Tag: casual racism

{From the Vault} …But where are you FROM?

Ah yes. I wrote this in September 2013 and for reasons I cannot understand, it lay dormant in my drafts folder until now! I sure had my ranty pants on, but to be fair, the issue has been a persistent one throughout my life. It shits me still! 

I am asked this question ALL the time. My story is actually quite interesting when I’m able to sit back and be objective about it, but honestly? I am a bit blasé about it. I was adopted from South Korea when I was 5 months old. I’ve been Aussie ever since, but there’s this one thing that gives me away. My looks. My almond shaped eyes, my dark, straight hair (when I haven’t coloured the bejeezus out of it) and my olive coloured skin (which is a weird way to describe a skin tone because olives are usually green or black as far as I know – but I’m not an olive expert).

I think that if I had Asian parents or mad chopstick skills (I seriously don’t) then maybe I’d be all like, here’s my story, bitches. It’s exactly what you wanted to hear!

Problem is, conversations with curious individuals go a bit like this…

Stranger: Where are you from?
Kez: *home town*
Stranger: No, where are you FROM?
Kez: *bemused face*

Stranger (with an “Ooh, I’m so clever” face on): So…where are your PARENTS from, then?”
Kez: England and Wales.
Stranger: No, BEFORE THAT.
Kez: They weren’t alive before that?

Eventually, I’ll throw them a bone.

Kez: I’m adopted. From Korea. When I was a baby.
Stranger: Oh, so can you speak Korean?
Kez: Could you talk when you were 5 months old?

WTF.

And no, I’m not always a smart arse out loud (but I do think it).

Thing is, there are lots of people who have a nice vibe about them, who ask me questions respectfully and build a rapport with me. But there are also lots of people who feel entitled to my back story. Why? Because I look different. As in not white.

That’s when I get a little uppity.

Do I get to walk up to anyone who has a physical difference about them and start asking intrusive questions? What if I was to ask all the white looking people I see what the eff is up with their white skin and their reasons for being here?

Like, “Where are you from? Where were you born? What do your parents look like? What do you eat at home?”

Out of nowhere. Like literally on the street or in a supermarket. No lead up conversation. Just “WHY DO YOU LOOK LIKE THAT AND WHAT LED YOU TO BE IN THIS SUPERMARKET?”

Hey, maybe I was just looking for a loaf of wholemeal bread.

(don’t get me started on how my local supermarket bakery hasn’t had wholemeal bread on the shelves before lunch time for weeks now)

Maybe I get annoyed, because what I look like is such a small part of who I am. By fixating on my race/general appearance, people are missing out on wanting to see so many other aspects of who I am and “where I’m from”. While it is a part of my identity, my country of birth is just not that significant to me in my day-to-day life.

Rant over!

PSA: Not all ‘Asians’ look the same. You don’t know me!

So, I get recognised and remembered a lot. I know. You’re thinking I must be a big deal. People everywhere tell me they know me from somewhere.

“Oh,” I’ll say in an airy tone, “I get that all the time…”

But seriously. I do get it all the time.

And the reason is not that glamourous.

It’s because I’m…

ASIAN.

And a whole bunch of people seem to think ‘we’ all look the same. Yes. That.

I’m always probably related to someone. Or the SPITTING IMAGE of someone’s best friend (ahem – I think their Asian friend needs to get better friends who pay more attention to them). Or didn’t I come into the store the other day for that thing? Nope. Nope. Nope. Wasn’t me.

No. It was definitely you! You bought the thingy with the other thingies and we talked about stuff and things!  

Um. No it wasn’t. I didn’t do it. I have an alibi.

Pretty sure it was you. 

Nope.

Let’s agree to disagree. I’ll just stare at you like you’ve got it wrong until you feel uncomfortable and leave, OK? 

Um. OK.

Unless there’s some crazy doppelgänger of mine out there, I’d say it’s not just some crazy coincidence. Unlike that amazing Twinsters doco (you can find it on Netflix), which made me secretly fantasise that I did indeed have a twin I didn’t know about. How wild would that be???

Years ago, a mutual ‘friend’ confused me with another of my friends (who is also adopted from Korea but looks not much like me). We are still not impressed.

Did you know that Chinese people look different from Thai people, who look different from Japanese people, who look different from Indonesian people, who look different from Korean people (and that’s not even covering anywhere near all of the regions and countries)? Yes. That’s right. We are all different. And even then, our looks might not dictate our culture (as in my case as an adoptee). Also, just like ‘white/Western looking’ people, we are all as unique and as similar as anyone else – who would have thought.  ‘Asian’ is not a nationality, y’all!

I am not going to intimately understand the life of your Chinese sister in law. Or your Filipino aunty by marriage. Unless, you know, I’ve actually met them.

Yes, I am aware of the Gangnam Style dance, along with the rest of the Western world. No. I will not do it.

It can honestly be as simple as treating each person as an individual. Getting to know them. Seeing them for who they are (and listening when they tell us).  I think it’s simply ignorance that stops people from being able to get past the ‘they all look the same’ concept.

Expose yourselves to people of all different races and nationalities. Learn about all of the world’s cultures and show an interest in those who defy the stereotypes. Let people tell you about themselves and really listen. Your life will get way more awesome.

~ PSA Over ~

Peace out! ✌️

This video is seriously my life ?