From the Toronto Sun (“Dear Amy” is an annoying syndicated “advice” columnist):
DEAR AMY: I am always curious about people’s cultural and racial background. My 24-year-old daughter is mixed-race (black and Korean). I went to Seoul when she was 2-years-old to bring her home from the orphanage.
As a result of knowing her racial makeup, I’ve sorted out what various Asians look like and can distinguish differences between people from China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Vietnam and the Philippines.
I am outgoing, and when I hear an accent or see someone I think is a combo like my daughter, I usually ask. People are always curious about my daughter and I’m curious about other people too.
Am I being rude if I express curiosity about a person’s racial background? Some people like the interest, but others seem to resent it. A man in the supermarket yesterday was obviously annoyed. He was from Sudan. Should I just keep my mouth shut? It seems too politically correct to stay quiet. I think that other people should not be this sensitive. — J
DEAR J: You should feel free to express your abundant curiosity, but you should also accept a stranger’s right to keep his or her ethnic or racial story private and to tell you, politely, to please go away.
Charging up to a person at the supermarket and saying, “Hi – just curious. Are you a combo?” is obnoxious.
So is saying, “I bet I can guess your race! No, really — I’m very good at this!”
You need to accept that some people really aren’t going to care one way or the other about your motivations for intruding upon them. This has nothing to do with being politically correct. This has to do with you engaging strangers in a personal conversation they might not feel like having in that moment.
I am pleased that you have sorted out what the various Asians look like. At one time I, too, harbored the delusion that I could tell. I seem to have lost this super power. Maybe you could give me some clues. Did you read the Life Magazine article?
In any event, when gleeful-looking white people come up to me to tell me that they know, they just know, what I am, I typically answer “yes.” Regardless what they say.
But if they say “What are you?” I like to respond, “I am a toaster.” Or “I am the walrus.” Koo-koo-ka-choo.
I have already written tomes on clueless adoptive parents, so I won’t bother to reiterate here. But I tend to think that you are clueless, callous, and willfully ignorant and that those other people actually have normal, rational sensibilities and sensitivity levels.
So yes, you should keep your mouth shut, unless you want to receive a large bundle of Shut the Fuck Up from me.
Allow me to satisfy my curiosity. Is that your real brain or do you have an implant? Because when ignorant white people treat people of color like curiosities to satisfy their curiosity, we may not be so polite. We have the right to say any old damn thing we please without being told how we should respond. So here is a big old bundle of Shut the Fuck Up for you too.
Dear Kind Reader:
Resist racism will be starting our own advice column. Because Dr. Laura and Amy just don’t cut it. We will be stocking up on boxes of Shut the Fuck Up. I hope there is enough room in the office.