Monday, December 17, 2007

Gee, you don't look "Asian"...

I was doing a "google" search under "mixed race" and found this entry at the blog Gene Expression "Mixed Race but Homogenous Appearance" (click here for the link).

The blog entry discusses the racial appearance of mixed-race people, and uses celebrities, like Tiger Woods and Jason Kidd, as examples of how racial features can predominate (or not) in certain people. There is even a segment that discusses the genetic breakdown of parents of different racial backgrounds and their subsequent mixed-race child who may tend to favor one parent's phenotype over the other.

One of the observations that the blog entry makes is that how we "see" a person's racial makeup is most often determined by our own preconceived notions of race. Two boldface comments by the author sum up the trickiness of mixed-race identification, either by oneself or by others:

"[P]erceptions of race are as much a matter of psychology and culture as they are of genetics."


"Cultural priors matter, and in the United States we give great weight to black ancestry as determinative of one's race."

The other interesting points about the Gene Expression blog entry is the discussion that follows. I could actually write a whole blog post about the comments because there is a particularly disturbing "joking" comment that one commenter makes towards a self-identified female hapa (half-Asian, half white) woman in which he claims that given her ethnic background she must be "Hot" and can he get a photograph of her? He follows up by saying he's "joking" but, really?! It just seems to undercut the seriousness of the race and genetic discussion that precedes and follows the comment. And I'm tired of people telling me I have no sense of humor when I don't find the combination of sexual orientalization "funny"--HA HA! ENOUGH ALREADY! MEN WHO FETISHIZE ASIAN AMERICAN WOMEN ARE NOT FUNNY--THEY ARE DANGEROUS, ESP. THE GUY AT PRINCETON 4 YEARS AGO WHO STALKED ASIAN AMERICAN WOMEN, SECRETLY CUT OFF SNIPPETS OF THEIR HAIR AND THEN FILLED MITTENS WITH THEIR HAIR FOR HIS PRIVATE PLEASURE. HE WAS CAUGHT CUTTING THE HAIR OFF OF A WOMAN ON A BUS AND THEY FOUND THE MITTENS AND IT'S SO GROSS AND DISTURBING I DON'T KNOW WHERE TO BEGIN EXCEPT TO PLEASE ASK EVERYONE TO CEASE AND DESIST WITH THE "Asian Women are so hot" COMMENTS!!!

OK, I digress once again. Sorry--Orientalizizing, esp. of Asian American women, especially mixed-race Asian American women drives me bonkers.

Given the last few posts I've written about getting rid of the category of race in favor of an anti-racist praxis, as well as the absence of certain athletes of color, I thought this entry about how one "looks"--esp. how "Asian" Tiger's features are, would be a good discussion point for a blog on mixed-race America.

And I really do think Tiger is an interesting example of mixed-race America because of his transnational, multicultural, and American affiliations with golf, with the war in Viet Nam, with an African American history of exclusion, with an Asian American history of political agitation, and with the weight of the world wanting him to be all things to all people.

Does it matter that Tiger is black, Asian, both, or neither--that he is "cablinasian"? Does it matter that he married a blonde Swedish woman instead of a woman of color? Does it matter that he didn't marry an American woman? Is Tiger, by virtue of where he stands in the world of golf and money, beyond race because he is rich and he is not exactly taking on social justice issues with respect to race (and gender and sexuality--he is, apparently, notorious for his off-color/homophobic jokes).

Because what is Tiger? And should we care? I suppose that's really the key point. Should we care how Tiger either self-identifies or how others identify him, according to race? Many people mocked him for the "Cablinasian" category he created on the Oprah Winfrey show, and yet, there is something to be lauded about his trying to create an alternative space where he is not simply lumped into categories according to conventional wisdom or the status quo.


Unknown said...

I know I'm a little late in the game in commenting on this post, but I have to say that you do bring up some interesting points. Particularly the part about what Tiger identifies himself as. One think I know about being a half myself, is the identity struggle.

Looking one way, feeling another, and being seen as yet another. Yes I'm curious as to what Tiger identifies himself as, but just because it seems to put me one step closer to understanding myself through other mixed races.

Jennifer said...

Late is fine by me--thanks for your 2-cents dguay. I think the racial identity struggle is on-going for any of us who identify as non-white (not to discount my white American friends and colleagues, whom I sure have their own sets of personal identity struggles), but I do think for people who identify as "mixed" it can be particularly vexing. Although I also think that while one Thai-African American may identify one way (as mixed, Cablinasian, or just "American) another may identify as "black" or still another as "Asian" or "Thai"--one's background doesn't necessarily dictate identity--which I suppose IS precisely why it's all a struggle.

Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

FB said...

Gee, you don't look "Mexican".....
Growing up Asian in a so called "Mexican" name has been a challenge. Being born in the Philippines, my parents chose a Spanish first name for me that was strong and would command respect in Phillipine society only to move to the US of A a year later.

I find it amusing that when doing business with people over the phone, particularly with people of the caucasion persuasion, people assume that I am an assimilated, educated, "non-ethnic" Hispanic. I find it even more amusing when they meet me in person and they find a "White" voice in an Asian body with a Latin name.

A good business associate turned friend has created a new racial classification that I have grown to appreciate, "Tiajwanese" which celebrates my Asian, Spanish, and North American heritage.

Jennifer said...

Hi Fernando,
I like "Tiajwanese"--I've also heard "Mexicanese" and "Chinesican"

If only people in the U.S. really understood the history of Spanish colonialism in the Phillipines and the subsequent U.S. imperialism ...

Eurasian Sensation said...

Hi Jennifer, the title of this post is a phrase I have heard many a time. Particularly as "looking Asian" in the minds of many equals looking Chinese/Japanese/Korean. My Asian side is Indonesian, a people who don't always have the stereotypical physical markers of Asian-ness.

I had a email sent to me recently by someone who read my blog. They attacked me for allegedly not being Eurasian - because I don't look like what they figure one should look like! (Apparently, I look like a black person).
I posted it her email on my blog for people to ponder; you might be interested to have a look:

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