Stereotypes now cut many ways. The video below is great because it has several messages within. Inasmuch as it is bloody funny the message is deep.
A White American man is jogging and comes across an Asian American woman stretching. He makes small talk and is surprised that she does not have a foreign accent. He proceeds to ask her where she is from. She tells him she was born in San Diego and English is spoken there. He begins to talk more slowly and labored asking again “Oh, no, where are you from.” She tells him then that she was born in Orange County but never really lived there. He then says absurdly “I mean before that”. She then asks exasperatedly “Before I was born?” He then gets to the real question. “Where are your people from?”
She then tells him her great grandmother is from Seoul. At least he knows geography as he acknowledges Korea. What follows is classic. He claims he knew she was either Japanese or Korean. He then goes into stereotypes, Korean antics and the “teriyaki restaurant & I like Kimchi” mode.
Watching one’s reflection sometimes is not that flattering. The woman reverses the table on the man.
She asks him where is he from. He says San Francisco. She then slowly and labored asks “But where are you from?” His answer is he is just American. She then hits him. “You are Native American.” He says “No, regular American”. She stares and then he gets it. He says “Oh well, I guess my parents are from England.” She then explodes into a stereotypical obnoxiously loud British accent mentioning many British colloquialisms and mentioning Jack the Ripper. She then concludes the act with “I think your people’s fish and chips are amazing.” His reply is “You are weird.” Her reply is “Really, I am weird, must be a Korean thing.”
There is so much in the skit. There is the assumption that regular American means white, the false assumption that any nonwhite person is from somewhere else. When she asks if he is Native American she forces him to drop his implicit belief in his supremacy as the real American.
There is the assumption that assimilation of individuals never occur. All those whose ancestors come from Korea do not like Kimchi just as all those with roots in England do not enjoy fish and chips.
There is the assumption that speaking louder and slower is necessary for a more satisfactory answer even though he is well aware the initial question was understood. Ultimately, the man thinks she is weird for playing back exactly what he did to her. When she asks “I am weird?” it is with the expectation that he would self-reflect. In his confused look I think he did.
Move To Amend, a multiethnic, multicultural coalition of hundreds of organizations and tens of thousands of individuals committed to social and economic justice, ending corporate rule, and building a vibrant democracy that is genuinely accountable to the people, conducts several convergences where these types of exercises are conducted. These exercises are essential for several reasons. They vividly illustrate how implicit white supremacy affects assumptions. When extrapolated to the actual workforce, political power, and economic power it is evident why upward mobility for minorities and ‘others’ is difficult. Being a true American has its benefits & privileges. Until all are made to understand that all US citizens are real Americans the nation’s scar remains.