Posts Tagged ‘Race’


Monday, May 31st, 2021

There’s an interaction with someone I had just met freshman year at Purdue that I still think about.

Her: What’s your nationality?
Me: American
Her: No, what’s your background?
Me: Middle-class suburbanite
Her: No, where were you born?
Me: Chicago.
Her: No, where did your parents come from?
Me: California.
Her: No, I mean, where were your parents born?
Me: Oh, Vietnam

So in this introductory meeting with a first year engineering student, which was purportedly to get to know each other, her questions veered from being about me to quickly being about my parents despite the fact that I had told her a wealth of info about me. Indeed, my first three responses had a great impact on who I was.

I don’t think she was acting in bad faith or malice. But I wonder if she looks back and realizes she was moving the topic from being about me to being about why my face looks different than hers.

Would I have gotten the same treatment if I were black? If I were white with red hair? If I were white with a mustache?

Anyway, Happy Asian American Heritage Month.