Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Authors Behaving Badly

No name was provided for this pinhead, but evidently he's famous enough to rate a limo.

Even when you're not a writer, people want to color-code you so bad. Working in Miami and wearing my hair dark, I was sometimes mistaken for a Cuban-American (until someone heard me speaking my lame high school Spanish, anyway.) In LA when I had worked up a great tan people asked me if I was Mexican-American; in San Francisco when my tan faded back to my normal oddish skin tone others pegged me as half Chinese or half Korean.

I call myself human. How about you?

11 comments:

  1. I usually look at how someone's dressed, though it is ingrained in our society to try and place people in whatever group we can.

    I've found it especially bad where I live. The ethnic mix (Ha!) is basically half black and three shades of white (German, Irish, Jewish), making my town the most ethnically dull city in the US. The Hispanic influx even bypassed the city and went straight for the suburbs. (Had I known better when I moved here, so would I.)

    Everyday, it's more culture shock for a boy raised in an area where the accents, skintone, and (most importantly) cuisine changed on every block. How many f***ing Applebees do they need in this town, anyway?

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  2. And what I originally meant to say about how someone's dressed is that tells me more about them than their skintone, but even that's unreliable. Still, the guy in the golf shirt is probably going to command more attention from me than the WASP who looks like he got his clothes from a dumpster. But I've seen that go wrong, too.

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  3. Sheesh. This person was resentful because the famous lit author didn't sustain the recognition of their brilliance. The word for that is entitlement. They were also resentful about feeling excluded and different and focused on that.

    A jerk, for sure. I think especially because of the way they sucked up to the famous author and how they put the blame for rejection on the fact they wrote children's lit and were Asian rather than they might be a walking anus.

    I shudder to think how anussy they would be it they were a recognized lit fic author.

    The discomfort at being a minority and amplifying that is less heinous though.

    If any majority author were to actually go to a conference (or anywhere) where they were in the extreme minority, they'd see that it's very easy and human to amplify that discomfort. You wonder if the reason that anytime you're treated differently or belittled is because you're a majority or is it because of some other thing about you? It's very difficult to figure out which. But most know the unwritten rule never to voice (or write) the discomfort aloud. This chick doesn't have a clue.

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  4. Oh yeah, the famous author was an anus too, but I didn't focus on that, because that sort of twittishness is kinda a given. Generally minorities get singled out, that's just the way it is.

    If it's in a postitive way--personally, I don't hestitate to work it. They want to give me (private schooled middle class chick from Kansas) six figures to write urban street lit rendered in Ebonics? I'm so there.

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  5. See now I enjoyed her piece even if it came off a bit whiney.

    Having lived overseas in Asia for a year, numerous times this happened to me...people I knew who "befriended" me for my skin color alone, then moved on.

    Never bothered me though. I knew what was the deal and let them have their fun. I have some great memories of experiences because of it. (Crashing a wedding reception in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and being pulled on stage during a modern Korean drum show much like "Stomp", to name a few.)

    Complaining or Celebrating, either way it makes for a good writing.

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  6. Anonymous3:15 PM

    I consider myself an American Mutt. Most whites look at my family and think 'American Indian'. Indians see us as white. The Scottish and Irish wouldn't recognize me as the distant cousin I am because of the natural tan and hair color while both my German and English ancestries are probably too faint to be seen. I belong in North America.

    I had a close friend from Italy that I worked with for a year. He could trace his ancestry back for centuries and was surprised to learn that not one person of the thirty-five of my American employees could do that. Back home, he said he could look at another Italian and usually tell you what part of the country they (or at least their parents) came from based on what they looked like. And he was quick to remind me that Italians weren't considered 'white' in this country for a very long time. Neither were Jews or Hispanics for that matter.

    Now the definition (at least in America) between those groups is beginning to fade out. With more and more mobility all the little details that define where you are from (geographically) are starting to fuzz, even accents in the US are starting to fade out. They aren't gone by any means, but they aren't as distinct as they were thirty or fifty years ago.

    In another hundred years I expect that most of Europe, some chunks of the Middle East, Australia and even parts of Asia will be just as blurred as North America is now. And North America will be so well mixed, the distinction between one racial group and another will become academic.

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  7. Anonymous3:25 PM

    I've been mistaken for Japanese (by a drunk Japanese businessman), Philippino (by a Sri Lankan) and Black (by a white South African). Me, a tall, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, Norwegian/German. People see what they want to see.

    Big name author was clearly a jerk, and I can understand the writer of the piece being po'd, but didn't she wonder why she was all of a sudden so popular???

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  8. Once, when my wife and I were returning from Tijuana, the border patrol guy wouldn't let us through. He kept squinting at Karen, who is Japanese; but with her sunglasses on, I suppose he could convince himself she was Hispanic.

    It didn't help when we told him we were from San Jose ;o)

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  9. I'm laughing over the golf shirts comparison, but only because of a strange experience I had last year in Sebring, FL, when I evacuated from the Keys because of Hurricane Ivan. A friend and I hit the local sports bar on Sunday afternoon to watch football. Two men sat next to us -- clean, dressed neatly in polo-style golf shirts and khakis. Very preppy in appearance.

    The one asked me, for some reason, about Deion Sanders -- never one of my favorite NFLers. I said that and the man answered, "I know what you mean. He's just too black."

    I choked on my beer. "No, his race has nothing to do with it," I answered carefully. "I don't care for his hotdogging antics."

    I turned away and concentrated on my game. My Philly Eagles were, unfortunately, playing this guy's NY Giants. A few minutes later, his team's big, blond, Nordic looking tight end scored. Guy says, "Honey, now you can't say anything bad about Shockey. He's all white!"

    My reply: "I don't care about his race. He plays for the Giants, that's bad in my book."

    You'd think that after not getting a bigoted agreement from me either time, the guy would cease and desist. Perhaps his baseball cap was too tight. He continued making race comments for the rest of the game. I stopped responding all together.

    It was either that or throw my beer.

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  10. I get so tired of distinctions based on race. I grew up in a small southern town with a mix of whites, blacks, Cubans, Filipinos, and a sprinkling of other nationalities. Everybody's just people.

    Oh, I forgot the Yankees (which, btw, means anyone from north of the Mason-Dixon line and East of the Mississippi). I hate Yankees. They all talk alike. ;-)

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  11. Anonymous8:19 PM

    Ethnic identification? For what purpose? If you write well, you write well, what you look like doesn't enter it to it. Nor should it matter whether you're successful or not: make the time to talk to emerging authors and encourage them.

    FYI, here in Australia, I've been mistaken for Italian, English, Greek or French. Travelling in America, I was mistaken for British, South African, a New Zealander, Italian. In England, I was mistaken for French, South African, British and Swedish (for God's Sake!).

    I'm Australian; born of one English parent and one non-Indigenous Australian parent. I have dark rum coloured hair, and light hazel/green eyes.

    No matter what their assumptions, I was astonished at how differently I was treated because of someone else's prejudices against a particular country.

    Whatever happened to interacting with someone because you like them? Or find them interesting? Or any number of reasons that have nothing to do with appearance?

    Jaye Patrick

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