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Evaluating heritage

Eric Sales | Monday, November 5, 2007

My retreat group and I, who are all Filipino, were having dinner at Mikados, a local Japanese restaurant near campus. The restaurant was filled with mostly Caucasian students. While my group and I were heading towards the door, a random student from inside the restaurant shouted out, “Look, it’s like Chinatown!”

My friend Camille, who is Filipino, and I were walking back to my dorm from breakfast when a minivan behind us came to a halt because we were blocking the driveway. We moved out of the van’s way and continued to walk on the lawn. Unexpectedly, the van backed up towards the lawn we were standing on and started honking at us. I looked into the minivan and realized it was two old men that we did not recognize. Camille asked me what his problem was because we were obviously out of the way. The driver of the minivan proceeded to roll down his window and yelled, “What did you say?” Camille then repeated to the driver, “What is the problem?” Then the driver shouted, “Go back to China!” while laughing. He then gave us the finger.

I was the hall manager of St. Edwards Hall, which was being used as a sports camp hall two summers ago. On the last day that the hall was in use, I was helping check out the campers. I came back to my room and discovered something written on my white board: Go to China.

My Appalachia Seminar group and I visited Jaime, a native Kentuckian who owns a beautiful all wooden home on the Appalachian Mountains. After dinner, we socialized with Jamie and her extended family. I was having a conversation with Jamie’s nephew who was in the fourth grade when he asked, “What type of money do you use in China?”

For the last time, I am a Filipino-American not Chinese. How would you like it if people constantly assumed you were something you obviously were not? What really frustrates me is that I have dark brown skin and huge eyes, features not typical of a Chinese person. If you can’t tell, ask. Better yet, educate yourself by coming to Asian Allure this Thursday and Friday in Washington Hall at 8 pm. I will be the one dancing with bamboos and benches.

China is an amazing country rich in heritage and culture. It is also one of many Asian countries such as Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, India, Korea, and the Philippines. Just because China is the most populace country in the world does not mean all Asians originate from there. Next time you see an Asian and are curious what ethnicity that person is, don’t assume that the person is made in China. Just ask.