I wish people would be more careful about what they say in regards to race in their casual conversations.
Not because we need to be politically correct — I think we often go overboard with all that.
But to avoid creating a subconscious perception amongst people hearing such comments that there is reason to look at one race differently than another.
Recently, a Caucasian woman was talking to a young Asian student and myself. She said she was awoken overnight by her noisy neighbor, which for some reason she felt compelled to note is Asian, something I find many people do without intending any slur but also without thinking. I pointed out that Caucasians can be noisy neighbors as well. She then went on to mention the Mexican family who live across the street. Again, I asked why their race — or in this case, nationality — were relevant to her story. When describing her other next-door neighbors, she didn’t mention that they were Caucasian. In fact, I think there is seldom a good reason to mention race in such stories.
On the contrary, I was pleased recently when someone described to me a man who made a comment at a breakfast. She said he was the man wearing the yellow shirt, which was a good way to identify him since he was the only man with a yellow shirt. He happened to also be the only black man in the room, but she chose to find another way to identify him, which I appreciated.
The reason I think this is important is because it helps everyone look at everyone else the same way, which can avoid creating stereotypes with a negative connotation that can lead to thinking less of a person of a different race. HBO talk show host Bill Maher makes frequent disparaging jokes about Asian drivers. Although seemingly innocuous, it can have the affect of making some people think less of Asians in general, and give others motivation to make Asians the butt of other and more mean-spirited jokes or perceptions.
At a City Council meeting this summer I heard a very disturbing comment from a Caucasian woman who was left frustrated at having lost a 3-2 decision by the Council that will allow a home builder to construct a 7,700 square-foot two-story home on San Carlos Road at Foothill Boulevard.
“If you’re Asian you can get whatever you want in Arcadia,” she said to no one in particular as she and her group left the Council Chambers.
The comment is disturbing because it indicates racism persists among Caucasians in our community that is now more than half Asian (and more than 80% Asian in our schools).
What’s more, the comment reflected the ignorance of the person who said it. The people building the new home are not even Asian – their family name is Baghdadlian. Therefore, the comment was not even accurate. The only connection to an Asian in the case is the architect involved.
Moreover, the perception that Asians get preferential treatment isn’t even accurate in my experience. And certainly most Asians feel the opposite. There is only one Asian currently on the Council; last year there were none. Two years ago all three Asian candidates for City Council lost to three Caucasians.
Shortly after the vote to allow the new home, an even more polarizing issue said to be favored by, or at least sparked by Asians, was unanimously rejected by the Council. After months of consideration, the Council opted not to allow homeowners to change their address. This was an issue raised by Caucasian Mayor Bob Harbicht last year and supported by realtors of all races to address drastic reductions in home values where the address had the number “four” in it, or worse, the consecutive numbers 44. The number sounds like the Chinese word for death.
Not only did this vote not go in favor of Asians, even Chinese-American Councilman John Wuo was opposed to it.
– By Scott Hettrick