Nov, 2010

Just Call Me Oriental
Lela Lee – You Rock

This morning, an older gentleman came to my house to pick up an electric sander he bought on Craigslist from my boyfriend. I’m such a nice girlfriend that I agreed to risk life and limb and wait for this strange man to show up, pay and take the sander while my boyfriend was at work. So let’s call this gentleman, John. Why? Because that was actually his name and even if it wasn’t, you’d still probably believe me if I said it was. Lot’s of guys named John.

OK, so John looked to be in his early 70s or so and after he plugged in the sander to test it and gave me the cash, he asked me, “Where are you from? Are you Korean?”

OMG!!! Here goes the conversation I’ve had with one zillion white people who just can’t accept the fact that Asian Americans are actually AMERICANS!!! AHHHHH! I try my best to be patient with these folks, but come on. It’s 2010. I get it. You fought in the Korean War and I’m grateful for your service to both countries, but does that mean you’re still incapable of accepting people of color as Americans 57 years later? If I had an accent, then ok. I think it’s a little bit of an excuse to ask someone where they’re from. We do that to white people with accents all the time, but I speak English without an accent and any of you know me that my mannerisms, clothing, household, etc are all pretty non-FOBish. I’m clearly an American. Or maybe a Canadian, but we won’t open that bag of worms. You get the point. 

Here’s the rest of out titillating dialogue:

Amy: Yes. I’m Korean, but I’ve lived here my whole life.
John: But were you born in Korea?
Amy: Yes, but…
John: Where?
Amy: Seoul but I’ve been here since I was an infant.
John: I was stationed in Korea in (insert name of Korean city north of Seoul), just north of Seoul. I could tell you were Korean. Most Americans assume that all Orientals look the same, but I can tell the difference (no you can’t dude). I lived in Korea and I can tell the features of different nationalities. (WOW! Good for you, cause I sure as hell can’t.)
Amy: Well, there are some characteristics, but you can’t always tell. Especially Chinese and Korean people since Korean people…
John: Well, Japanese people too because you know Japan occupied Korea for 40 years. (So now he’s contradicting himself… you can’t tell dude)
(The next section of dialogue was kind of a blur as I was just trying to get him to leave)
Amy: OK, I hope the sander works out for you.
John: You have a nice day now.
Amy: You too. Happy holidays.

Then John got into his non-Oriental truck and drove away.

I’m not going to rant and rave about this exchange, I’m just going to say this one thing: Don’t have this discussion with an Asian Americans. It bores the shit out of us. And just for fun – you should all visit this website: AllLookSame.com. Have fun and John, I hope you’re enjoying your sander.


Leave Your Comment

  1. Jason says:

    haha can't believe he said oriental to top it off

  2. Kevin Vandever says:

    I have a friend who was born in Cambodia but moved to the US when she was about 6 days old. She kind of got tired of similar conversations, too, so she changes things up a bit each time someone asks. I think the last time someone asked where she was from, she said that she was Cherokee Indian and that her people were here first. The dude didn't know what to think.

  3. Michelle says:

    I so relate to this rant! I experience this on a daily basis, but to make it worse I was born in the US which throws everyone off. "So you were born here?" "How? You don't look like it."

    In fact growing up in the South, sadly folks thought I should speak another language, but I only could speak French, which I learned from French class! "So the only other language you speak is French? You don't look French." I'm not making this up.

  4. OakMonster says:

    HAH! I also got a lot of "You're Thai? Really!? You don't look Thai." And the follow up after I mentioned my husband is "And your husband is…er…Thai/American?"

    My reply to that one is: "Oh, he's a white boy. He was dancing at the go-go bar in Bangkok when I rescued him. Any other question?"

  5. Kittie Flyn says:

    As the saying goes, if I had a dollar… this is a situation I encounter at least once a week. I've considered making a sandwich board that says, "No, I'm not Japanese, I'm Korean", "no I don't speak Korean", "No, I don't know how to make Kimchi", etc.

    I spent the majority of my youth in the South and the number of rude/racist questions was amazing. It wasn't just kids in school that asked ridiculous questions. People loved to stare when we were out with our parents. They'd come up to us point blank and ask why they had Oriental kids with them, if we were the maid's kids.

    It's so surprising though that in an internationally global world that people are subject to questions!

  6. Soo says:

    Oh man.. Apparently even having a black president is not enough to convince some people that Americans come in all different colors.

  7. Amy Anderson says:

    I love it when I tell people I was adopted, then people ask, "So your parents are American then?" What the hell do they think I am? Or they ask me if my boyfriend is Asian or American. What they are implying is are the WHITE. White, and now black, have become synonymous with "American" in this country and I have white people debate the shit out of this with me all the f-ing time, but it's true.

    The term is used in in casting (acting) all the time. When a casting director calls for an "All American" guy or girl… I don't think they're looking for me. Why don't they just say white/caucasian with girl next door looks? Or something like that. Ugh. Drives me nuts.

    And people get really confused when they hear my white boyfriend's name because his first name is Lee. So they make the assumption that he's Asian too, but then they don't understand why my name is Amy Anderson! LOL!

  8. Eunice says:

    My sister is the Angry Little Asian Girl! I know it's frustrating, but it can go the other way. Every time Eugene meets someone from Germany he speaks the five words he knows because he was stationed there with the army. People try to connect with other people the only way they know how. For me, it's usually with food so it's non-controversial.

  9. Carri says:

    I'm constantly reminding my dad that rugs are Oriental and people are Asian. Geez.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Also, you should remind "older" people that you are indeed NOT a rug so you're NOT oriental. You're you.-That should be good enough.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Download 'I FAILED MATH' from iTunes!

Listen to me on Pandora Radio!