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racial profiling by my own race

when i first was anticipating moving to new orleans four-ish years ago, i remember one of the things i was looking forward to was being a discriminated-against minority. it was my understanding that there weren't a lot of asians in n'awlins, and i thought it would be interesting to see how i would be viewed given that i was moving from a place that had more acceptance of asian culture. i figured that even if people didn't look down on me automatically that i'd at least get some profiling going on.

it turns out that really the only profiling i get down here is from other asians.

sure, being asian has gotten me more easily recognized in places and has actually earned me a pretty consistent stint of free drinks and fries at Cooter Browns, but other than that i don't get the sense that the various strangers, acquaintances, or friends make any judgement on who i am because of my race - unless they're other asians.

There are two distinct examples of this.

One is with the Mikimoto restaurant on Carrollton. This was a place that Mark and i used to frequent when we lived across from each other. Most of the time it was a lunch trip to take advantage of their lunch specials. I would typically get either the Chicken Katsu platter or beef platter with a sushi add-on, but sometimes i would get sashimi, or other things from the lunch menu specials.

on one occasion, i was getting tired of the normal lunch stuff and wanted some variety and so i decided to look elsewhere on the menu to see what else there was to offer. I ended up getting a plate of udon noodles with chicken. I'm 99% certain that this is the only time that i've ever ordered the udon noodles at that restaurant, but ever since that time, one of the workers at the restaurant (who i think is also a manager), upon seeing me ever enter the restaurant, asks me some variant of the question, "no udon noodles for you today?" as if that's what i order on a regular basis. And despite the fact that all of the times i've been to that restaurant subsequently i've never ordered the udon again, the question almost always gets asked, and it's now been going on for at least TWO YEARS.

The second example happened earlier tonight. A phone call with Katie ended up lasting beyond the time when i was able to go to the grocer to get stuff to cook or at the very least one of their tasty salads for dinner, so i was contemplating alternatives. It's been several months since i've gotten food at the one decent Chinese American place here in town, so i decided to get a pick-up order.

The people that run that place look like they're chinese (i'm not actually the greatest at telling the difference between japanese/chinese/korean, but i'm pretty sure they were chinese). When i went up to the counter and said that i had an order for pick-up, the woman who was handling my order was incredibly warm to me. Asked me if i needed chopsticks, said, "enjoy your dinner" with a very friendly smile, some of the other works. I didn't look to see if she had a ring on, but she was probably in her late 40s early 50s, so i didn't think she was coming on to me. It felt very much like a, "oh wow, you're one of us; i'm going to be extra nice to you, we asians have to stick together," sort of vibe.

which is somewhat awkward for me for a lot of small reasons, but one main one: when it comes down to it, i'm a fraud when it comes to being an asian. i appreciate asian culture much more than i used to and some of my spiritual leanings tend to lean towards asian practices, but otherwise i don't feel that much of my actual Identity has much to do with my asian heritage. I don't know any asian languages having been stubborn about it growing up, i've never really hung out with large groups of asians together except when i was much younger and had that connection mainly because of my parents, and in general i try to portray an image of myself that transcends my physical make up regardless of whether i'm asian or black or what have you. So for other asians to feel like they have a connection to me just because i happen to be one feels about as genuine as a person who, say, wouldn't be comfortable hanging out with Malcolm McDowell because of the acting roles he generally plays which are mostly bad guys.

the funny thing is, if it were the other way around, if it were people that were dismissing me offhand or playing racial stereotypes with me being an asian, i'd feel more comfortable because then i have something to work with to prove them wrong about. I've had some important relationships in my life deteriorate due to being overestimated and overhyped; I'm much more used to and comfortable being underestimated, or at the very least taken for exactly what i am (whatever that means).

Comments

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xtingu
Mar. 15th, 2012 05:01 am (UTC)
I don't have anything to say about this, being about as white-mutt as one can be. But it was a really interesting read! Thanks for writing it.
( read spoken (1) — speak )

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