Fleeting: Poking fun at Ignorance

Below are a few stories I have that have some interconnection:

Before I begin let me show you an image and news article that made me chuckle a bit a while back:

Now in case you are wondering… if you were to read the words underneath those eight student’s pictures it would have read:

We know … what … you’re … thinking … and … no, … we’re … not related.

For a bit of a history lesson, the very last monarchy to rule in Viet Nam was the Nguyen dynasty (closest English pronunciation would be wynn or win). When the Nguyen dynasty came into power in the early 1800s many of the populace promptly changed their surnames (or family names as it is more widely known at the time) to Nguyen as a way to curry favor with the monarchy or to avoid persecution.

When the last monarch of the Nguyen dynasty abdicated his seat and transferred power to the State of Viet Nam, a fair number of the population stuck with the last name of Nguyen.

I suppose the English/American equivalent to Viet Nam’s “Nguyen” would be “Smith”. If you’re still kind of confused.

What annoys me (and many others in similar situations) is the common, “oh you have this last name then you must be related to…” No, not always. So the eight girls decided to really to poke fun at the average person’s ignorance and pull a prank on their yearbook quote… and honestly I found it funny even if others might not. 🙂

Anyway, seeing the above image and reading the corresponding article(s) is what drove me to write this particular post with a little of my own experiences with racial ignorances:

To give a little bit of history of me:
– I went to the University of Illinois at Chicago for college/university
– I was born at St Luke’s Presbyterian Hospital which is right next door to the then University of Illinois Medical Campus

Now I was in my first year at the University of IL at Chicago campus, most of my friends/classmates at the time were Asians with heavier sounding accents and I was this Asian kid that came from a suburb where the majority were Caucasians. Since I was new I didn’t say much. Call it scared, timid, whatever. In any case, there was this Caucasian male that came up to me (I guess wanting to start conversation) and he asked, “So how do you like it in this country?”

And I replied (in an obviously fake, FOB-by Asian accent – with poor engrish to boot), “Oh I like, I like very much.”

“Oh really? So where are you from?”

“Oh! Not far. Not far at all.”

So this conversation continued on for a few minutes, my classmates looking at me but not saying anything. Finally he asked again, “So really where are you from?”

I smiled and said in the FOB accent, “Oh not far, not far at all.” Then cleaned up the english, got rid of the accent and said, “Just five blocks west from the University of Illinois Medical Center.”

My friends busted out laughing and I’ve never seen a guy run off so fast…

Yeeeeeaaaah… I’m evil, sometimes. 🙂

So I was hanging out with my then-beau and a few acquaintances, and they were talking about potential Halloween costumes, or costumes they have done in the past. I never really celebrated Halloween, never really was my thing.

One acquaintance looked at me and said, “Next Halloween you would be perfect as a geisha!”

Umm… Why? Because I’m Asian? My then-beau had this look of horror on his face and had to walk away for a moment, the other guys shook their heads just slightly, almost in exasperation. I simply said, “I thought about it, but if I was going to be a geisha I want to do it right. In the traditional sense… where being a geisha was an artform, back during a time when a geisha was revered and that takes time, and a lot of it. Unfortunately I’m lazy.”

Well no, not really lazy in that sense, I’ll just go over obsessive and I’d rather not put myself in a situation where I would be allowed to over obsess over details that I simply don’t need to. Meh.

So I was at this party and I was talking to a couple of acquaintances when a girl comes up to me and asks: “Do you speak Asian?”

Some of those acquaintances busted out laughing when I smiled and tried to figure out how I wanted to reply to this particular question.

The original thought that came to mind was to ask back: “Well it depends, do you speak American?”

But instead I took the high road and said, “In a way, I speak Vietnamese.”

**sighs** Too easy, too easy to just come out with an insanely funny and just as snarky comment if I really wanted to, but dammit I decided to be nice instead.

Anyway, the question was too funny not to share with my friends, and one of my friends told his friend who responded with:

“THAT WOULD BE AWESOME! Do you know how many languages, not to mention regional dialects from little towns scatter across the area, there are in Asia? You could translate like a BOSS! People visit Asia, you are their tour guide, they ask ‘What languages do you speak?’ you reply ‘ALL OF THEM!’ “

That did it, I finally had to share the original question with the above comment on FB.

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