In response to my post earlier this week about ethnicity, both Busy Mom and Liz Ditz told me to go read State of Grace who tackles it from a more personal approach. She wanted to know:
1. Is it okay to ask of someone’s racial background?
Sure! In fact, you might want to ask before making comments like this one – “I think Korean women are the most beautiful.” Huh? Did he know that I’m actually CHINESE? Yes or no, it’s a horrid comment. Butthead.
2. If you are okay with asking someone about her or his ethnicity, how do you pose the question? (Frequently used queries include – “What’s your heritage?” “What’s your race?” Or, the oft-asked but incorrectly worded, “What’s your nationality?”)
This one’s tough. Just cut to the chase. “What’s your ethnicity?” is ok with me. “Where do you come from?” is not so good. In Japan, I’d get that question because people couldn’t understand why I looked Asian but spoke English. Then if I said I was from California, they’d look even more confused and ask where my parents were from. If I were fourth generation Chinese (which I’m not), just imagine how much more I could mess with their minds.
3. If you are curious about someone’s racial background, but hesitate to ask her or him to discuss it, what prevents you from posing the question?
I don’t want them to think that’s all I notice about them although our skin color/ethnicity/race is clearly one of our defining characteristics. In fact, even when I’m describing someone I shy away from using any race-connected terms which is dumb because it detracts from painting a complete profile.
4. If you are of color/not white*, is it okay for a white person to ask about your racial background? If you take issue with a white person asking about your racial background, please explain why this presents a problem for you.
I don’t mind if people ask me. It’s far better than assuming I’m something other than I am.
Political correctness means that we’re to assume everyone is equally the same – men and women, white and black, Asian and Caucasian. Reality tells us that’s not true. We’re different!!! Just that the differences shouldn’t be preset at good or bad.
Yesterday I had someone ask when I came to London. London’s a fabulous place because there’s a mix of ethnicities, cultures, and nationalities in almost every corner of the city. I’m not sure where the woman who was asking is originally from but her English is heavily accented. When I said I had come to London about a year ago but grew up in California, she said, “Oooh. That’s why your English is perfect.”
I was not offended in the least that she wanted to know more about me. My appearance sets-up expectations while my behavior shatters them. As long as people accept me for who I am, it’s all good.
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