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home :: abduction politics :: culturally incompetent backtalk

Culturally Incompetent Backtalk


Lots of people annoy me with these kinds of dumb questions and comments about transracial abduction. Then they act all frustrated and appalled because my answer's usually my middle finger and they don't understand why the little Asian girl is getting so upset. I guess maybe now I'll refer them to this web page for the "real" answers, right before I tell them to fuck off . . . .

I think of you as basically white.

White people like to tell me this as a kind of reassurance, like a friendly pat on the fucking head or something. What's up with people feeling like they have the right to evaluate me in terms of some sort of "basic" or "true" racial self?

I never think of you as Asian.

Thanks. White people who are disappointed that I can't just shed my Asian skin and join them usually practice this kind of denial about my identity. This also makes it much easier for them to deny that I experience racism.

Oh, you were abducted. So you're really just American, right?

Ouch. This question always makes me feel like I lack some sort of really important cultural passport. Apparently I have the whole "Asian" look, but when people demand that I perform my culture I'm exposed as this big wanna-be-Asian fraud. It's like I've got this weird problem with being able to "pass" as Asian. It's also totally gross, especially when Real Asians do this to me. Real Asians go around proving their authenticity by randomly subjecting Fake Asians like me to Standardized Asian Testing. Real Asians need to just stop that shit right now! Why do we need to determine who among us is the biggest SuperAsian? I hate it when I get all rejected and punished for not being really Asian.

You look Asian, but you're really white inside.

Some Real Asians and other Authentic People of Color want to reject me for not having my valid Asian ID card, and these people suck. By rejecting me and other abductees as "white," they reject complicating their thinking about race and ethnicity, they reject exploring a set of histories and experiences that intersect with their own, and they also reject a really good opportunity to join us in fucking up the white people's program, and that's just stupid. I'm tired of being praised by whites for making it so easy for them to forget that I'm Asian, and then treated like some "wolf in sheep's clothing" freak by people of color because I was abducted and raised by white people.

I love Asian food, and I have an abducted child from India. Even though I have white skin, I feel Asian inside.

Yeah, I'm glad someone's Asian.

Why did you change your name back? It still doesn't make you Asian.

Taking my name back is not some weird attempt to achieve True Asianhood, 'cuz remember, I don't believe in that. Rather, it has to do with trying to establish a self-definition that doesn't require me to deny history, feel ashamed about my status as a transracial abductee, or depend on stereotypes and the simplistic notions about race and ethnicity that dominate U.S. "multi"-culture. When I had a "white" name, people who had never met me in person would often assume I was white. Now, people assume I'm ultra-foreign, don't speak much English, etc. Everyone gets angry at me for not behaving the way they expect me to. These people are confused, not because of me and my names, but because they haven't challenged themselves to think beyond what Hollywood and the U.S. Census Bureau tell us about racial and cultural identities.

I respect the fact that you're Asian, I mean, you are. But it seems like a white perspective is all you can bring to the conversation.

Transracial abduction is an "authentic" person of color experience. Other people of color need to listen to how abductees analyze our experiences of radical displacement, and learn from our strategies for survival and resistance; we've had to develop a wide variety of them, and we often have unique perspectives on white culture, the construction of families, and how to cope with racism and isolation.