Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pigmentation (Over)designation

If you had to describe yourself, what words, adjectives, or phrases would you use? Your age? Profession? Hometown? Alma mater? Religious background? Marital status? Height? Size of your private parts? Food allergies? Race and/or ethnicity?

Early on in our relationship, Nicole and I noticed how I (the 1.5-generation, 'model minority immigrant') always used "Korean" or "Korean-American" when describing myself to someone else. Similarly, I would always throw in her race ("Black" or "African-American") when I found myself describing her to a friend, a colleague, a stranger, a homeless dude on the street.

Often, a person's race or ethnicity has been, continues to be, and will most likely remain the FIRST adjective or descriptor (if not 2nd or 3rd, albeit only in those rare occasions when some other characteristic is so damn unique) I use in describing or referring to someone.

"Remember my friend Manny? The Hispanic kid you met a few months back, the one who quit law school to join a start up?"

"Yo man... Chan-soo has some crazy ups for a Korean kid."

Monday, June 20, 2011

"You don't shower everyday?"

Ryan: Did you shower?

Me: Of course I showered!

Ryan: But your hair isn't wet. How did you shower?

Me: Black women don't wash their hair everyday. It's not good for our hair.

Ryan: So you don't shower everyday?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

(Mis)matched Labels

"Don't rely too much on labels, for too often they are fables."

According to Charles Spurgeon, the famous 19th-century British evangelist who muttered the above words, labels were nothing but unreliable assumptions and oft-baseless fabrications. Labels, nevertheless, are also the very things we humans often use to characterize each another, are they not? You're fat and I'm skinny. She's an Ivy-Leaguer and he's a high school dropout. My neighbor is a closet racist and your janitor is an undocumented alien. So on and so forth...

But what happens when we deal with pairs or combinations of labels? Sometimes, mixing labels simply does not seem to work because they are a contradictio in terminis regarding our expectations and preconceived notions.

Some examples? An intelligent blonde sounds almost like an oxymoron, largely due to media and cultural slants. A bible-thumping liberal sounds strange, doesn't it? How about a Caucasian NYC cab driver or a Harvard grad working at McDonald's? Not exactly folks you run into on a daily basis. Better yet, how about an Asian guy dating a Black girl?

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Day in the Life

"His parents are going to hate you."

"Did you give up on black men?"

"Yeah, but is she really black?"

"Do you have Yellow Fever?"

"Don't worry. It's just a phase."

"Is he from North or South Korea?"