Thursday, May 28, 2009

F.Y.I, I am Filipino-Australian

Dear everyone who thinks its any of their God-damned business what ethnicity I am:

First of all, it’s not. Any of your damn business, that is. I mean shit, here I am just waiting for the tram/trying to have a conversation with my friend/taking your order/entering my apartment building/studying in the library/ordering a beer, who the hell are you that I have to disclose personal information to satisfy your fascination? I mean, the mere fact that I'm a young woman in public doesn't mean you have a right to get up in my face in the first place, let alone ask intrusive questions.

When you look me up and down and start loudly proclaiming stuff along the lines of, “You soooo do not look Filo!” “You don’t look Asian at all!” you are perfectly entitled to your opinions. Far be it from me to tell people that their perceptions of what so-and-so ethnicities are supposed to look like are right or wrong. I can argue or disagree but I can’t tell you not to have an opinion.

I ask only that you keep this in mind. This is my RACE you are talking about. My mixed race, to be exact. Not a kooky t-shirt, or my hairstyle, or some teapot off Antiques Roadshow – my race. This is an unchangeable, significant and unique part of my identity that is completely removed from you and your preconceptions of race. This is something personal and important to me.

And you think you can just waltz on up and tell me I'm doing it wrong. Usually while HITTING on me. For God's SAKE.

Here’s something else: you are not the first and unfortunately won’t be the last to make these observations about my looks. I have to defend my own racial background to nosy people every day. Oh yes, I do. I have to smile obligingly and nod knowingly every time somebody stares at me like I'm an exotic flower and says, “Wow, you’re different, what are you?” I'm a girl minding her own damn business, what are you?

I have to laugh with them (over and over and fucking over again) when they say (often repeatedly), “But you don’t look Filipino! You don’t even look Asian! You look Italian/ South American /Thai/ Maltese/ Spanish/ Egyptian...”

Yes, you know, I think I get it! I’m biracial! I look a bit different! I’m not quite one race, not quite another! IT’S CRAZY!

When you tell me in what to you is a casual remark that I don’t look how I’m supposed to look, you make me feel like I have somehow failed something. And you are talking about MY RACE.

It’s like going up to random kids and saying, “Oh, is that your mum? You don’t look anything alike! No really, you don’t look like her at all, how funny! Are you sure that’s your mum?”

I mean come on, is that polite? Maybe to your eyes it’s the truth, but you don’t have to go talking shit about the way people look, do you?

You can say what you think I "should" be based on my looks.

Just like I can say for the love of God’s arse you need to shut the hell up, I’m sick of hearing it and you’re being fucking rude.

And no, I don't want to catch up for a drink sometime.


  1. Interesting. See, as someone who looks pretty racially ambiguous myself, I get asked the "Where you from?" question a lot.(I'm Indonesian/Australian, but you wouldn't pick it - the guesses are usually Brazilian/Mauritian/South African)

    Thing is, it doesn't bother me in the least. I guess partly because it's not asked in the context of dudes hitting on me!
    But also because I know that I ask people the same sort of thing all the time - hopefully in a non-intrusive way and not to random strangers. I'm just interested in people's nationalities, and the amazing diversity of how people look.
    I had an African friend who got really offended when asked where she was from, because she felt it was part of trying to exclude her. But I wonder if she was being hyper-sensitive - lots of people are just curious and genuinely interested to learn something about you.

    Can't say I condone random out-of-the-blue enquiries from strangers though. I'm with you on that one - a bit weird.

    "I’m not quite one race, not quite another! IT’S CRAZY!"
    -Nice line. I'm sure your very existence must blow some people's minds!

  2. Yeah, I have to say I don't blow up EVERY single time I'm asked, and if it's asked by a friend or somebody does it in a polite way I'm usually happy to talk about it. But if that same person then goes on a rant about how I don't look the way I'm supposed to look - and quite often they do - that starts to get old fast, even if it is funny fielding the Italian/Spanish/Slovakian/etc. guesses initially.

    But to me, it IS a personal question and I AM asked by mostly unfamiliar people in public; I strongly believe it a major part of that is because I am a petite young woman and strangers (especially guy-strangers) feel the perfectly entitled to intrude upon me in public. I doubt they would have the same "curiosity" towards a mixed-race young man. It's like a weird mix of racism ("You're so exotic! But you don't look ASIAN, pfft!") and sexism ("Hey baby, I'm gonna get up in face while you're alone on this tram 'cos you're a CUTIE!").