You might think, living in a large and culturally diverse city, I'd experience less racism and ignorance, but you would be wrong. What I've learned in my 27 years of being Asian, is that people are dumb everywhere.
What I've also come to understand, however, is that that people are often simply curious and want to learn more about Asian-ness, so I've put together a list of do's and do nots for the Asianly challenged.
Many times you may be curious as to someone's ethnic descent. That is perfectly natural and totally OK to ask about. The approach in which you find these answers is key. It is extremely easy to offend someone on this answer quest, and one must be wary of the many perils involved in fact finding here.
Wrong: Where are you from?
If you are curious as to what a person's ethnic origin is, please, for the love of God, do not ask her where she's from. To this question I almost always respond with Michigan, because that is where I am from. Sometimes I'll get a persistent, "No, I mean where are you FROM?" I told you where I'm from. If you're asking me where my parents are from, that's a different story.
Wrong: Are you Chinese?
Though I realize statistically we are all more likely to be Chinese than any other ethnicity, it is considered very impolite to assume that we are. We all think our kind of Asian is the best, so when you make the assumption that we're something other than our actual ethnicity, we get offended.
So don't ask if we're Chinese, please.
Even more wrong: Wait, don't tell me, I know what you are.... Japanese! No? You're Vietnamese!
Just, no. Stop it. Seriously.
But you look so Chinese!
No. I don't. Stop it. I am Korean, and I've seen my face staring back at me for long enough to make an association with my face and Koreans, so please don't tell me I don't look Korean. No one knows how to respond when you say something like that anyway, so don't make it weird.
Wrong: What is your nationality?
I am a natural born American citizen. That is my nationality. If you are asking about my ethnicity, consult a dictionary and try again.
What is your ethnicity?
The correct way to ascertain someone's ethnicity is to ask, "What is your ethnicity?" Pretty simple.
First, let me just get the obvious out of the way. White guys with Asian girls. It's a thing. We know it. Don't ask me to go into specifics on the how or why, let's just admit it's a thing and move on.
Leading with your Asian fetish. Never lead with, "I just loooove Asian girls." It's creepy. If you do have an Asian fetish, whatever, that's your thing, but keep that to yourself. Would you go up to a blonde girl and say oh man I looove blondes. Would you go up to a girl with feet and say I LOOOVE FEEET. No, probably not. Unless you're just awkward.
Contrary to what the media might tell you, Asian women are not all submissive and exotic creatures who are dying to serve you. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with having a preference, and of course I agree that Asian women are beautiful and interesting, but that should not be your ace card. Maybe you can try to find something in common with her first or ask her about her career or something. Let's just try not to fixate on the Asian thing.
You look like
While you're at it, don't tell girls they look like anyone else. Not your Asian roommate from college, or that one girl you know- girls like to be original, and that's stolen from them the moment you turn to your friend to say, "OMG doesn't she remind you soo much of so and so?"
Nee How Ma! Konichiwa!
This happens to me ALL THE TIME. I will be walking down the street and some creeper will yell, NEE HOW MA. I know what this means, not because I'm Asian, but because I've freakin' seen Rush Hour and I'm not an idiot.
That being said, there are 2 assumptions being made when you call out a random language to someone. First, that I am of that Asian descent. Second, that I speak the language. Neither of these are true, and now you look racist. I do not assume that every brown skinned person speaks Swahili, and you should never assume an Asian person can speak a specific language.
When people find out I'm Korean, sometimes they'll attempt to say something they've learned in the language, that's fine. Your accent is terrible, but hey- you are trying to establish a commonality, showing that you've made a cultural effort to learn, I can dig that. Also, I'm not sure what these men are expecting as a result. OH THANK GOD THERE'S SOMEONE IN AMERICA WHO SPEAKS MY LANGUAGE.
Any of these listed below are things I've heard that I considered offensive/stupid, so you might want to stay away from these
- Singing that weird Asian jingle
- Any reference to Ching Chong Wong, unless that's an actual person's name, which I doubt
- Any reference to slanted eyes, especially asking me if I can see less because my eyes are smaller than yours
- Don't even think about making those eyes and pulling a Miley Cyrus
- Can you read this? What does it say?
- Yelling SOY SAUCE at me as I walk down the street, unless it falls out of my bag, or you are selling some for a great price
- You're probably really good at math, right?
- Are you North or South Korean?
- Are you twins? No? Sisters?
Hopefully this list has given you some guidance as to how to speak to an Asian girl and not get whacked in the face. By her samurai sword. I'm the first to admit I make a lot of racist jokes, between friends, sarcastically- there's a time and a place for everything. If you're genuinely interested in someone's Asian-ness and want to learn more about it, be polite, and ask questions from a place of honesty and willingness to learn, and you should be alright.
Lastly, Do you know kung-fu?
The answer is yes, all Asian women know kung-fu, so don't be a dick, or we'll kick your butt.
Have more to add? Leave them in the comments!