MOST RACIST THINGS SAID TO ME (AND MY FAMILY)
These aren't all. This is just what I can think of right now. Enjoy.
- •"Pass the ball, you oriental biscuit!"This was the first time I realized I looked different. 5th grade. Sean Crabtree was a long, shaggy redhead, splattered with freckles. He had a mischievous, shit-eating grin with big gaps between his teeth, and he'd skulk around the playground, hunting for the next brown kid to paint with epithets. There weren't many Asians, so I took the brunt of it. "Chink!" "Karate Kid!" "Eggroll!" It stung.
- •"Do you know where we can find oriental food?"Times Square. A family of fanny-packed Midwesterners were ambling like pigeons; the mom poked her head out and scanned the horizon. I felt her gaze connect with my almond-shaped eyes. "Oh God, here it comes," I muttered to my friends. Mama bird made her way through the sea of tourists to ask me this. I answered, "What's 'oriental' food? Noodles? Sushi? Banh mi?" She balked. I leaned over and smiled, "Sorry, I'm not from here. Also, I no speaky Engrish." I know it's mean, but it gets old.
- •"Go shoot some more people, Virginia Tech!"You know how the lanes merge if cars are parked alongside Crescent Heights? I wasn't paying attention, and a middle-aged black man in a truck thought I'd cut him off purposely. This was the same week that a Korean student murdered 32 people on the VT campus. Stunned and speechless, I rolled down my window and shouted back, "Dude, we're on the same team!"
- •"I love Asian babies."I know this is always well-intentioned - as are most of these remarks - but this one makes me squeamish. So, what're you gonna do? Throw them away once they turn 11?
- •"You don't even understand a word I'm saying, you slant-eyed gook."My parents emigrated from South Korea in the '70s, but it took a while for my dad to find a job here. Employer after the next shut him down as soon as he'd walk through the door. One manager degraded my father to his face, calling him every name in the book with a look of disgust. He just sat there and swallowed it. I should mention my dad is in medicine. These were hospital executives.
- •"Chino!"In every Latin American city, this one lands at my feet, typically by a listless street vendor. "Nope, these are selvedge denim!" I'm the only one who finds that funny.
- •"FUCK JAPS!"Sao Paulo, Brazil. There was a big Brazil vs. Japan soccer game going on and tensions were high. I was taking photographs on the street and a couple locals standing nearby let me have it. I turned around, took a good look at one of the guys' cauliflower ears, and kept it moving.
- •"I don't even think of you as Asian."WTF. What does this even mean?!
- •"..chink."Back when my Persian-American partner and I started our brand, there was this New York-based industry messageboard where designers and other personalities in the scene would talk shit. When it came to us (and our hip-hop loving Sales guy), one commenter wrote, "A bloated sand nigger, 4XL-wearing wigger, and a chink." I thought it was offensive that the others had all these disparaging qualifiers, but me just being a "chink" was bad enough.
- •"I just looove Japanese food."When I was 13, my parents had the brilliant idea to lock us up on a 2-week cruise off the Caribbean. With 2,000 vacationing Southerners. There was one other person of color on the entire boat: a vet's Vietnamese mailorder bride. My family was taking the elevator and a heavyset white woman entered. We rode in silence, but she couldn't hold it in anymore. She spun around, flashed a golden smile, and professed her love for "temperrra" and "meeso soup." We're Korean. My dad's response: "Me too."
- •"I only buy cookies from AMERICAN girl scouts."Okay, this one was directed to my wife, but I had to include it. At 8 years old, she and her Japanese-American friend were selling Girl Scout cookies outside of the Target in Culver City. An older white couple happened by, pushed the box of Samoas out of their way, and slapped this nasty vitriol across their crestfallen, confused faces. The other girl's mom was an Ethnic Studies professor at UCLA and included this anecdote in a future textbook.
- •"You speak English so well!"My wife's parents get this all the time. They're 3rd generation Japanese-American ("Sansei"). Their family has been in the States longer than many white people you know, tied up in the internment camps, set up all those cutesy shops down Sawtelle. The other day, a waitress congratulated my mother-in-law on her accent and asked where she was from. "Pasadena."
- •“Did y'all just get off a bus?”You know Schat’s Bakery in Bishop? It’s the cheese bread shop on the way to Mammoth. My friends and I were eating outside - mostly all Asian. A man came out, looking for a place to sit. Disgruntled that we’d taken up all the tables, he got in his car and pulled out of the parking lot, but not before calling us out. I lunged at his wagon, pulled my arm back, and shattered his back window with the bottom of my fist. It spiderwebbed, he paused, looked at all of us, then reconsidered, and sped off.