Thursday, August 27, 2015

What are you?

In my blog the other day, I wrote about how I, as a mixed race person and probably some others, had problems with forms that had you fill out your race.  So today I thought I would share just a few of my experiences that involve people who were ‘curious’ about my races.  I put ‘curious’ like this because I really think most of them were just nosy or bored. 
One of the questions I get a lot is “what are you?”  Seriously.  I get that from my own family. So I think that I will use that as the theme for this particular post.

“What are you?”

One of the times that I had to answer that question was shortly after Big Daddy’s funeral, when we gathered for the meal. Big Daddy was my mother’s father and her family was all from the south.  It’s a bit more common to use Big Daddy/Big Mama for grandparents.  I was in middle school and sitting with my cousins.  One of the girls was coloring, when she suddenly looked up at me and asked, “If your mom’s black and your dad’s white, what are you?” 

Now I will remind people who have read my last post that my mom is Black/Native American but most of her family doesn’t know that.  I got into genealogy early and often interviewed my parents about family history.  That’s why it was a black and white question, she asked me.  Yes, I also realized the pun.

My immediate answer was, “Grey.” My cousin looked at me strangely.  My skin wasn’t grey but a light light brown.  It must have confused her, but I took her black and white crayons and showed her how they made grey. I didn’t think much of it until after I had returned home. Of course I had been asked the question before, but this time it was someone from my own family.  She was little, but it eventually made me wonder how many relatives didn’t know what to make of me.  Strangers, confusion was to be expected.
 More recently I had to actually stop going to a particular train station in my town. Why?  Because every time I went there I felt like I was being harassed.  Now, I know may people consider harassment to be committed by one person, but a feeling of harassment can also come from being repeatedly subjected to the same sort of behavior, regardless of if it was by the same person or different people. 

I take the train a lot.  Mainly because both my school and my internship is in the city, while my home and my job is about an hour away by train for now.  I don’t like dealing with strangers, especially when I’m almost always constantly on the go and stressed out.  I have seizures that are brought on by stress with sensitivity to light and sound.  So while I’m waiting for the train at most stations, I have my purple headphones on.  Usually I don’t have them plugged in.  I just use them as a device to discourage people from brothering me.  However, at this one train station, the headphones were not working.  People I do not know, for some reason I was never told, have taken to coming up to me.  They stand and look at me.  I’m not talking about glancing at me out the side of their eye but literally staring directly in my face and for such a long time, that reaching out and punching them in the nose seems like a good idea.  Nobody likes to be studied that closely by strangers unless they are posing for an art class.
I am somewhat use to being looked at. Most people who come from racially mixed families are generally subjected to being looked at, when they are together. It comes with the territory, but the people staring at me in the train station was just downright too up close and personal. The first time one of them actually said something to me it was:

Rando person: “Hey, I know you’re black and Indian, but what are you?”   
Me: (Removes earphones pretending not to hear) Huh?
Rando person (louder):  You black and Indian..what else?

And it gradually increased from there.   People have come up and told me that they made bets on if I was Hawaiian, or if I was randomly related to this person or that because I they knew I had blood from Mexico. 
One time I had pick up a call from overseas and the conversation went like this :

Me: Had a brief conversation in  汉语 (Mandarin) 再见 (Goodbye) (hangs up phone)
Another Rando Person: What were you speaking?
Me: Chinese.
A.R.P: You can speak that because you’re part Chinese. I can see it. You look it.  You black too something?  You awfully light-skinned.

This was happening EVERYTIME I went to that station, which was about 3 times a week. 3 times a week on its own doesn’t sound too bad, but multiply that by 4 weeks.  That’s 18 times in a month.  That’s being harassed. I am NOT a walking, talking, breathing guessing game. I eventually had to start going to a train station further from my house just so I can have some peace and quiet and not be bothered about my race.  

It’s happened to me at one of my schools.  I’m reading outside on a hill reading Harry Potter, minding my own business and some rando person just kneels in front of me, squinting and says: “I know you’re part black and Chinese, but what else are you?”

I seriously doubt that incidents like this will stop.  People are nosy.  Lately, I’ve been countering this sort of thing by asking, “Why do you care?”  So far I have not received an answer but if I do I will let you know.

If anybody wants to share their stories, feel free to share.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Understanding Issues of those who are Bi-Racial or Multi-Racia

I know I don't blog often.  I've wanted to but this summer has been so hectic.  Everything seems to be happening at once,  from Donald's Trump idiotic campaign, to the mass shooting in Charleston, to the confederate flag coming down and Black Lives Matter taking off.

I'm sure by now many, many people have either seen or hear of the article on Shaun King on Breibart News that have started many people to doubt the race of this #BlackLivesMatter activist.  The write of that article is this man named Milo Yiannopoulos.  He's a conservative so called reporter for the Breibart News site. I will be very honest with you.  I have absolutely no respect for the man.  Do I think he's a horrible person? Yes, I do.  Is it because he's gay?  No...he's just a horrible person who is more interested in trying to be better than everyone else.  I swear he has an ego that makes the pyramids look like a pebble. I gave him a chance.  I read several of his pieces, I know he had tried to start a national news site and not only did that fail, but he failed to pay his workers.  I listened to him fail again at #SPJAirplay, because he couldn’t keep on the panel’s topic.  But simply I want to ask this....what makes him think he can decide who bi-racial or not?  Who is he to say he understands how it works to be bi-racial or mixed in the United States of America?



I am not here to judge whether Shaun King is bi-racial or not.  I am not to judge his personal family history.  It should have been his choice whether to relieve it or not, because it’s his family. What I can talk about is my experiences growing up. I am of mixed races.  My mother is Black and Native American and my father is the son of Hungarian and Czech immigrants. Even though my parents have always taught me to be comfortable with my race, it’s something I deal with constantly. As a kid and even now, people can’t just look at me and know what I am. 

One of the problems was filling out forms.  Now,   people have it soooooo much easier when it comes to filling out the race question on forms.  The forms from the late 70’s all the way through to the 1990’s usually listed:  White (Non-hispanic), Black, Hispanic, Native American/Alaskan Native, Asian/Pacific Islander with the instruction to check just one of those boxes.  While that is fine for most people…I knew at an early age that it didn’t apply to me.  How could I mark one when I was more than one?  The given solutions when I asked about it usually came in these choices.

  • If my father was present they would put his race (White)

  • If my mother was present some would put Black (My mom is Black/Native American but they didn’t see that)

  • If it was just me they would tell me to put down whatever I felt closest to that day.  (Most popular and common choice)

Again, this is because people still didn’t know how to handle mixed race people.  It wasn’t until the early 2000’s that more choices were made available and what was that choices?

  • Other or Decline to Answer. 

Not so great choices.  How could I choose other when my options were listed but…I could only choose one, that instruction still existed.  That is how many bi/multi-racial people have so different forms that say they are of different races or have inconsistencies. I remember more than once my parents having to argue about my ethnicity when whoever received the forms didn't like what was put down.  Then there was “Decline to answer”.  That was usually met with a judgmental look or they ask why you decided not to answer.  Really, we couldn’t win. 

Now on a lot of forms people have that option to put down bi-racial or multi-racial.  Some paperwork even allows you to “check all that apply”.  It’s really a big step.

 Recently my mother told me about what happened when a census was being down.  Originally she had put my race down as black (again there was no option that would accurately fit me), but when the person taking the census asked about my father, my mother answered that my dad was white.  It was then the person informed her that legally for the census, whatever the father was, the child was.  So once again I have another inconsistency about my race.  It's almost inescapable.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Twitter embarrassment.

Okay, I started this blog mainly for a school project last spring.  Hence why I post sparingly but tonight I'm posting from a mixture of feelings.  What are these feelings?  Like I said they range from embarrassment to disgust to anger and being...well pissed off.  

What triggered them was tweet I saw. It was in thread and I saw a familiar name and face of someone I knew in real life.  I have never randomly ran across someone I knew in Twitter. At first I was like cool I'll send a tweet saying hi.  He can't be as bad as he was back then.   Then I saw the bright pink and purple colors he tweeted.  It was a cartoon of a girl tying a noose, standing on a chair and happily hanging herself.
 This is where the embarrasment, pissed off and anger came in. I 
wish I could say shocked but I can't. I had issues in the past with JC75 (not his actual handle). He had several times called me the 'N' word and then Mutt and mixed breed when I pointed out I had a white father.   From there there was a few instances of other insults that led to ignoring each other completely. He claims to be Christian and claims to love God.  How can anyone make those claims and then post a cartoon like that?

Now, here is the sad that I felt, his mother  was a very nice, kind and sweet woman. Sadly, she had passed.  I can't imagine anyone saying the same about him one day.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Baotong Temple, Wuhan China

Baotong  Temple is in Wuchang district of Wuhan China.  It was originally called shuizhou Temple.  Then Emperor Kang Xi had the temple moved to its current site, so it’s name was then changed to Hongshan, and in middle of the 1980’s it was changed again to its name, Baotong Buddhist Temple.
It's been a year since I was last at the temple.  I felt very lucky to live only a short walk away.   It was a peaceful place among the crowded and noisy background of Wuchang.  I really liked going places with my classmates.  I went with Jana Bento and she made even the most common of outings fun. 

 This is Kuan Yin.  There are many stories about her.
In many of the stories she was put to death by her father.  Ever since I started to study world mythology I have always been drawn to Kuan Yin.  I think this is because I know I need to learn to be more compassionate. 

Twerking is part of Black Culture? Really?

Taylor Swift is what?

I try not to write entry's just off the top of my head but ...I have been reading about a lot of people, yes, black people, having issues with Taylor Swifts' new video:  Shake it off.

Part of the problem , or the problem others see is that Swift is dancing with a team of black female dancers who are twerking.   Twerking seems to be cause of a lot of problems.  From what I have gathered, Twerking is a part of Black Culture and with artist like Miley Cyrus , twerking is a big thing.  So...I would like to know something...since when is twerking a part of black culture?  Twerking?  Really?   A dance where you just flaps your ass cheeks in the air as fast as you can.    If twerking is a part of black culture....I want out.
I mean twerking is not like Pharell on the Elle cover wearing a Native American headdress.  The headdress is sacred in Native American culture.  It is not just something to wear, it is something you earn.  Nor does it compare to the offensiveness of the Washington 'Redskins'.

The problem I have with things like twerking supposedly being a part of black culture is ....well let me put it to you in a story.

I was in Wuhan, a city in China, as a language student.  There were a number of students from around the world.  We all got along.  One day one of my classmates sat next to me and told me that he loved American culture.  He was from one of the countries in Africa.   I asked him about some various about America and he didn't know anything.  So finally I asked him what did he love about American culture.  His answer was everything that was hip hop and rap.  That is it.  He was not the only one.   This is the image of America that is sinking in world wide!  I don't know about you...but that bothers me.

Another issue that was pointed out in an article I read by Prachi Gupta  about the Shake it off video some people find offensive or uncomfortable is this...
Yup, Taylor Swift crawling through the legs of twerking women(Note that not all of them are black).  Actually this kinda takes me back to my childhood.  Why do you ask?  Take yourself back in time to 1991.  Vanilla Ice is Hot as is his song 'ICE ICE BABY'.  Well we have it on VHS (We have VHS but no player)  We have Vanilla Ice sliding on his back underneath the humplike moves of his black male backup dancers.  So how is this worse than that? 
Now there is a rapper named Earl Sweatshirt.  This is part 1 of 3 of his tweets about Shake It off.
This is point where you have lost all sort of credibility with me.  You haven't watched the video but you are criticizing it?  How does that even seem logical?  I had a teacher at Columbia College Chicago who assigned me to watch the movie Troy and write a paper on a theme.  She didn't like my theme and argued with me pulling examples from the classic the Iliad not the movie.  I asked if she had ever watched the movie and she answered, "No, and I probably never will."  Does that make sense?  No, and that is the same case with Earl Sweatshirt. 

And while a person is just judging something they deem to be  harmful and offensive that person  should also be asking themselves questions. Is this something is really offensive? Is this  (blank) culturally important to me? Why is this  important to my culture? If it was more than one color of person doing this....why am I focusing on this particular one person? Those are just example questions but be honest with yourself and go from there.  Don't be like Sweatshirt.

Kevin Fallon from the Daily Beast wrote about how the video was disappointing and how it seemed to say Taylor Swift's message was, ", “I’m a pop star now, bitches!” And our reaction is, “Booooo!” I couldn't disagree more.  She gave a fun flashback video that is clearly speaking about her reputation and her awkwardness and how it's okay to be that way.  (I am also okay with my awkwardness...)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Customers Vs. Employees

Recently on Facebook one of my old friends from high school posted about a bad experience she had in a coffee shop.   In the responses she got from her friends were of course supportive of her, which is great.   Then I noticed her friends other comments about the barista.  Those were not great.  They indicated that the barista was an idiot, one said she hoped the barista choked and meant it only as a half joke, indicating that flipping out would have been perfectly okay, dumping  the drink on the barista’s head and choke slamming her.   Not one said that mistakes and misunderstandings happen.  They just  decided to talk shit and thought they were cute.  It’s not cute, it’s not funny.  It is ignorant and immature  and a clear sign that there is a lot wrong people.  What’s worse is that many people do not understand why I feel that way.

Granted my friend gave her side of the story and that is the only side we heard.  While the Barista could have handled it differently, I don’t understand how comments like the previously stated are okay or even constructive.  Especially when they are half meant.

Some might ask why this bothers me so much.  Simple.  I was a barista while I worked at Borders and I still work in retail.   I have had good customers and bad…..really bad customers.   Those that worked with me at 575 know who I am talking about.  A customer  who ended up cornering my supervisor in her car and giving threats about how she was going to punch me in my face the next time she saw me behind the counter, how her sister was not afraid of getting arrested and she was going to come and beat me up.   She had even called to complain about me when I was out of the state.   Once she issued threats we called the police and she cursed the cop out.  

Why did this happen?  Because I wouldn’t give her large drinks with extra shots and only charge her for a medium.  I questioned her hand written coupons that said free drink and nothing else.  

Even where I am now I had a customer say that it was good that I didn’t have a name tag on or else she would call and have me fired…I told her my name.   Why was she mad?  My computer wouldn’t accept an expired coupons and smaller reasons that I had nothing to do with.

Now I am not saying that employees are always angels.  Sometimes they do have bad attitudes or give bad service.  They are people too.  Yet, People always want to blame the employees, even the good ones.  They always want to bitch about retail workers and servers but many of those people fail to realize their own behavior nowadays.   They love to go to the ‘Customer is always right’ phrase that has plagued the business world.  This phrase no longer applies in this day and age.  If you go online today you will find that there are many articles and websites about why the customer is not always right for various reasons.  Such as: Customers lie!  Customers berate and belittle to make themselves feel better, don’t know what they want, what they expect is not reasonable or rational.

My suggestion for having more positive experiences after something has gone wrong is first and foremost:  Stop, take a deep breath and think.  Was it really the employees fault or were you not paying attention?  It might even be a combination of both.   Also, just like customers that remember their bad experiences, employees remember bad customers and how things are handled will be remembered the next time you enter that establishment. 

Remember:   remember that the employees are people as well.  You have bad days, the employees have bad days too.  Also…the employee deals with more customers in a day than customers deal with employees.  What you might think is just a small one time thing you did, could have happened many more times than what you think.

Pay attention:  If the employee is honestly trying to help resolve the matter, don’t ask for something free (it makes you look bad), don’t ask for things that are not rational especially if it is against the store’s policy.   Policy is there for a reason and in many cases employees can be fired for breaking policy even to help an irate customer.

Do not go off!  It makes you look like an idiot!  Even other customers will think you are crazy.

When I go to other retail stores or coffee/tea shops…I try to treat them as I would like to be treated.  There have been times I had gotten the wrong drink or waited a long time.  But I have been behind the counter so I can understand what they might have going on and when I explain it they appreciate my taking the effort.

I have often been told that a little understanding goes a long way.  Now that is always true.  Too bad that is not a phrase people remember.


Monday, June 2, 2014

A witty a short rant

Today on Facebook, I got into a discussion/argument over Disney Princesses. The main arguments were about Pocahontas and Mulan.   In real life Pocahontas was not a princess but a chief’s daughter.  Some would see that as an equivalent to the European idea of Princess and when she went to England she was given the title of Princess Rebecca.   But there is a cultural difference which I won’t go into.  Mulan, in life and in Disney was not a princess.  She was not born a princess nor did she marry a prince.  But she was ‘given’ the title of “Princess,” because she was the Main characters.  There are many princess in the Disney line that do not have the TITLE of Princess for one reason or another.  Really, the topic of Disney Princesses is not a simple one to tackle.

But what bothered me most was the attitude the other person had.  He (I’m guessing…I don’t know) started to resort to insults and questioning my empathy levels among other things.  I don’t know this person so the comments are irrelevant.  When I try to explain myself or why I KNOW Mulan was not a princess, or that native Americans don’t have ‘Princesses’, its an opinion and thus somehow oppressive.   How is an opinion on Facebook oppressive?   Yes, my opinion differed because of my experience and research and the fact that I tend not to agree with Disney on how they determine who is a princess and who isn’t.   But is that oppressive? 

I will admit that I can be stubborn but I can also admit if I have changed my mind and I also know when to walk away.  Some people like this person cannot walk away unless its them who has the last word.     Some would say it’s sexist….in this case, it might be (Again, I don’t know this person at all so I can’t be completely sure.)  I am trying to look at this experience from a Cultural Studies stand point.  I am trying to be calm and rational about it, but it pisses me off.  If I am not being rude to you or insulting to you, do not feel that it is okay for you to be that way.  If after a while I go...okay, it's my opinion, you don't have to like it or agree...that is a subtle clue of walking away and ending the conversation.  Take the hint.
One of my problems with online conversations, debates, and arguments is that you are reading words but you are not hearing the other person.  By hearing, I mean you are not hearing the tone of the other person’s voice.  That’s a big thing because when you read you are imaging their tone and attitude and thus you react to that, whether it’s the other person’s intention or not.    In conversations with my friends (face to face not online) it’s something that many people do whether they realize it or not.  I’m sure that it’s something people don’t realize it, but it can strain online conversations.  
This is at least my opinion.   Sorry if you find it oppressive.