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Making Asians Uncomfortable: This Fall on FOX! - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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April 19th, 2009


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09:16 pm - Making Asians Uncomfortable: This Fall on FOX!
My mom and my aunt and my cousins and I are sitting outside a Chinese restaurant waiting for a table to open up.

A bald white man with a couple bandages on the back of his head and tattoos up his arms walks up and says, "Oh, I'm going to have start speaking Punjabi now!" On our quizzical looks, he explains that he could see we were from India, and everyone in India speaks Punjabi. No, my mom corrects, it's Hindi that's the national language.

The man stands corrected. And then he says that he didn't want to say "Pakistan" because our faces would fall. When you mention Pakistan to an Indian person, their face goes like this, he says, making a face. "Well, it's another country," I say, intently reading my menu, not willing to engage with this weirdo. I'm waiting for him to naively ask whether we're going back to our country, as this appears to be some bizarre display of tolerance. He goes on about reading body language, how he learned about body language from his mother's responses to the crazy lifestyle of his youth (gesturing to his tattoos).

"There was this great Indian man," he says. "Ganjhi. He said that you have the right to protest, but not to use violence." Yes, we have heard of "Ganjhi." He continues, "When I saw that movie"—I roll my eyes behind my menu—"the British soldiers were beating on him, but he wouldn't fight back!" My aunt and mom mmhmm. "If someone beat on me, it would be on!" That Ganjhi was a pretty great guy. Did you know that if you know who Ganjhi is, that makes you an honorary Indian?

Then he tries to guess which kid belongs to whom—he's wrong—and tries to guess our ages—wrong again, pegging me at 25, my teenage cousin at twentysomething, and my 18-year-old cousin at 20.

The reason he stopped to talk to us, he says, is that he used to drive a limo, and with his long sleeves, his earlier lifestyle was hidden. He used to want to tell all his rich clients, "If you only knew." He once drove the boy king of Jordan! I do not understand what this has to do with anything. I am waiting for anything close to a rational explanation as to why he would come up and talk to a random Indian family for ten minutes. Is he selling something? Preaching? Did he have an Indian friend once and now feels connected to all Indians?

"You better keep walking," my aunt says and smiles, trying to get him to leave. He isn't fazed. He thanks us for letting him take a "minute" of our time. "You read your menus," he says to me and my cousin, attemping to ignore him. I'm not sure whether it's sarcastic or friendly. He tries to fist-bump my mom, who declines, and then my aunt, who accepts.

"Oh!" he says to my mom. "I know you said you're not Islamic, but Islamic women can't touch anyone but their husband!" He knows so much about brown people! He is truly a White Ally, as they say.

Since he shows no signs of leaving, we get up and move to the restaurant under the pretense of seeing if a table is ready, and he takes the hint, thankfully, saying that he needs to pick up some food for his friend. He again thanks us for letting him take up our time.

I didn't smell any alcohol on him; he was only a couple feet away from me. But none of us could figure out what the hell had just happened. What compels a man to do that? What goes through his head? What does he expect to get out of a strange, one-sided conversation with non-white strangers?

At dinner, my cousin wonders if we were on a hidden-camera show. And then we look out the window.

There he is, talking to some Chinese people.
Current Mood: confusedconfused
Current Music: Green Day - Know Your Enemy [in my head]

(67 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


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From:minim_calibre
Date:April 20th, 2009 04:33 am (UTC)
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I...

I got nothin'. A hidden camera show seems like the best possible interpretation. The FUCK????
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From:spectralbovine
Date:April 20th, 2009 04:58 am (UTC)
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I really do have the most confusingly hilarious Adventures in Racism.
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From:miniglik
Date:April 20th, 2009 04:34 am (UTC)
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I am waiting for anything close to a rational explanation as to why he would come up and talk to a random Indian family for ten minutes. Is he selling something? Preaching? Did he have an Indian friend once and now feels connected to all Indians?


I'd go with either drugs, a personality disorder (particularly with the bit about reading body language), or brain damage (bandages, anyone?).

(I'm pretty sure if it's a hidden camera show you have to sign a contract after the fact to appear on the show.)



Edited at 2009-04-20 04:36 am (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:April 20th, 2009 04:58 am (UTC)
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Oh, yeah, I know that if it really had been a hidden-camera show, we would have been told afterward. But personality disorder or brain damage sounds good!
From:birdsarecalling
Date:April 20th, 2009 04:39 am (UTC)
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Maybe it was a Michael Scott impression gone horribly wrong?
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From:spectralbovine
Date:April 20th, 2009 05:02 am (UTC)
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It sort of terrifies me that Michael Scott is not that unrealistic a character.
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From:latropita
Date:April 20th, 2009 04:56 am (UTC)
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That.....is unspeakably bizarre. You and your family have all my admiration for not losing your cool.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:April 20th, 2009 05:04 am (UTC)
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I mean, he wasn't saying anything BAD. He wasn't being outright offensive, just...bizarrely clueless. And we were sort of trapped and wondering when he would go away. Every time he seemed to be finished, he went off on another tangent.
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From:bends
Date:April 20th, 2009 05:10 am (UTC)
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whaaat the fuck

seriously who does that??
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From:spectralbovine
Date:April 20th, 2009 05:15 am (UTC)
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Someone with a personality disorder? I think that's what we're going with.
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From:porpentine
Date:April 20th, 2009 05:13 am (UTC)
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Seriously, every time you post one of these 'adventures in wacky racist assumptions'? I want to apologize for all white people everywhere.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:April 20th, 2009 05:16 am (UTC)
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Hee. I almost want to make an Adventures in Racism tag. I have three posts already!
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From:the_narration
Date:April 20th, 2009 05:14 am (UTC)
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My money's on drugs. Bizarrely friendly to random strangers, no sense of tact, unable to tell when he's not welcome, overinflated sense of own knowledge... yeah, that fucker's high as a kite.

I've had conversations with mentally ill transients on the job that made more sense than that one.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:April 20th, 2009 05:18 am (UTC)
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Ha. It's not often that the answer to "Are you on drugs?!" is "Yes." I guess I haven't been around enough high people to recognize the signs.
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From:matchboxslayer
Date:April 20th, 2009 05:21 am (UTC)
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wow.
i'm embarrassed by that story and it wasn't even me.
people are dumb. specifically, white people.

i would have corrected him about ganghi though. i believe the name he was looking for was "ben kingsley."
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From:spectralbovine
Date:April 20th, 2009 05:24 am (UTC)
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Ha ha ha. Yeah, I resisted the urge to correct him because I didn't want to get into a whole thing, and I guess my mom and aunt had given up by that point. Perhaps he watched the movie while under the influence of ganja.
From:toastandtea
Date:April 20th, 2009 05:25 am (UTC)

TOLERANCE!!!!!!!!!

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SOMETIMES I FEEL BAD ABOUT BEING WHITE.

REALLY BAD.

:(

That Ganjhi was a great dude, though, i gotta say.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:April 20th, 2009 05:30 am (UTC)

CULTURAL AWARENESS!!!!!!!!!

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Your subject line made me laugh.

Ganjhi was awesome! Didn't you see the movie? (I have not.)

I'm glad I don't have to feel bad about being white! Man, not being white is awesome sometimes.
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From:sterope
Date:April 20th, 2009 06:00 am (UTC)
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I'm going to throw in another, "Who does that??" I never strike up conversations with strangers, so I really do not understand.
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From:medryn
Date:April 20th, 2009 06:29 am (UTC)
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If I were a weirdo who guessed what languages a person spoke based on their appearance, I would probably only guess Punjabi if the person appeared to be Sikh. And really that observation would be based more on knowledge of the headgear of major world religions than on racial features. But man, I would have a good chance of being right!
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From:not_vacillating
Date:April 20th, 2009 06:48 am (UTC)
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I'm with the other commenters who guessed mental illness or drug use. I've had the occassional person approach me in a similiar way on the bus or in the street; of course, the white woman/white man who won't stop talking dynamic is different, but the lack of social awareness and one-sided conversation seem comparable.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:April 20th, 2009 03:38 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I've had a couple encounters like that around public transportation too.

Oh my God, I completely left out the whole section about Obama and how the ambassador insulted him in Turkish or something and Obama is a great man and what was that joke of a President we had before? And then my aunt told him to watch it since my mom was from Texas.
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From:bobacita
Date:April 20th, 2009 07:22 am (UTC)
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I meet people like this on the bus. They seem to be well meaning, attempting to show interest in people different from themselves, but they are really just clueless and awkward. Yesterday in SF I had a guy shout at me and my Korean friend "Ni hao konnichihichi", which as I understand, is a strange conglomeration of Chinese, Japanese, and Monchichis.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:April 20th, 2009 03:33 pm (UTC)
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Ha! Way off the mark, then.
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From:hildawookie
Date:April 20th, 2009 08:36 am (UTC)
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Sounds like a case of self-entitled white man syndrome to me. I can’t stand people like that! This story totally riled me! Normally I lurk on your posts, (my punctuation is terrible and I am ashamed) but this…this is too much! He probably took a film appreciation class at a community college where they discussed the films themes and now he feels like he’s an honorary citizen. GRRR! People like that bring out anti-Ganjhi thoughts in me and I want to throw a swift jab to the throat to make them stop talking. I hate confrontation, but I’ve mastered the evil-eye and when jackholes like that attempt to talk to me I throw them a quick death look, they go away thinking I’m a total bitca, but instead of feeling badly about being mean, I brush it off and actually feel quite proud of myself because I didn’t allow them to subject me to their ignorance.

I'm sorry you, your family, and everyone else this guy harasses had to endure that jerk.

*My icon is a picture of my cute dog to counter the hostility in this reply post. Sorry if I got too rowdy!
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From:spectralbovine
Date:April 20th, 2009 03:43 pm (UTC)
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I really do think he was either on drugs or mentally ill or something. I just cannot imagine his brain was fully functioning. This does not, of course, excuse him entirely since what came out was still inside him, so he may be a self-entitled white man at heart, but I can't hate him too much.

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