Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Is it just me, or is anyone else uncomfortable?

Ever been somewhere covering something and you are the only one there of your race, age, gender or sexual orientation?

I have. And I have several journalist friends that have too. Most recently, a good Vietnamese friend of mine covered an event where a group of white people dressed up as geishas and talked in Asian accents for a community theatre performance. They assumed that because she looked Asian that she would automatically be offended. But that's missing the point. They billed this event as Asian-themed. Geishas are Japanese. And there were some other cultural nuances in the show that had origins in specific ethnicities.

She wrote a column about that experience. Here's a snippet:

As the actors piled out of the dressing room, one cast member stopped me. Aside from the caterer, I was the only ethnically Asian person there.

She warned me that she would be speaking in an accent and assured me that it was not intended to be offensive. She was just playing a role. The jokes I would hear were also meant to be harmless.

I am Vietnamese, but to most people I am simply Asian. That label, in a sense, reduces me to whatever people think of as Asian. It omits the nuances of my history, my culture and my identity. It makes me a thing, in a sense, not a person.

Read her full column, here.

My question is: in what way would you have conducted yourself if you were faced with the same dilemma?

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Posted by Aaron Morrison at 1:43 PM | link

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