Act #248: You can help eradicate SAAMS.
Most of the time I'm just doing my thing, my mind focused on ordinary things that ordinary people think about like: what we're having for dinner, how to survive my work audit, how to eradicate the world from violence. Contrary to popular belief, I don't constantly ponder my race and ethnicity and sometimes, lo and behold, I forget that I'm even brown at all. That is until some generous soul helps to break my day up by reminding me. Thank you, really. I could be in the midst of an innovative fundraising plan, dressed in a sharp suit, or presenting to a room full of people, it doesn't matter - to some, first and foremost, I'm Asian. I used to cringe when experiencing uncomfortable moments when total strangers made a point to call out my Asian-ness at the most interesting times, but now I embrace them. I even smile. And then I set them straight (respectfully, of course). I've even begun to coin these experiences: SAAMS (Sufficiently Awkward Asian Moments). Here are five that just happened last week. Please, for the love of God, people: Don't be a SAAMS instigator.
1. The day I was waiting at the reception counter of a local business and a man in a tie came out to ask me to let him know when a "Chinese-looking" man arrives. He thought I was the 20-year old receptionist, who also happens to be Asian. Sorry, sir, I don't work here, and could you tell me exactly what features a "Chinese-looking" man has again?
2. The day an unidentified man came to my office and demanded to see the "Oriental girl that works here. You know the Chinese one." Awww...how sweet. The 40-year old director of a non-profit that covers 17 counties is reduced to an "oriental girl."
3. The day I was at a community meeting and a CEO of a large corporation came up to me and asked me where "my people" were from. Oh, you must be mistaken, sir. I don't own any people these days.
4. The day I took my 12 year old niece (who happens to be white) to dinner and people just couldn't figure out our relationship. Was she adopted? Was I adopted? What on earth is going on here? Should we call the authorities?
5. The day a vendor called me Sue. Yes, this really did just happen. Clearly, he didn't read my blog last month: http://plainjaneactivism.blogspot.com/2013/08/my-name-is-not-sue.html).