“What nationality are you?”
I was sitting in my ethics class, fourth row from the front. Class was about to start in a couple of minutes. I had my Kant text out, my yellow legal notepad flipped to my most recent chickenscratch. The girl sitting to my left had asked me the question. I had never talked to her before, but she’s heard me talk in class. She wore glasses and black shoes that had red shoelaces on the left and rainbow shoelaces on the right. She was pale, had dirty blond hair that was cut a little below the shoulder, and had a pair of cool blue eyes. She had a plain face.
I doubt she gets too many questions about her nationality.
My Caucasian friend this past weekend told my visiting best friend and me that she has too many Asian friends. I don’t remember what the context was. I don’t really know what the statement meant, anyway. If my friend and I were part of those “too many Asian friends,” it’s certainly puzzling that, although we’re quite as American as we can be, with our American sports teams, and our fluent American English, and our American universities, and our American homes, and our American heritages, what’s noted is our un-American looks. It’s puzzling because my family history on my Dad’s side is as extensive as any American’s. My family was in World War II. My family was in the Civil War. My family has a ranch in Texas named “Davidson Ranch” because they were the first ones to set it up. It’s still out there, I think. But that doesn’t matter, because I look Asian. Or mixed. Or something. Not white, not American, or at least, not real American.
I’m Asian. Duh.
A Caucasian classmate in my comparative literature class last week said he was puzzled why minorities didn’t, you know, own it. Own that distinction as minorities. Accentuate the difference. Own our status as being different from the regular crowd. Own the damn thing.
As I do with many suggestions thrown my way, I thought about it.
I thought about owning the damn thing. I thought about coming to class in Japanese-brand clothes. I thought about associating myself exclusively with other Japanese students. I thought about shaving an inch off my dick, maybe two. I thought about being bad in bed. I thought about sticking a fork in my philosophy major and picking up engineering or biology. I thought about shutting up and being a model minority. I thought about these things and more, and I thought about how I could conform to what these good white people thought of me as what I should be, Asian first, White American second.
And then, after thinking about it a while, I didn’t tell my ethics classmate that my mom is Japanese or that I am half-Japanese. I let her know I was an American.