A Conversation About White Privilege and Why it Exists

The title may be misleading because I’m neither an anthropologist nor a sociologist, so I actually have no real scientific or societal basis as to why White privilege began and why it’s still in existence. I have some pretty good ideas, but not founded enough to write an entire blog post about them — this is about how it DOES exist despite what some people may say.

First off, being a minority in America is a weird thing, especially belonging to the “elite” minority group, the one white people don’t really mind all that much except when it comes to penny pinching and a lack of understanding at nail salons. Have major strides been made since the beginning of American time? Absolutely. But why is it that not that long ago (less than a century, even) that it was illegal for me to marry a white man, to own land or a home, to even vote? Why were fellow Asians (the Japanese to be specific just in case you’ve been living under a rock and literally know nothing) forced into internment camps a mere 70 some years ago? Babies born in internment camps are still very much alive, which means it wasn’t long ago enough (of course it shouldn’t have happened in the first place, but it did, and nothing I can do or say will change that).

And to add to the confusion (for me and probably everyone else), I’m an international adoptee, which has garnered such comments as, “Well, you’re not a real Asian” or “So you’re basically White.” Have I said these things about myself? Totally. But there’s a difference between what a person can say about themselves and what other people can say, sorry if it bothers you and feels unjust. And I’m working on curbing comments like that anyhow so as to not add to the unfortunate race problem we have here in the old US of A. (And just as an aside, I recognize there are some major race issues in other countries, but I don’t live in those countries, probably you don’t either, and that doesn’t really affect how America acts. If it does, it most certainly shouldn’t — “Well, as long as there’s a group of people more racist, then we’re fine.”) But back to the issue at hand — I am most certainly a real Asian (my facial features prove that quite readily), and I’m not basically White since I am, last time I checked, full Asian. Also I’m not basic at all *snaps*. It would appropriate to say, under these circumstances, “Well, you’re ethnically Asian but culturally American, which is a predominately White culture even though White people can’t seem to get enough of Taco Tuesdays.”

tacotuesdaysimpsons

If you’re a White person reading this, fuming and foaming at the mouth that I am declaring that White privilege exists, well … sorry, but I don’t make the rules. Does it appear that White people in America have some unearned social advantages because of the color of their skin? Absolutely. Does it mean I expect all White people to sit around feeling bad about themselves because of the color of their skin? No. That would be racist. (And just to clear things up, we all say or do racist things from time to time, and those instances do not make us Racists. They make us humans who say and do dumb crap. When a minority says to you (should you be White), “That’s kind of racist,” don’t get all up in arms about it. Accept the feedback and reevaluate what you’ve done and then probably stop that particular behavior. Recently I got into a rather heated argument with someone over Facebook (which I most certainly did NOT want, by the way — I hate Facebook arguments quite thoroughly and don’t ever go to other peoples’ pages to disagree with them, even if I feel confident I can be diplomatic about it) in regards to whether “South Pacific” is racist. First of all, it totally 100% is, and I don’t give a hoot about in what decade it was written or what the original intent was. People are unintentionally racist all the time, and that doesn’t make it any less offensive. It just makes it steeped in ignorance. Plus, things age out. Let’s all agree to retire “South Pacific” because it’s 2016 and no one should be producing it anyhow. And rather unfortunately, the White person with whom I was trying to discuss the matter did NOT take my feedback well and then downgraded my distaste for racism to mere offense. I wish a more productive conversation could have ensued from the whole thing and that the other person could have begun to understand that when two Asian people are saying, “This thing is racist against Asians,” it very well may be. For a much better explanation of the ultimately too negative connotations to the words racist and racism, plus several good ways White people can overcome their White fragility (y’all are SUPER fragile) and occasionally swallow that uncomfortable pill of being wrong, check out this post here.)

“But what about reverse discrimination? White men can’t get anything these days because of all the benefits the minorities are getting.” HAHAHAHAHAHA shut up and go away, first off. No one wants to hear about how hard it is to be a White man in America. But that does bring me to my next point about The Problem with Affirmative Action, and Why it Needs to Go Away. It’s been proven time and time again that the government probably needs to stop making sweeping generalizations about groups of people and offering handouts to those they consider less fortunate — there’s actually very little that bothers me more than White altruism (I’m looking straight at you, Brangelina).

Story time. When I was in college, one of the organizations held Affirmative Action Day in the student union, where they sold food at different costs depending upon the buyer’s ethnicity. Spoiler alert: that didn’t go over well and no one thought it was a good idea. I mean, I guess it was cool that for just some pocket change I could buy a burger (or was it candy? Too old, can’t remember), and I think at the time I took part in it just because it was so cheap (cheaper for Black students, cheapest for Native Americans, which … the offensiveness runs deep with that one, kids.) Here’s my beef with Affirmative Action: it was created by White people, for starters, and appears to be a handout to POC (people of color) because apparently we can’t achieve anything without the assistance of our White superiors. Is it reverse discrimination, however? Absolutely not. It is, unfortunately, hiring employees or accepting college students for all the wrong reasons. Accept Black students into your student body because of their GPA, their motivation, their drive, their extracurriculars — not because you have a percentage you need to fulfill to appear diverse. They’re out there, they exist, and they don’t need your help. We don’t need your help. But ultimately till that goes away, when someone says, “I want you because of the color of your skin,” that is not in any way similar to, “I do not want you because you are White.”

I don’t think the answer is abolishing the notion that race exists at all. I’ve heard that argument, and it just ultimately sounds like something a White person would say. I’m proud to be Asian, to be a little different from other people, to have unique traits that no one else can have. I think there are dozens and dozens of cultures that shouldn’t be downgraded in the name of fighting racism under the guise of “But we’re all humans.” I DO think we need to open up the conversation about White privilege, what White people can do about it, how they can take responsibility for it, how they can learn valuable lessons from POC. And I think POC need to recognize that the majority of White people are inherently good, that they have good intentions, and that there’s a lot they (and we) don’t know. When someone says something racist, don’t be rude about it. Let it be a learning experience, and if they react negatively to that feedback, don’t engage in argument. You’ve offered up knowledge, and what they do with it is up to them. I’ve been told almost my entire marriage that the key to success is good communication, and that translates VERY well to all interpersonal relationships. When you take the time to listen and understand, that’s when growth occurs. That’s how we get rid of the race problem in America.

The-biggest-communication-problem-is-we-do-not-listen-to-understand.-We-listen-to-reply

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10 Things that Don’t Need to Be Said

As an anxiety-ridden obsessive-compulsive Korean-American adoptee Mormon in an interracial couple with a penchant for depression and not planning on having children, I kind of get the whole gamut of things people probably don’t ever need to utter under any circumstances.

Also, I am really addicted to BuzzFeed right now, so here goes.

1. “I’m kind of OCD” and/or “That’s kind of OCD.”
To specify, you can’t really “kind of” be OCD. You either are or you aren’t. What you CAN be, however, is generally compulsive, which is a trait every single person on this earth has. You don’t have to have some mental disorder to feel compelled to alphabetize your Blu-Rays (which, by the way, if you’re not doing, just start, okay?) or organize your kitchen counters. You aren’t mentally ill if you don’t like fuzz on your clothing or notice a speck of food on your work desk. If you weren’t compulsive, you’d be kind of … in a vegetative state of apathy, when you really think about it.

Image courtesy of youtube.com

Image courtesy of youtube.com


2. “Just think happy thoughts.”
Just stop. Just stop now. People suffering from depression, seasonal or otherwise, do not need to hear your sage advice as to how to overcome it. There is an inherent difference between depression and feeling blue. Feeling blue is one of those things that would absolutely be fixed by thinking happy thoughts and eating cheesecake. Depression isn’t really. If it were that easy to overcome, we’d all be thinking the damn happiest thoughts on earth all of the time.

Image courtesy of juxtapost.com

Image courtesy of juxtapost.com

3. “Don’t worry about it” or “Don’t stress too much.”
I will if I want to. I will if I don’t want to. There is literally no way that you can convince someone with anxiety that things aren’t worth worrying or stressing over. Just let us deal in the ways we need to deal. Like with medicine and therapists. This especially goes for individuals who have OCD. “Oh, so you want me, an obsessive, to cease worrying? Done and done.” <—– will literally never happen
Your plan to make us stop worrying is futile, so you may as well just throw in the towel and either worry with us or love us for our other outstanding qualities.

Image courtesy of glennster.deviantart.com/

Image courtesy of glennster.deviantart.com/

4. “Never say never!”
This is specifically in reference to the not planning on kids issue. I get it, you and your spouse and your children are the happiest family on earth, and I admire that. There’s nothing bad about having a family; I literally can think of nothing unless, of course, you’re Amanda Bynes, and then maybe hold off, mmkay?
When people hit a certain age, like 29 or 30, and Spouse has been through an -ectomy, and both are college graduates with their heads on straight, chances are they are old enough to have made a solid decision together that doesn’t involve anyone else. Also, colloquialisms. Let’s just rid ourselves of them right now while we can.
Furthermore, should we change our minds, that’s not a good time for you to say “I told you so.”

Image courtesy of pinterest.com

Image courtesy of pinterest.com

5. “Where are you from?”
Oregon.
No, but where are you from?
Oregon.
Before that.
Well, I was born in South Korea, but I was adopted when I was three months old.
<insert awkward Korean phrase here>
Oh, I don’t actually speak the language. Because I was three months old.
When are you going back?
… I don’t really have plans to.
Don’t you want to meet your real family?
They’re in Oregon. I see them pretty regularly.
etc.
et cetera

Just watch this.


6. Anything about the “real” family.
Let’s just establish something: calling either the birthfamily or the adoptive family real is offensive to the other and generally incorrect. The best way to get around this? One’s a birthfamily. The other is family. Adoptees don’t generally consider themselves to have any sort of fake family in the mix.

Images courtesy of mamiverse.com

Images courtesy of mamiverse.com

7. “What’s your real name?”
Not all adoptees, especially those adopted domestically, have different names than the ones they’ll have the rest of their lives. And it kind of goes back to the real v. fake family thing. I was given a Korean name by the adoption agency (Kim Jong Mee, which I find disturbingly similar to the former and current presidents of North Korea), but my real name, which appears on my birth certificate, is Mary. Always has been, always will be.

Image courtesy of thegazette.com

Image courtesy of thegazette.com

8. “You speak really good English” (can be followed by “… for being from Hong Kong” and yes, that really happened in my real life)
I’d hope so. I was an English major, after all.

Image courtesy of forlackofabettercomic.com

Image courtesy of forlackofabettercomic.com

9. “You’re Mormon? How many wives do you have? hahahahahahaha”
Polygamy (called plural marriage by Mormons in the 19th century …) was taught by leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) for more than half of the 19th century, and practiced publicly from 1852 to 1890 by a minority of families (between 20% and 30%). (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mormonism_and_polygamy)
For the record, we haven’t practiced polygamy for 123 years now. That’s a long time. That’s longer than the oldest person in the world has been alive. So probably we can stop with the jokes about it.

Photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

Photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

10. Are you going to raise your kids bilingual?
If you’re talking to an adoptee, then don’t even bother. If you’re not talking to an adoptee, then maybe. Maybe they will raise their kids to be multilingual. Maybe their kids are going to get all the jobs because they speak literally every dialect on earth.
Probably it is not your business. Also, seriously disinteresting when it really boils down to it.

Image courtesy of memegenerator.net

Image courtesy of memegenerator.net

My Plight

Remember that time David Archuleta sang “Imagine”? I think most people liked it, but it mostly made me want to shoot myself in the face because the Beatles are the I Ching, and frankly no one should really be covering them, especially a kid like David Archuleta. Sorry if you were in love with it; I was not.

Photo courtesy of archuletafanscene.com

Photo courtesy of archuletafanscene.com

Or have you ever heard someone cover Christina Aguilera? And you think to yourself, “Wow that person sang pretty well, but it sure wasn’t half as good as Christina” (you may as well know right now that I have a major crush on Christina’s vocal chords, and she essentially can do no wrong aside from butcher the national anthem, and I think she’s the greatest female vocalist to ever live).

Another random factoid that will truly have something to do with the rest of this somewhat muddled post: This one time I was watching an interview with Steve Carell, rather early on in his career, and he was telling whichever talk show host about how he landed the iconic role of Michael Scott. He was really excited that his agent had quite the promising role till he watched a few episodes of the original “Office” with Ricky Gervais, and then suddenly he was petrified and really didn’t want to bother going into the interview.

Photo courtesy of popwatch.ew.com

Photo courtesy of popwatch.ew.com

I mean, the guy was kind of right.

The point is: When someone has perfected something in a way it seems as though no one else can, that’s a lot of pressure on anyone who wants to replicate it. Chances are everyone will be comparing you to the original, despite any differences you may have, despite the fact that you’re performing it with your own interpretation, etc. etc. And as you can probably tell, I’m a little nervous about this whole having the lead part in a musical business because AS IT TURNS OUT, Heather Headley is magnificent.

Photo courtesy of thebroadwayblog.com

Photo courtesy of thebroadwayblog.com

My fellow lead can rest really easy because Adam Pascal was terrible as Radames.

The other issue with which I’m really grappling is that Heather Headley has different vocal chords than I do. But seriously, Black people are biologically different in the voice department than the rest of us, and without boring you with anatomy or science, the bottom line is: they’re more better. They’ll always be more better. There will never be another more better set of vocal chords. This wasn’t really proving to be much of an issue till I listened to the full soundtrack and discovered a really great Gospel/Spiritual style song, sung, of course, by Aida.

*screeching brakes*

To catch you up, I am literally the whitest non-white kid to ever walk the face of the earth. People are regularly baffled if they’ve met me over the phone first because they see me and wonder where the heck Mary is and why this random Asian chick is there in her place. I don’t speak any other languages. I don’t have any sort of distinguishing accent (unless you want to consider the lack of accent of Pacific Northwesterners to be an accent, in which case sure, fine, whatever). I can belt out the high notes just fine. But ain’t got no soul.

Photo courtesy of gettyimages.com

Photo courtesy of gettyimages.com

Forget about it. I throw in my towel now.

Most of my friends have been extremely encouraging, telling me how I’ll be great and to not worry, but I’m pleased (no, really, I’m genuinely pleased) that two of my friends and my voice teacher all admitted that my best will still lack soul and potentially fall a little flat. I mean, it just is what it is. You get some little Asian-American adoptee from suburban Oregon, and she’s only going to be able to do so much, man.

Photo courtesy of ebay.com

Photo courtesy of ebay.com. It’s Carolina Blue, in case you were wondering.

 

Engrish

Engrish cracks me up. There’s probably a joke in there somewhere — for those of you just joining the party, this is what I look like:

I mean, this is what I look like after airbrushing my head.

I mean, this is what I look like after airbrushing my head.

Yep. I’m Asian. I’m Asian and I laugh at Engrish.

In my defense, I’m adopted and only look the part — I don’t speak the language, I don’t care for the food, and I know the most basic parts of the culture, like, the country is full of Koreans and a lot of them are Buddhist.

[No, I am not from North Korea. That wouldn’t actually happen in real life.]

So the other day, whilst in Las Vegas, Husband and I went on a shopping spree. And by Husband and I, mostly what I’m getting at is that I bought a ton of clothes and dragged him around the Forum Shops till about 11:30 pm, despite his upset stomach, headache, and exhaustion. I know, I know, wife of the year. I’m expecting my award in the mail any day now.

At my favorite store — we’ll call it I&N so I don’t get sued or something (yeah, like corporations read my blog) — I found a cozy hooded sweatshirt. As it turns out, I am a real sucker for cozy hooded sweatshirts. So I bought it, not actually reading the text embroidered on the front. I figured it had something to do with athletics or college or school or any of the other arbitrary things manufacturers put on the front of hooded sweatshirts, and I didn’t mind.

In fact, it says, boldly, in all caps, “SINCE 48 ATHLETICS ESTABLISHED.”

I’m sorry, come again? Is that like a partial headline?

Hooded Sweatshirt
Mom says I should return it, but there’s something kind of fun and campy about a grammar snob Asian wearing a sweatshirt with Engrish on the front of it. For all the world to see.

Well, It Happened Again

Disclaimer: this is going to be kind of complainy. I’m an unabashed complainer sometimes. You’re welcome.

I try to avoid using too many colloquialisms, but I had such a Monday today, and there are really no other ways to describe it beyond being such a Monday. I have a friend who only works Tuesdays through Fridays , and I’m starting to see the appeal.

But I also see the appeal of not working ever.

It was one of those “I don’t have a whole lot to do” days that, in the very last hour, turned into one of those “I have so much to do I’m not only going to work an hour and fifteen minutes past the time I normally go home, but I’m also going to be an hour late for a meeting” days. And those are always fun. And I discovered, after being hot, sweaty, and somewhat irritable, that Monday afternoons around 4:30 are, quite possibly, the worst times to go shopping at Costco. This is something I should have realized, what with being Mormon and living amongst a thousand families who have lots of kids who eat a lot of food and have a special evening at home all about families called — this is going to probably surprise you — Family Home Evening on Mondays.

I know, I know, I’m being all facetious in the bad way. I’m sorry.

But let’s get back to that meeting to which I was an hour late. It wasn’t a work meeting per se, although it was with a work contact on a more personal matter, and I should lead in with, “It wasn’t him.” He’s a nice guy, that Craig. You stop by Utah County sometime and deal with a guy named Craig, well, expect him to be nice. But he had a coworker he introduced me to who was, well … You know I don’t think I’ll actually speak to his character quite yet.

Craig introduced me as being Mary N—– because, well, that’s who I am (not giving you my entire last name makes me feel all sneaky and mysterious, by the way, even though the majority of you already know it — hi, Mom! Any opportunity to feel like a ninja, I suppose). And coworker of the year shook my hand and said, “Mary N—–, huh? You look like a traditional Mary N—–. All-American. Nice.”, which actually meant, “You look like your name should be Ching Chang Chong.”

He meant that in jest, of course, and had I not been representing BYU to a certain degree, I probably would have told him he looked like a traditional, all-American a-hole.

 

Oh, I realized the other day, it would be good for me to repost my email address for those of you interested in sharing your low points with me for THE CONTEST (note the all caps this time because I’m being all serious n stuff): thelowpointoftheday[at]gmail[dot]com

Confessions of Girl Nerd (and why I need a new name)

My becoming a recreational gamer is one of those predestined things. I wasn’t allowed anything Nintendo-based as a child, and I’ve yet to pass beyond the 2nd level of any Mario game that’s ever been invented in the history of all time, hence the recreational part. But I did spend a lot of time playing “Oregon Trail” and — are you ready for this? — I completed “Amazon Trail” in sixth grade. The whole thing. Twice.

Image courtesy of wikipedia.org

When I got married, I told Husband all about this picture book I not only wrote but also illustrated. Two brothers, regulars at the neighborhood arcade, are sucked into one of the games. (gasp!) The older brother, determined to not let his brother die, must COMPLETE THE ENTIRE GAME in order to stay alive.

I see that you’re opening your mouth to say something: As soon as I finished telling him about this story, Husband said, “Um, that’s Tron.

Image courtesy of imdb.com

Confession time: I have never seen Tron.

But potential (and accidental) copyright infringement aside, the point was to show how I was into gaming even before I could game.

I’m not quite sure exactly what it is that I love about particular computer or video games. The achievements? Unlikely, since I am generally really bad at all of them. Winning? Probably not. I never win.  I know that, if given the opportunity, creating avatars is on of my most favorite things ever. My XBox avatar has five outfits (and counting). And I may or may not have begun “Dragon Age: Origins” about 8 different times mostly so I could create new people.

Same goes with “Sims 3.” [And as an aside, I came up with a Sim costume for Halloween last year; as it turns out we didn’t have friends then, so there were no Halloween parties to attend, but I have big plans of pulling out the plumbob this year.]

The Low Point

Husband did a lot of working, recently, on this big event and was getting home around 10:30 – 11:00 pm every night. That’s an important little factoid. Save it for later.

It took me about a week to finally cave and play some “Call of Duty” alone — I generally prefer playing with him because it’s just more fun [another aside: I discovered that I am actually WAY BETTER without him, so maybe I should generally prefer playing without him], and there’s something very depressing about sitting on an exercise ball in our living room playing video games all alone.

With, you know, hundreds of strangers.

Image courtesy of gamespot.com

The upside to playing with Husband is his ability to stop. He gets tired of the games pretty easily and wants to take a “How I Met Your Mother” break, which, incidentally, he does not tire of easily. I discovered, last week, that when I play alone, I have little to no ability to cease and desist.

Here’s what happens when you have little to no ability to cease and desist: You will probably agitate your carpal tunnel.

I’ve been spending a lot of time debating which is lamer: that I have carpal tunnel in the first place (secretarial work … it’ll get you every time) or that I agitated it by playing “Call of Duty: Black Ops” ad nauseum day after day.

We might have a draw.

 

 

Oh, you’re probably wondering why I need a new name.

The Low Point: Take Two

Today I had to run to the admin building to pick up some gift cards we’re sending out as gifts on behalf of the department. When I got to the window, the woman asked for the custodian’s name (as in … person who requested the cards … not a janitorial custodian), so I naturally gave her mine. Because I’m the custodian. She handed me a form to sign and

Her: “You’ll need to put Mary’s name on the line for the custodian, but you can sign your name at the bottom.”

Me: “Um, I am Mary. So … I’ll put my name … there.”

Her, after a very pregnant pause: “Well, then, you can sign your name twice!” (smile here)

This happens sometimes. Asian kid gives a white kid name and confusion ensues.

“Hi. My name is Mary … and I have a white person name.” “Hi, Mary.”

The Drug Store Incident

I know you’re probably expecting me to refer to the low point of my day as being the 40 minutes I traipsed around the university campus at which I work, in high heels, wondering where in the heck the stupid Widtsoe building was, only to discover upon giving up and returning to my office that it was, in fact, right behind the Martin building. And that’s only significant because the Martin building is where I stopped my search…at that end of campus. *lays head on desk and cries* Or you might expect me to refer to the low point as the ham sandwich I ate that tasted icky and made me sad. Well, you’re wrong. So maybe that’s the low point of your day. You’re welcome.

A Disclaimer: I don’t like to play the race card unless I know it’s going to get me a job/get me into college/get me a loan/lead people to believe I am brilliant at math and the violin. It’s just tacky.

I had to go to the drug store today to buy a Shake Weight makeup. And Husband needed chapstick, which is also important to me because I kiss his lips and like it much more when they are soft and supple. As it turns out, along with selling everything from makeup to Snuggies, Walgreens has a really stupid store layout. And trying to avoid another 40 minute roam to find something, I dropped my pride off at the door and asked two employees where I might find chapstick.

Photo courtesy of blistex.com

The Low Point

The male employee looked right at me and said, quite loudly, “OH MY GOSH! I seriously swear to you it sounded like you said CHOPSTICKS! And I was going to say, ummmmmmmmm we don’t sell any CHOPSTICKS!” I can sort of see why he’d be confused because chapstick and chopsticks have a lot in common; 8 letters, in fact. But I am nothing if not a clear speaker who enunciates very well (this isn’t just arrogance speaking; a customer service representative with Discover credit cards once told me over the phone that I should be in sales, I spoke so well, and recently a woman told me over the phone that she was surprised at how quickly I can speak, but still be understood. I’m that good.), and I didn’t pluralize chapstick (because who asks for chapsticks? Probably people who talk about mouses.), so there was no reason for the confusion.

And then it hit me: Asian in the drug store. Walking around all Asian-like, asking for chopsticks.

They don't sell these at Walgreens

Photo courtesy of gettyimages.com - they don't sell these at Walgreens, in case you were wondering

ChApstick (singular) can be found in Aisle 9, under a very small sign marked “lip care.” He even went out of his way to show me the Walgreens brand, Chap-Aid, in case that was something I wanted to try out. It wasn’t. I’m a Blistex girl and so is Husband (well, he’s a Blistex boy) and I don’t think I’d ever voluntarily use something called Chap-Aid in the first place. I tried to avoid going through his cash register line, but it would have been unreasonable to wait for the woman buying multiple packs of mini yo-yos just to make a silent statement against idiocy. So there I was, placing my makeup and four tubes of chapstick on the very counter he patted with his hand — “Mm-hmm just set it right here.”  Thanks, Walgreens employee. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them. I got confused what with all my Asian-ness.

In the end, I really learned a valuable lesson; namely, that chopsticks are the one item that Walgreens apparently does not sell. So don’t go there, if that’s what you need. You’re welcome again.