Ignorance at its’ best or just plain dumb? I guess I’ll never know but in my lifetime of being an Asian American, these are the common questions I’ve been asked over and over. Please just stop it already!
If you’re curious, just simply ask. We’re more than willing to answer you if you’re honest about “not” knowing or “wanting” to know. Enough of the assumptions and stereotyping eh?!
8 things To Stop Asking Asians
1…but what is your real name?
Why do people assume that having a Western name would automatically mean I have a “real” name? As in, I have a given Hmong name but just decided one day I’ll change my name just because. Yes, some people do have an “Asian” name, but it’s their given name, it’s legit. Some Asians do have given middle names that are often their name in their language. That’s it!
Imagine, you introduce yourself, your name is Paul Smith. The person greets,
“Hi Paul,” then without pause blurts out “but what is your “real” name?”
Yeah, I thought so.
2. Where did you learn English, you don’t have an accent at all?
Seriously, I’m not going to go into details with this one. It’s 2019! Wow, where did you learn your manners?
3. Can you help me translate/interpret?
I once had a lady ask if I could help interpret for a customer. The customer was Vietnamese! SMH, let’s get one thing clear, all Asians do NOT speak the same language.
4. Where are you “really” from?
I’ve had people ask me this time and time again and they get pretty shocked when I say I’m from Wisconsin. With a confused look, they pull out this need-to-stop question. I think the real question here is, “What is your ethnicity?” Yes, it’s okay if you’re curious but this is not the way to ask.
5. How do you say my name in your language?
This was the worst back in elementary. I get it, little people may not know any better but I still get asked this question as an adult. Are you serious?! Okay, honestly I’ve had played with this question a few times.
Laura, your name is not Maum Dev (female dog)
Justin, your name is not Hem Nyuv (a term used when saying something is ugly)
6. Do you know So and So?
We do not all look alike and we certainly do not know everyone who is of the same ethnicity. Just because we have the same last name too! It doesn’t work that way. Okay, sure if we did some kind of genetic testing to follow our roots, perhaps we may be related but that doesn’t mean we have met or known each other Even in the city we live in. And if we do so happen to know that person, it doesn’t justify this question. It’s like me asking you if you know every white person I know. Or asking a black person if they know every black person I know.
7. Are you Chinese are Japanese?
Be honest, who of you have once encountered this? At my last place of employment, I had a colleague who thought I may have been Japanese and constantly asked me about ramen noodles. I guess I didn’t give him an answer he was wanting, so the subject changed once I mentioned I preferred pho over ramen. LOL, so he probably assumed I was Vietnamese.
Well, you know, there are more Asians! Yes, Chinese Americans continue to be the largest Asian American ethnic group, numbering 4.2 million nationwide in 2012 but stop assuming that there are just the two kinds you see most in Media. Check this out from www.api-gbv.org. There are more Asian ethnicities than there are Asian countries.
8. Can you help me with this Math problem?
If I wasn’t such an introvert, this would’ve made a pretty funny Youtube video. If anyone wants to make one, let me know!
Next time you encounter a non-white person, think before you ask. If you don’t know how to ask, simply be honest. Here’s a simple way to start the conversation,
” I don’t know if I’m asking this correctly but I want to know….?”
Don’t assume, that how ignorance starts and meanwhile you’re putting those individuals in an awkward position.
Until next time,
Atypical Asian & Introvert Observer