More

Dear curious people: This is how I want you to ask about my race.

'What’s your ethnicity? Are you Korean? Cambodian? Sometimes it’s so hard to guess.'

Dear curious people: This is how I want you to ask about my race.

This past summer, I worked in customer service.

While I absolutely loved my job and the interactions I had with people, there’s one conversation I’ll never forget.

As I was helping a woman with her items, she asked, "What’s your ethnicity? Are you Korean? Cambodian? Sometimes it’s so hard to guess."


Photo via iStock.

"Guess" – the word stuck to me like it was pasted with hard glue, now forming a solid mount on my chest that I couldn’t remove.

Appeasing her curiosity, I replied, "I’m Chinese" with a feigned smile. While I was reduced to an object of someone else’s fascination, the customer’s curiosity was sated.

During another instance, I was asked, "Is Megan your real name?"

I felt my heart sink when the words hit my ears.

The man continued, "I have Chinese students who come to America and change their name. Were you born with the name Megan?"

I thought, "Megan is the only name I’ve ever been known as. Of course my name is Megan."

Withholding the anger at this man’s assumptions, I replied, "Yes, sir, my real name is Megan," trying to dismiss the conversation. He eventually stopped asking me questions when he sensed I didn’t want to reply to him.

To confront me about my ethnicity, imagine putting yourself in my position.

On a first encounter with a new person, would it really be OK if someone asked, "Is that your real name?"

While I understand that some people might view these questions as a means of friendly conversation, they simply aren’t appropriate.

I enjoy discussions about ethnicity and identity, but there are better ways to approach me about my race.

Photo via iStock.

Here are some tried and true methods or phrases I’d love to hear you use:

1. "Hey, I have a friend who studied abroad in Asia, and I’m interested in traveling there. Could you tell me which country you’re from?"

By mentioning your friend or maybe even yourself as a person who has studied abroad, I’ll understand the context of your question. I’ll also have more respect for you because of the thought put into phrasing it.

2. "I recently learned this fact about Asian culture, and I think it’s awesome. Are you from China?"

Again, this question is considerate (to me) because you’re explaining why you’re asking the question beforehand. Oh, and bonus points that you even know that fact about culture.

3. "Hey, I was wondering if you could tell me how you identify yourself."

Oh my gosh. Yes. I love this question.

Here’s why: You’re opening up the discussion for me to tell you how I choose to identify myself. I’ll probably hug you then tell you, "I’m adopted and identify as a Caucasian person. However, I was born in China."

These are questions that are respectful and courteous. They don’t make me the object of your curiosity. They remind both of us that I’m a human.

Here’s the thing: I do want to talk about my identity. But the way you ask about it matters.

Some questions can come across as hurtful. But when you rephrase a question, you’ll have me hooked into the conversation right away. In fact, if I were asked any of the above questions, I’d probably give you a hug. I’d love to have a discussion about identities with you!

Please ask questions that are open-ended because they’ll give me an opportunity to share my cultural identity with you.

Even though I was adopted from China, I was not raised in traditional Chinese culture. I was raised right here in the United States by two European parents. So my reality and my identity are complicated. Give me the space to explain.

Now, who’s ready to chat?

True
Frito-Lay

Did you know one in five families are unable to provide everyday essentials and food for their children? This summer was also the hungriest on record with one in four children not knowing where their next meal will come from – an increase from one in seven children prior to the pandemic. The effects of COVID-19 continue to be felt around the country and many people struggle to secure basic needs. Unemployment is at an all-time high and an alarming number of families face food insecurity, not only from the increased financial burdens but also because many students and families rely on schools for school meal programs and other daily essentials.

This school year is unlike any other. Frito-Lay knew the critical need to ensure children have enough food and resources to succeed. The company quickly pivoted to expand its partnership with Feed the Children, a leading nonprofit focused on alleviating childhood hunger, to create the "Building the Future Together" program to provide shelf-stable food to supplement more than a quarter-million meals and distribute 500,000 pantry staples, school supplies, snacks, books, hand sanitizer, and personal care items to schools in underserved communities.

Keep Reading Show less

One night in 2018, Sheila and Steve Albers took their two youngest sons out to dinner. Their 17-year-old son, John, was in a crabby mood—not an uncommon occurrence for the teen who struggled with mental health issues—so he stayed home.

A half hour later, Sheila's started getting text messages that John wasn't safe. He had posted messages with suicidal ideations on social media and his friends had called the police to check on him. The Albers immediately raced home.

When they got there, they were met with a surreal scene. Their minivan was in the neighbor's yard across the street. John had been shot in the driver's seat six times by a police officer who had arrived to check on him. The officer had fired two shots as the teen slowly backed the van out of the garage, then 11 more after the van spun around backward. But all the officers told the Albers was that John had "passed" and had been shot. They wouldn't find out until the next day who had shot and killed him.

Keep Reading Show less
True

$200 billion of COVID-19 recovery funding is being used to bail out fossil fuel companies. These mayors are combatting this and instead investing in green jobs and a just recovery.

Learn more on how cities are taking action: c40.org/divest-invest


Biases, stereotypes, prejudices—these byproducts of the human brain's natural tendency to generalize and categorize have been a root cause of most of humanity's problems for, well, pretty much ever. None of us is immune to those tendencies, and since they can easily slip in unnoticed, we all have to be aware of where, when, and how they impact our own beliefs and actions.

It also helps when someone upends a stereotype by saying or doing something unexpected.

Fair or not, certain parts of the U.S. are associated with certain cultural assumptions, perhaps none more pinholed than the rural south. When we hear Appalachia, a certain stereotype probably pops up in our minds—probably white, probably not well educated, probably racist. Even if there is some basis to a stereotype, we must always remember that human beings can never be painted with such broad strokes.

Enter Tyler Childers, a rising country music star whose old-school country fiddling has endeared him to a broad audience, but his new album may have a different kind of reach. "Long Violent History" was released Friday, along with a video message to his white rural fans explaining the culminating track by the same name. Watch it here:

Keep Reading Show less

How we talk about Black Lives Matter protests across America is often a reflection of how we personally feel about the fight for racial equality itself. We're all biased toward our own preferences and a fractured news media hasn't helped things by skewing facts, emphasizing preferred narratives and neglecting important stories, oftentimes out of fear that they might alienate their increasingly partisan and entrenched audiences.

This has been painfully clear in how we report on and talk about the protests themselves. Are they organized by Antifa and angry mobs of BLM renegades hell bent on the destruction of everything wholesome about America? Or, are they entirely peaceful demonstrations in which only the law enforcement officers are the bad actors? The uncomfortable truth is that both extreme narratives ignore key facts. The overwhelming majority of protests have been peaceful.protests have been peaceful. The facts there are clear. And the police have also provoked acts of aggression against peaceful demonstrators, leading to injuries and unnecessary arrests. Yet, there have been glaring exceptions of vandalism, intimidation and violence in cities like Portland, Seattle, and most recently, Louisville. And while some go so far as to quite literally defend looting, that's a view far outside the mainstream of nearly all Americans across various age, racial and cultural demographics.

But what if we step away from the larger philosophical debate and narrow things down to one very important fact: the vast majority of those stirring division at protests are white.

And if you don't believe me, just listen to Durham, North Carolina's mayor and what he had to say about how white people are "hijacking" Breonna Taylor's legacy and transforming a movement that has suddenly split Americans after having near unanimous support just a few months ago.


Keep Reading Show less