Being A Chinese-American Woman in Western Society

I was at the nearby Westfield yesterday when it happened again. Some idiotic mall salesman with an Eastern European accent attempts to get my attention with a “Ni hao! Ni hao!” At the moment I was trying to get to Topshop, so I just asked him where it was, as he tried to ask me where I was from.

I’m speaking English better than you, in an American accent. Wouldn’t that clue you in? Of course, I knew what he was actually asking. What country of the Far East/exotic Orient do your people hail from? My frustration with this question can be expressed through the videos below:

I also showed one of my ethnically Chinese/Korean mixed friends a post yesterday that communicates the same kind of frustrations, and this was her response (and if you’re reading this, L, I hope it’s ok that I shared!):

I legit got into a fight with the guys at my regular bagel place. All of them are Indian, Pakistani or from Bangladesh and one night they asked me where I’m from. I said “California”. This is always my answer. They asked again and I answered with the same thing. People always think I’m kidding around, and most have the gall to say “oh you know what I mean”. Normally I don’t give in. I just say “I’m American. My parents are American. We all have American passports and we all pay American taxes”. Anyway, they were creeps who wouldn’t give me my bagel that I paid for until I told them, so I eventually gave in and told them. Sleazes told me “oh yeah, mixed people are always the most attractive”. I almost threw my bagel at all of them/barfed on their store floor.

But that’s when I have time and am feeling pissed off. Normally I just say America and put on my best if-you-don’t-get-the-hell-away-from-me-I-will-snap face. If you don’t want to deal with that shit, then just say “America” or “Washington” or wherever and walk away/turn away to signal the end of a discussion.

Sorry for the rant. It’s just that this has happened so much in the past two years that a lot of frustration has built up. Way to use my ethnicity to completely dehumanize and objectify me and mask it as simple curiosity. Ugh.

The only reason why I don’t punch every guy (because women rarely ask) this happens with is because I know most don’t even know they’re being racist (and creepy and gross and need to put their dicks away). So instead, I show my annoyance and let them know it’s not okay without any cursing.

She majors in psychology, so expressed that in a far more concise way than I ever could. It is disgusting to me for the reason that my friend mentioned, and also because this happens to Asian-American women far more than it does to the men. When a white person tells you they’re from South Africa you don’t then follow up with, “But where are you really from?” If I tell you I’m from Seattle, I’m from Seattle. The only difference is that the Chinese didn’t colonize the US like the Europeans did with South Africa.


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