ethnicity. Probably because my features aren't typically "asian". My Japanese wife always points out (in jealousy as she puts it) my straight pointy european nose. In trash talking with friends back in college, a couple chinese guys called me a "mutt". Then there was a Korean-American co-worker who greeted our Chinese-American colleague by saying "What's up blood?" before teasing me by saying my blood was tainted by europeans while theirs was pure. As a kid, my skin was pretty dark (I don't know why its lighter now. Is it because I'm stuck inside an office all day? The whiteness of my company rubbing off on me?) and one day, a teacher kept yelling this other kid's name in my general direction. I kept walking but she kept yelling that name. Finally, I turned around and she embarrassingly apologized for confusing me with my African-American classmate. I laughed it off. Well, I was a dark filipino kid with cropped hair and glasses. He was a light-skinned black kid with glasses.

And I've probably repeated similar stories on here where people have confused me for other ethnicities - most commonly hispanic. The Middle-Eastern gas attendant that greeted me with an "hola". The Korean grocery shopper at the Korean mart who confused me for the Mexican cart collector by pushing her cart towards me in the parking lot. Most recently, the hygienist at the dentist's office greeted me, looked over my chart and asked if I was Italian because of my last name. Now that's a reach. I almost blurted out "Did you really look at me when you shook my hand?!"

Can't say the same for my wife. I don't know if she's been confused for other asian women specifically. But I've witnessed her being confused for other Asian ethnicities. Then you have the more ignorant people who call all asians as "Chinese". Philly people say that all the time. You're either white, black, latino or chinese. They like to keep things simple.

While there is a Filipino presence in certain pockets of South Jersey, I don't think white suburbia is quite aware of it. That's probably why I was overjoyed when a new co-worker guessed my background correctly. He even explained his reasoning at length: "Well you look 'kinda' Asian but your name is more Spanish. And I had a professor in college that looked asian but had a spanish name too. I was curious and asked about his background. He said he was Filipino. After that, I could tell that any asian looking people with Spanish names have to be Filipino."


kiita said...

i heart you.

the last line=simple rule of thumb. at least, a start.

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