January 24th, 2009
|05:31 pm - No Country for Indian Men|
So I stopped by a used car lot because I'm looking at getting a car. An older white man, probably in his fifties or later, came over and introduced himself. I told him my name, and he failed to hear it properly twice ("Neil? Funil?"), but I didn't care. I told him what I was looking for, and he started to show me some cars.
In gauging exactly what sort of car I was looking for, he then asked, "Are you going back to your country?"
Am I going back to my country? AM I GOING BACK TO MY COUNTRY? I don't look like a FOB, act like a FOB, talk like a FOB; why you gotta treat me like a FOB, man? I would be less confused if I gave you the impression that I was Fresh Off the Boat, but my English is unaccented. Are you completely unfamiliar with the concept of foreigners peacefully and happily coexisting with white folk in America for many decades now? I WAS BORN HERE.
It was certainly one of the most bewildering things that's ever been said to me. I'm reminded of the woman in Legoland who presumably assumed I was an engineer because I was Indian and then asked me whether they made a lot of movies like Juno in India. Just like her, this man meant no offense at all; his tone was inquisitive and genial. The subtext was not "When're ya gonna git back to yer doggone country, ya dirty furriner?" but "You're not from around here, so perhaps you intend to go back to the homeland in a few years, which will have some bearing on what car I show you."
Confused though I was, I answered politely, "No, I'm staying."
I've rarely encountered hardcore racism, but it's this sort of stealth racism that keeps me on my toes. I was once asked by a girl on the bus in junior high whether I liked being Indian. I didn't know how to answer since I had never not been Indian, so how could I know? It wasn't as if I had a choice, anyway.
It's like some people don't know how to interact with people of other skin colors, like we make them all awkward. And in their misguided good intentions, they end up saying the most inane things. We're just people, the same as you, you fools. Don't get all weak in the knees and addled in the brain. The man was very nice and friendly throughout, though, and aside from that question, he treated me like a regular person.
I should probably be offended—and to a mild extent, I am—but mostly, I find it hilarious. I can't stop laughing about it. Am I going back to my country? Am I going back to my country?
No, sir, I am not. Newsflash! We're here to stay.
Current Mood: amused
Current Music: Placebo - Pure Morning
*facepalm* Bless you for having a sense of humor about it. People are so ridiculous sometimes!
I probably have too much of a sense of humor about these things, which is why I'm no good during the periodic racism debates on the Interwebs.
I will keep that in mind, Nicole. You are full of useful information.
Heh. You should have made him feel awkward. That would have been fun.
In the context of you being asked if you liked being Indian, I have a story. When I was in high school, especially during the winter, there was a period of time where I was atold by someone (various someones) nearly every day, "crap, your legs are so white!" or "wow, why are you so pale" or my favorite "how are you so white?" Eventually, I would sarcastically answer something like, "OMG, I'm white!?! Really? Crap!" Or "why am I so white? Well, let's see. My mother is white, and my dad is white, and -- *gasp* -- somehow I turned out white."
(Similarly J got to say things like, "I'm tall? No shit?!?!)
Okay, getting off on a huge, somewhat unrelated tangent, but I do think there was a point somewhere in there originally. Hmm... what was it? Oh, oh. Yes. People are weird. They like to question and comment on that which is different, like skin color, even when it's meant harmlessly, because different is interesting.
And there was your
first random miniglik story of the day.
You should have made him feel awkward. That would have been fun.
My friends have come up with the following responses so far:
"I'm American and already in my country."
"No. Are you going back to yours?"
"Yes, but it's just down the block. So it shouldn't matter too much."
"I have my own country?! Am I king? Is this a reality TV show? Where are the cameras?! Where?!"
"In fact, I'm going back to your mom's house."
People certainly do like to say dumb things, don't they.
Why, why people gotta be such idjits?
You could always blink a lot and go, "Oh, man! Did Texas secede??? My folks totally failed to tell me!"
Hee! Yes, that is definitely the country he thought I was from.
Oh boy. *eyeroll* I love people, I really do.
|Date:||January 25th, 2009 01:53 am (UTC)|| |
Wow. I'm glad you have a sense of humor about it, at least. I'm simultaneously amazed that anyone can say that in this day and age, and sadly not surprised at all. There've been studies showing that some people hear an accent when confronted with someone they think looks foreign, even if the person doesn't have an accent at all.
Edited at 2009-01-25 01:54 am (UTC)
That's freaky! I didn't know that. How weird. I mean, I have no accent. Not even a regional one.
|Date:||January 25th, 2009 01:54 am (UTC)|| |
"No, Sir. I understand Texas joined the Union a while ago."
Re: Correct Response
When I was in third grade, one of my best friends was Filipino. One day we were talking about our families and stuff, and I asked her if she had any Irish people in her family -- because I had Irish people.
I don't know that I ever would have thought a third grader could look quite so puzzled as she did, which is really saying something.
I'm sorry people are stupid.
Ha! That's funny. I mean, it's an adorable mistake, and I don't think it would be considered offensive, but then again, my tolerance is higher.
|Date:||January 25th, 2009 02:03 am (UTC)|| |
Ooh! Ooh! Do you ever get the classic "You speak English so well!"? Because when I "out" myself as an immigrant, I sure do.
I've not gotten that one, heh. But I'm not even an immigrant! I'm a natural-born citizen!
|Date:||January 25th, 2009 02:08 am (UTC)|| |
OMG I HAVE NEVER GOTTEN AN ANIMATED GIF AS A COMMENT.
I FEEL LIKE I AM ON ONTD OR A NEWS POST.
(HA HA YOUR ICON.)
I think he also tried Tunil.
Well, see, you never know. Some of those foreign call-center workers have pretty good American accents now; you could be a stealth immigrant. Good thing he saw right through that.
People will make stupid assumptions about anything and everything. God bless America.
Aren't we living in post-racial America? GOOD JOB CURING RACISM, OBAMA.
I can't believe you said you're staying! Do you know how much paperwork that's going to require?
Dammit, Sunil. I'm officially dumping you for Kal Penn. Or Dev Patel. Or Anoop Desai. Such hot Texans.
I don't know this Anoop character. Is he on one of your reality shows?
This was brilliant, and I love that you find it hilarious. I'd probably blow up and start brawling with my friends...when you're right...the only thing you can really do is laugh.
|Date:||January 25th, 2009 03:06 am (UTC)|| |
But Sunil! Don't you know we're in a POST-RACIAL SOCIETY NOW!
That's what I thought too! But maybe that only applies to African-Americans. WHERE'S MY INDIAN PRESIDENT, WHAT WHAT.