Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Reihan on multiracial pride

Reihan is right, the proudly multiracial ought not to take offense at being asked about their race. That said, what Reihan misses is that Geetha Lakshminarayanan's multiracial pride might be something of a defense mechanism, and might have come out of her being constantly asked what she is. Timing is everything--was she first bugged about being multiracial or proud of it? I have no experience being multiracial, but I have been referred to as exotic, which led not so much to an existential crisis as to a realization that I'd probably get more attention of a certain kind in the Midwest than in certain parts of NYC, where every other person on the street looks just like me.

Reihan also discusses and debunks the "quasi-narcissism" of many upper middle class parents, one of whom is Asian and the other non-Asian:

"Our babies are sooooo cute." For real, yo, it's not that cool to be an upper-middle-class non-Asian person marrying an upper-middle-class Asian person. Seriously. No medals for you. Maybe next time. Call me when you marry someone from a Papuan cargo cult and ritually scar your toddlers with elaborate patterns that resemble the cheesecake murals emblazoned across WWII-era bombers like the Enola Gay. Then we'll talk.

This I'm not entirely sure of. No medals for you if you are a white man and your wife is Asian, but pairings are less common the other way around, so perhaps a few medals can be allocated.


Petey said...

You put skim milk in your iced coffee?

I'm suddenly forced to re-evaluate my previous admiration for your style.


As a Jew who spent a period of exile in the non-Chicagoland Midwest, it was unexpected but not disagreeable to be an exotic for a while.

The only real downside was the reaction of Jews who had been born and bred in the region. Their irrational exuberance in meeting a co-religionist truly creeped me out.

On Reihan, I'd say that he isn't right, and basically misses the point. Geetha isn't taking offense at being asked about her race, and neither is she being shy.

Instead she is making an astute snap judgment about the intentions and social graces of anyone who would initiate conversation with that topic. Her method is not a bad crude instrument for filtering out assholes and idiots.

Nick said...

as your multiracial co-blogger, whose true ethnic origins have never been successfully guessed (only divulged), I can say that what's more offensive that the actual asking is the assumption...in France, that I'm Arab, in the US, that I'm half-black or Latino, etc.

I really don't see why it matters. To people who are trying to get to know me, it's a piece of a larger puzzle, and I'm happy to share, because the immigrant story is an important part of my story.

But really, aren't we past this? And because we're supposed to be past this, why can't we get a little ruffled and having to have been asked at all?

Reihan said...

It could be that my references to red vinyl jackets and narcotic-leaf chewing were too subtle. Suffice it to say, I agree that Geetha is being entirely reasonable. And yet you have to admit that there's a slight contradiction in being frustrated by the question and taking part in the "Generation Mix" jamboree. Finding the question vexing and otherwise being indifferent to your origins, or certainly no more excited about them than a person at random, strikes me as more consistent.

This is not to say I expect consistency. Far from it. But I think gentle ribbing has its place.