¨What Are You?¨

It’s been another long day at my part-time job incompatible to my degree. As I type this post away on a Chromebook on my lap, I can’t help but melt back into the chair and put my sore feet on the desk. Standing for 8 hours, running back and forth between the cash registers and the dressing rooms are no fun, but it’s not the worst part of the day.

For the 527th time, someone shot me the same old question: ¨(You are so pretty¨). What are you?¨ That was before they went off into guessing: Chinese? Japanese? Despite being after answered, she continued by saying ¨Oh, you are —-. I know some Filipinos who go to my church¨.

Excuse me, but what the hell?

I cannot even begin to express how sick and tired of this situation. But let me try anyway.

My initial response is feeling a strong urge to step backward. I don’t appreciate a stranger asking me about my roots as THE FIRST THING that they see me. It is intruding, if not plain rude. What also annoys me is that they just ask only for the sake of asking. They only wanted to see if they could guess correctly as if it was a game, not with the intention to get to know me better. None of them could care less about what my name is.

Secondly…

Hmm, it is difficult to discuss the second point, because it has to do with stereotypes…

Here in the US, like in many other places, certain populations have been labeled with the stereotype of having a certain kind of face, eyes, nose, lips, or skin tone, etc. Needless to say, much of which have been linked to the Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, and also maybe Vietnamese…or Asians in general. But to many people here, ¨Asia¨ seems to be consisted of these 4 (or maybe less) countries. An Asian is probably either Chinese or Japanese. ¨What’s the difference?¨

Carrying on with the stereotypes that I am hesitant to talk about, if they have a certain image of a Chinese in mind, somehow they fail to materialize the stereotypes in their close-minded heads and draw false conclusions. They end up categorizing me, someone with a darker olive complexion and double-lidded eyes for a Chinese. Because that is all they know and know to do.

Now I have heard of Asian Americans (who refer to themselves as ¨Asians¨ despite having no connection with Asia whatsoever except for being descended from one) who would be happy to be mistaken for a Korean or Japanese…but that is definitely not my case.

Why would I want to pretend to be from anywhere else when I come from one of the only two countries in the world that have never been colonized? It’s a place where nationalism runs strong and deep. Just try to guess the person’s nationality incorrectly and you are in for offending the person from this country.

This is not to say that countries that have been colonized in the past are anything less. I am only saying that my fellow compatriots are especially proud of our history.

But that history doesn’t matter to Americans (hell, sometimes they don’t give a sh!t about their own history). This is a place where its people try hard to campaign it as the land of the free, where there is no royal blood and all are equal. It’s a place that is said one can achieve anything if he/she works towards it. What matters is now, and what matters most is tomorrow. History is occasionally remembered, but never to its entirety.

I know because I had grown up here. The history lessons, when not involving the US itself, is very much Eurocentric. ¨World History¨ class is essentially Western Civilizations, concluded by a few lessons about ¨America¨. Similarly, in an American History class, much of history is still left untold. It was always mostly about the country’s accomplishments and superiority. The dark anecdotes were rarely discussed. Hell, I cannot name more than 3 Native American groups even if you force me. May I add that much focus has always be delegated towards Jamestown, not St. Augustine? It is unfortunate that I had to find out on my own that St. Augustine is actually the oldest European settlement in the country. It seems the classroom prefers to distance its lectures from the natives and other European settlers as far as possible.

Now that makes it seems like it’s all about Americans of European descents, but it is not so. In fact, the lady who asked me ¨What are you¨ today is one of the African descent. Can you imagine if I ask her ¨And you? Nigerian?¨ All hell would break lose.

Despite the fact that African Americans are considered a minority, it seems that only those who fall in between the ¨white¨ and ¨black¨ are subject to others’ curiosity. We are constantly coerced to be conscious of our appearance and identity by being asked such a ridiculous question.

My preferred response? I’m human.

~Brisa

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3 thoughts on “¨What Are You?¨”

  1. Spain should name you ambassador or even grant you a dukedom, i mean, you are the only blogger that i follow with balls to say the plain truth about the reality of the USA with the mission of San Augustine being the first European settlement! i now love you from the bottom of my heart, haha
    everyone knows that the AngloSaxon world in USA since the early 20th century has tried to hide or destroy the great contribution of Spain on that soil, by favouring the British that arrived much later by the way.
    few US citizens actually know that Colorado is a Spanish name meaning red coloured, that Florida means Flowery, that Nevada means snowed or covered with snow, that Texas comes from Tejas which is another Spanish name, etc
    there is a reason why many descendants of Apache or Sioux have Spanish last names, the reason is that Spaniards were the first Europeans not only to arrive and settle, but also the first to fight and trade with the Natives, in fact the famous Apache warrior, Geronimo, spoke only two languages: his native tongue and yes Spanish, even he used to communicate with the US Army in Spanish!
    well as for Asians…in Spain we mainly may think of Chinese, perhaps it has got to do with immigration (whose restaurants do not serve authentic Chinese food by the way)..i never think of Filipinos, Koreans or Vietnameses, and much less of Hindues or Paquistanies, yet all of them are Asian.
    anyways we are citizens of the Earth, hence we are Terrícolas in Spanish, and Earthians in English? by the way you are right that you should ask African Americans if they are from Nigeria next time they ask what are you!

  2. I am ready to accept the ambassadorship/ladyship whenever Spain is ready! I believe Spain has been awarding foreigners who service the country or help strengthen relations between Spain and other countries. In fact, I remember reading about this kind of award on the preface of my first Spanish textbook whose author had received this award from the previous King of Spain. She is a fellow compatriot from my country of origin who studied in Spain and is now teaching at the country’s top university.

    It’s a shame how incomplete the US education system is when it comes to the history of their own country. I hope for the best but it may be too late.

    As for the case of Asians in Spain, I completely understand. Unlike the US, Spain is still fairly new to this kind of immigration, so it makes sense that when the Spanish people think of Asians, they think first of the Chinese as they do not have much contact with people from other Asian countries…but maybe I will be able to change that 😉

    1. there is a lot of ignorance and stereotypes about Asians, in fact i have never gone to a Chinese restaurant as i think that they may serve rat, cat or dog.

      when i was a child there were many ducks near the fishing port and they strangely dissapeared in the blink of an eye…did the Chinese capture them in the middle of the night to cook pato a la naranja?

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