Thursday, August 02, 2012

Funny Things That Happen When Race Controls Your Assumptions

This post is probably not going to reflect well on me. But fuck it. We all gotta admit that we're all a little (lot) racist sometimes.

So there is this family that lives in my building. Young (early 20's ish) couple and the lady-half of the couple's dad or grandfather. (He's old enough to be my dad, she's maybe 5 years older than the kid). They are Asian, and from my limited knowledge I guessed they were Korean. I think it's cause they are all super tall and for some reason all the Korean people I have met have been super tall. Grandpa paces around the courtyard everynight having deep discussions on his cell phone in a language that isn't English. It didn't sound like it was Korean (or Mandarin or Cantonese or Japanese) either. It sounded kinda like Russian, from the snippets I caught. I've been trying to figure what the hell language it is for over a year.

Now it is certainly not impossible for a person of Asian ancestry to speak Russian. Russians be conquering just like lots of other countries and they are sharing the same continent, after all. But it just sounded kinda Russian. 

Tonight, Dude and Lady were standing outside the back gate that I have to walk through to sacrifice my lungs to the nicotine beast for the sake of humanity. (Seriously, I smoke to save your life, and yours and yours and yours, from the ravaging nico-beast). I finally caught enough of a conversation to know definitively what language they are speaking. Portuguese. Brazilian Portuguese, I think. Same unfamiliar vowels as Russian but will all the fun that is a Romance language.

I have lived here for over a year. The fucked up thing that categorizing people by race first means that my tiny brain could not conceive of Asian people speaking, as their native language, something that was from the Americas and wasn't English. Even though there is a HUGE population of Asian people in the Americas. Even though Peru had a Japanese-Peruvian president. Even though (until Friday) I worked just a block away from the International District (aka Chinatown, which is wrong because most of the people in the neighborhood were Japanese or Korean and not Chinese). Racism makes us stupid. It makes us limited in understanding people as they actually are because we are wrapped up in the narrow vision of humanity that racism creates.