Archive for the ‘What are you’ Tag

What Are You?   13 comments

I’ve been told that I can be culturally insensitive.

It’s not a goal, I assure you. However, as an old white guy, there are many things that I will never experience. I’ll never be arrested for Driving While Black … though, come to find out, there is a Henry Mowry that’s been arrested for driving while drunk. He skipped on his bail … and I was once briefly detained while a friendly policeman proved to his own satisfaction that I was not a drunkard from Tennessee. That was black.

Thank you, Officer.

I will observe that if I’m occasionally culturally insensitive, it’s probably because of my extremely cloistered upbringing. I grew up in a rural area of Missouri that was pure WASP … even Catholics were an extreme minority. I never met a Jew until I went to college. It’s not that I avoided contact with non-white, non-Protestant people … they simply weren’t around for the first 18 years of my life.

Here I am in blackface, with a black actor, Greg MacDonald, in whiteface. It was in a one act play festival ... and a comment on racism. I submit this as an example of my cultural, uh, expansion.

Here I am in blackface, with a black actor, Greg MacDonald, in whiteface. We appeared in a one act play, presented as a part of a MIzzou festival for amateur writers. The play, with a name I’ve forgotten, was a comment on racism. I submit this as an example of my cultural, uh, expansion. Circa 1975.

I am happy to report that when I went to Mizzou, I broadened my cultural horizons immensely.

I had a Jew for a roommate … and witnessed the making of homemade bagels. I went to a Jewish wedding. I worked closely with people of many heritages at the Mizzou theatre. My horizons were broadened at the land grant state university that was founded in 1839.

Thank you, Mizzou.

35+ years later, I’ve been in the cultural melting pot that is Los Angeles for … 35+ years. Though it was not a specific goal to widen my cultural horizons, that has happened.

This week, a former co-worker posted a Facebook link to a very interesting article from the Huffington Post … that uber-culturally sensitive news site.

My friend linked to an article by a multi-cultural, self-proclaimed “blendiva.” My friend also has a multi-cultural heritage, and she related completely with the Huffington Post author who was tired of strangers questioning her genetic heritage. My friend has been there, too: here’s a typical dialogue with a stranger that my friend remembers:

He: Where are you from?

She: The Bay Area.

He: No, where are your FROM?

She: Oh, you mean what nationality am I? I’m Japanese.

He: You speak English really well.

She: Good thing, ‘cuz it’s the ONLY language I speak.

And here’s another one she remembers:

He (in front of her older daughters): What are they?

She: Half Japanese and half German

He: Well, how the hell did that happen?

Andromeda Turre, from her Facebook page. She's the author of the provocative Huntington Post article ... and she's tired of people asking "What Are You?"

Andromeda Turre, from her Facebook page. She’s the author of the provocative Huffington Post article … and she’s tired of people asking “What Are You?”

I may be culturally insensitive … on rare occasion … but I would NEVER make that kind of comment to another human. I mean, c’mon, who would say something like that?

Back to the inspiration for this post, and my friend’s comments … a post on Huffington Post by a singer named Adromeda Turre. She’s a New York resident, and got tired of the online dating scene when she was consistently asked, “What Are You?”

OK. As I stated in the beginning, I have been accused of being culturally insensitive. But would I EVER ask another human that I didn’t know well … “What Are You?”

No.

Please read Andromeda’s article. The post is here.

Now, I will observe that I am interested in genealogy, and that makes me interested in where I’m from. Yes, I have investigated the heritage of my family, and the heritage of my wife’s family. I’ll fully disclose “What I Am” in an upcoming post.

For now, just know that I’m English, Irish, German, Dutch & Swiss. And I’m just getting started. My wife, on the other hand, is Serbian, German … and some other country that’s changed its name a few times. Slovack, Polish, Austria-Hungarian … something like that.

So, YES, I am interested in my family heritage. But as to what I am … that’s a little tougher. I’m from Missouri, and I definitely worked hard to become a Missouri Tiger. But as much as I identify myself as a guy from the Show Me state, I’ve lived on the Left Coast longer than I lived in the Midwest.

So, what am I? Well, it’s complicated. I can only imagine how that question might frustrate people with a heritage that’s viewed by some as “unusual.”

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Huffington Post: What Are You Is Not An Icebreaker

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