the question

I think anyone who is a person of color has been asked this question. I don’t think it’s bad, but it’s how white people ask the question that’s pretty noteworthy of the cringe and awkwardness in asking. There are many different ways they ask, much like the many different flavors of white there actually is. Some of my favorite over the years include:

‘What are you?’

‘So where are you from? Like really from?’

‘What is your origin or your parents?’

If you haven’t figured it out, this question is about race, more specifically ethnicity of the more colored skin toned people. I understand how people are curious, but there needs to be a better way of asking about someone’s ethnicity. It’s so awkward to put into words awkward to hear someone try to ask in a way that won’t offend the person of color. I don’t think it’s such a touchy subject to ask about someone’s ethnicity or race or culture since people are curious, but the wording some people choose to use kill me.

‘Like where are you really from?’

I’m from a small town in North Carolina, even more specifically I came from the womb. I didn’t come from anywhere else or anyplace else for my birth certificate says so. But I get what the person is asking, ‘Where is your culture/heritage from?’ Now, with that question, I would give the answer they wanted and say I’m Filipino and Chinese. To ask where I’m really from would imply that my loyalty remains with this distant, probably romanticized country you’re thinking off than where I’m actually from and demean my status and kind of citizenship of the current country I am from and probably know better because I grew up here. And I’m sure anyone who carries another race in front of the American status – like mine would be Asian American – is just as much American as Abraham Lincoln is and as American as the immigrant who came to here for a better life.

‘Where are your parents from?’

I thought it was funny to be asked this question. To nicely ask my ethnicity by asking about my parents, it’s not that awkward, but it’s a different way of asking. I thought it was a great way of asking about my heritage, but once it goes back to again distant generations I wouldn’t know off it goes back to this romanticized period of my culture than the present and actual culture of my people with asking me instead of past generations. Not only is it going back to this archaic culture that seems out of touch with the current generation, it’s also degrading for your knowledge of who you are to be dismissed and ask more of your parent’s status than an actual acknowledgment of who they are.

‘You don’t look like -insert race-, so what mix are you?’

I’m a mix of mischief, wit, sleep deprivation, and vodka. Because I do not fit your perceived image of a certain race does not mean I am any less of my race and ethnicity. So this brings up this great declaration, not all Asians look alike very much like how all black people do not look alike or how all Hispanics look alike. This generalizes who we are to a limited understanding and perception of culture than the actual diversity and complexity and richness of these marginalized cultures, races, ethnicities. With this generalization of how we should look like, it also infers how you think we act and ought to be than the reality of us as people than this clump of misinformation. Let my Asian self be Asian and nothing less just because I do not share squinty eyes like how you think all Asians share.

This also does not mean I am different ingredients of ethnicities, but rather a hodgepodge. I never understood people were able to describe themselves as 1/8 Cherokee, 1/8 German, 1/4 Irish, and 1/2 French. How are they so precise that you can make a cake out of your race ingredients? I’ve always answered this question as Filipino-Chinese, but never 50/50 because my ethnicity blended into part of my mother’s family being mostly Filipino then marrying Chinese and my father’s side being Chinese, but growing up in the Philippines – this isn’t some teaspoon of Chinese mixed with a cup of Filipino, but it’s a blend that’s not well defined.

Honestly, just ask the question ‘What is your ethnicity?’ This is not offensive and it’s not awkward to put into what you really want to ask and awkward to realize this is the question about to be asked or how you ask the question. Different ethnicities and cultures should be talked about and embraced rather than discouraged, further marginalized, and appropriated because of this ignorance. We’ve become so culturally sensitive towards acknowledging and wanting to learn about others, that we’ve become culturally ignorant. Don’t understand why Asian Americans get mad when you joke about cats and dogs being their food? Don’t understand why African Americans get mad when you wear cornrows or use their slang? Don’t understand why Latino Americans get mad when you dress up in a sombrero and poncho for Halloween? Don’t understand why Native Americans get mad when you wear headdresses and moccasins for fashion? Ask and learn why, ask and learn about their culture, ask and learn to be better aware of ethnicity and the differences in how they live versus yours and how beautiful and meaningful their traditions are just like yours are. People aren’t any more sensitive or can’t take a joke when it comes to their culture or ethnicity because it is something that defines them, they’re most likely pissed that this is the version of their culture/ethnicity that is socially accepted and that who they are is so much more.

So what is your ethnicity? Learn from us. Learn our religion, food, heritage, celebrations, why something holds value to us when you perceive it as something trivial. When we talk, share, educate ourselves, we understand these issues and become richer with this shared culture and knowledge.

 

straight & fast

I remember yesterday, I ran a red light going at least 60 mph past it. Before this incident, I had just passed another intersection that was green and thought to myself, “I wonder if I’ll run a red light the next time just because.” As I approached the next lights, I just wasn’t thinking. I was heading towards it green, then it turned yellow, and then it turned red. I didn’t break until I had just made it to the white line and was already too far out to back up or stop, so I just ran it. I don’t know why I did it, but I wasn’t thinking a single thing.

A couple minutes later, the recent event just dawned on me. I could’ve died and I just ran a red light ironically thinking to myself before it happened. The thought didn’t trouble me at all. I only turned whatever crappy radio music up and drove one handed while resting my arm against the window and my hand touching my head. It didn’t scare me how reckless I was but only made me mad. I could’ve died, but it didn’t scare me.

Further driving down the road, it made me think of my one of my favorite novels. In Looking for Alaska by John Green, Alaska drives headfirst into a truck, instantly killing herself. Her group of friends tries to figure out if it was a suicide or accident. They have all these theories that it was an accident because she was drunk and that she was so buzzed that she couldn’t see anything and then that it was a suicide because she was hysterical and emotional before she went to drive, and she saw the car accident as a way out of whatever she was feeling. I fully think that it wasn’t a suicide or an accident, but the same thing I experienced.

She wasn’t thinking and it just happened. There’s no mystery to it, but some things just happen and we can’t take them back or redo them. They happen and we just let it happen and accept it. It isn’t easy, but it’s inevitable and happens. These things happen straight and fast. There’s no explanation to why and no way to stop it because you blink and it’s over.

Don’t read me wrong, I’m not suicidal or a risky driver. I don’t want to die and enjoy my life very much because I have made it the best it could be and making it even better. I drive cautiously and am aware of what I am doing and considerate of others, making sure everyone goes home safe. This red light just made me think of life itself and finally understanding my favorite novel.

Sometimes you are so in the moment, and things happen. They’re good or they’re bad and you might not understand why except that it happened and they happen so fast that nothing else could’ve prevented the event. An explanation isn’t always necessary and once it’s done, the only thing we can do is accept it, forgive, and keep moving. I think that’s the beauty of life, it doesn’t always need a reason, it just has to happen to make it worthwhile.

Transition

I’m at an interesting crosspoint in my life. I’ve experienced a lot in my years, but haven’t done enough. I’m working towards a goal, but have had many successes. I’m educated but haven’t learned enough.

Before I tell you anything else in this post, I’m happy, I can even say joyous in myself. I’m happy in how I feel about myself and what I’ve accomplished. I’m happy in what I can do and what more I could do. I have brought myself joy and went through a great change to better myself and situation.

However, I’m still working towards something more. I’m not satisfied with where I am and what I’m doing. I don’t want to settle for anything less, but to make the most of who I am, what I can do, and where I am. I’m in this crosspoint where I’m young but also old. Where I am uncertain, but also determined. Where I’m frustrated, but at peace. Where I’m lost, but also on a path.

I graduated from high school a couple months ago and was honestly sick. I was tense and tried to hold onto temporary things. I was so mad that I broke things, even myself. I remember my English teacher pulling me aside and telling me that he noticed that I had become so thin. Of course, the first reaction was to lie, but that’s what I had done that whole year, lie about how I felt and who I was. Most people were not going to be honest, but I was sick and tired. I told him how I was feeling now and the reasons why I had lost weight. Only now do I realize how toxic high school is from the words and emotions that had weighed me down most of that year.

I wasn’t happy at that point and thought the world was and had conspired against me to be miserable. I was sick of my life and everything in it and wanted to begin again. I wanted the last three months prior to graduation to have never happened. I never wanted to see that damn high school again or the people. I wanted to move on and never look back. I was so sick of it.

Yet, I still held onto meaningless relationships, memories, and places. I was working retrospectively to a time where I was happy. That’s the thing about nostalgia; it tricks into thinking times were better than they actually are. Sure I have happy memories, but they were only happy because it was good then, but they wouldn’t still be happy if I had lived them over and over again. Change happens. Happy then isn’t happy now.

Life isn’t stagnant, it changes and we can choose to change with it or be defeated by it. I picked change. And I don’t look back. I keep in contact with a few people, and that’s good enough. I work towards my accomplishments and give no one else blame or credit but myself. I explore something new every day instead of keeping a routine. I’m doing things, I am changing every day.

The place I’m at isn’t ideal in any way. What I’m currently doing at this place isn’t great in any way either. I’m working towards a purpose, but I’m asking myself if this college degree will get me this idea of success and happiness most people connotate with it. It’s work and I’m physically exhausted in trying to do that work, but that’s not the thing asking me if I should quit, but it’s what do I really want in life? College, career, marriage, family, retirement, nostalgia, the afterlife. Well anyone can accomplish that. It’s orthodox, it’s expected. I want experiences. I want adventure. I want the unexpected. I want to travel the world and learn lessons elsewhere from the classroom. I want to eat foods I can’t pronounce. I want to meet people I would’ve never thought to live in such a way. I want to sit still and look up at a clear sky with the stars and open sky. I’m passionate about many things and curious about everything else. I don’t want to be tied down to societal expectations or by anything. I want to be free. I want to be in the moment.

This isn’t about finding myself, but this is about living. I don’t want to follow a path, I want to make my own path. I want to be myself in a world moving around me.

Most importantly I’ve realized I never want to settle, but be satisfied.