Race toward home

Pico Iyer, a writer and world traveler, gives an incredibly powerful 14 minutes TED talk titled “Where is home?” He begins with this simple question and delves quickly into a larger discussion on the global community and individual sense of belonging. If you skip the rest of my blog post, at least watch this:

Iyer’s poignant observation regarding movement and stillness rang true in my life as a traveler, a millennial, and a dancer. But his discussion on home also triggered another part of myself. That as a multiracial child in the 21st century.

Which brings me to the Race Card Project (racecardproject.com), a fascinating platform for people to speak about race. Michele Norris with National Public Radio started this project by inviting people to share any thought or experience regarding race. In six words. Some of the stories have been shared on the radio and online. I decided to create my own. What would your race card say? 

“They only see the Asian half.” -My race card

My mother is of Irish and Italian heritage; my father of Japanese descent. Both of my parents were born in the United States as were their parents before them. Both consider themselves to be American as documented by their passports, drivers licenses and birth certificates. My mother and father speak English has their first and only language. And the American child they created and raised together? Well she constantly gets asked where she is “really” from because New York State is never the correct answer.

I learned to identify myself as Asian-American because that is how others categorized me. My classmates assumed Asian was the reason I got good grades. Asian was the reason I liked seafood and tanned like an islander. And Asian was the reason my grandmother was lived in a Colorado internment camp directly following the attack on Pearl Harbor. My history. Asian history. The rich Irish-Italian culture of my mother’s family never stood a chance.


Spotted: Little Pink at the Gym

Which of these choices is incorrect:

I went to the gym and _______.

1) worked out because I’m finally starting to lose weight.

2) heard a body combat class punching and kicking to the Hairspray soundtrack

3) saw a white person in the gym.

The correct answer is, of course, Number 1. ( I mean honestly, I eat fried meat and halo-halo on a regular basis. Let’s get real.)

As I was finishing my work out, humming Hairspray as I wiped the sweat from my brow, I did a double-take of something that seemed strangely familiar but somehow out of the ordinary. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it was a Caucasian male. A male wearing a pink polo and doing crunches. It took all my effort not to stop in my tracks and stare…very long.

Which brings me to my point. Why would someone work out in a pink polo? Jokes lang.

As young college Americans travel and study abroad, they are immersed in new sights and sounds. Common phrases include, “They don’t have ____ in America” or “Why don’t Americans drink ____ ?(usually a delicious yet inexpensive alcohol)” Other than the food, the culture and the traditions, America students are amazed by the homogenous body that makes up a number of countries in the world. India, China, Japan, Guatemala, Denmark. The streets and coffee shops are seas of similar stature, hair color, and facial structure. The Philippines is no exception. Anyone Caucasian, African, or blond for that matter stands out like a sore thumb.

And that is one thing that makes me so proud of America. We have racism, sexism, and the other kinds of bad -isms out there. However, we are the definition of a cultural melting pot–comprised of every language, religion and skin color. This is something special, something unique to our country and I believe our multi-cultural exposure can be an advantage if we let it. You look different from me? So what. Americans are lucky to grow up in a jambalaya of ethnicities and we should embrace the opportunity to accept one another on the basis of humanity.

You knew you could gain so much intellectual insight from a polo-wearing Caucasian sweating under the glare of his fit Filipino trainer?

Cute kid buying snacks from one of many local stores.