• Why Asian Americans hate hearing “Where are you from?”

    This has been a good week for sometimes contentious but bracing conversations on Facebook. The latest one started when I posted a link to an excellent Forbes article by Ruchika Tulshyan titled “‘Where Are You From?’ And Other Big Networking Racial Faux Pas”

    The article raises the oft-aired complaint by Asian Americans that asking “Where are you from?” (sometimes linked to the even more irritating “You speak English so well…”) is a social, racial no-no.

    I certainly can’t argue with that. I’ve written plenty about this very topic. I once criticized Martha Stewart for pulling the “Where are you from?” card, and in the post also included the conversation from my book, “Being Japanese American” that so many Asian American are all too familiar with, which starts with “You speak English so well” and veers off into “where are you from?” territory.

    The Forbes piece quotes a South Asian news producer making a point that many Asian Americans should learn by heart and recite whenever we’re asked the question:

    “I’m American – just like our president is American, just like the actress, Mindy Kaling is American, just like Abraham Lincoln is American. I am also American. I think once people realize that being American doesn’t mean being white, then we can move the conversation forward and we can have a better dialogue about race.” says Shefali Kulkarni, digital producer at PRI’s The World.

    Tulshyan offers these suggestions for more appropriate ways to learn about someone’s ethnic heritage (I generally ask people “What’s your ethnic heritage?”):

    read more…..

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  • Leonard Pitts: Race is the stupidest idea in history.

    Leonard Pitts: Race is the stupidest idea in history

    BY LEONARD PITTS

    LPITTS@MIAMIHERALD.COM

    On New Year’s Day, it will be 150 years since Abraham Lincoln set black people free from slavery.

    And there is no such thing as black people.

    The first of those statements is not precisely true; a clarification will be offered momentarily. The second statement is not precisely false. And the clarification begins here:

    It is a clarification needed not simply because it helps us to better understand the milestone of history we commemorate this week, but also because it helps us to better understand America right here in the tumultuous now. The Republican Party, to take an example not quite at random, enters the new year still nursing its wounds after an election debacle most observers laid upon its inability to sway Hispanics, young voters and, yes, black people. Then there is the Trayvon Martin shooting, the mass incarceration phenomenon, the birther foolishness.

    A century and a half later, in other words, race is still a story. Black people are still a story.

    How can that be, if there is no such thing as black people?

    Granted, most of us think otherwise. The average 18-year-old American kid, says historian Matt Wray, thinks of race “as a set of facts about who people are, which is somehow tied to blood and biology and ancestry.”

    But that kid is wrong. If you doubt that, try a simple challenge: Define “black people.”

    Maybe you think of it as African ancestry. But Africa is a place on a map — not a bloodline. And, as the example of Charlize Theron, the fair-skinned, blond actress from South Africa, amply illustrates, it is entirely possible to come from there, yet not be what we think of as “black.” Indeed, Theron, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2008, is by definition an African American. Yet, she fits no one’s conception of that term, either.

    Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/12/29/3159373/leonard-pitts-race-is-the-stupidest.html#storylink=cpy

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