ORIENTAL IS A RUG
Recently, the Peanut and I were at Whole Foods when an elderly woman approached her and said, "Oh my, aren't you an adorable little Oriental girl?"
Because the lady was so damn old and probably doesn't think she's offending anyone when she calls African-Americans "colored people," I shrugged her off and walked away.
Naturally, the Peanut turned to me and said, "Daddy, what's Oriental?"
I have to admit that I kind of stutter-stepped. One thing I love about little kids is that they don't think in terms of race or the color of their skin. They pretty much judge them solely on their ability to relate to poop jokes, Dora the Explorer, and farts.
As Dennis Leary once said, "Racism isn't born, folks, it's taught. I have a two-year-old son. You know what he hates? Naps! End of list."
Now, for better or worse, I tend to answer the Peanut's endless questions openly and honesty. So I sat her down and gently explained to her, "Oriental is a word used to describe objects from eastern Asia. Like rugs or teapots. Some people of earlier generations mistakenly use the term to describe all Asian people. However, that's generally considered politically incorrect. Does that answer your question, kiddo?"
"Yes, daddy. Can I have a cupcake?"
Proving once again that, in a perfect world, the only color that should ever matter is the icing on your cake.
ARE REDNECKS A MINORITY TOO?
Last year, we hired some workers to clean out my FIL's store in Dallas. Since we were getting rid of everything, we told the movers that they could take whatever they could salvage and sell it themselves. One woman turned to a mover and said, "Why don't you take it to your Indian friends and see if they'll buy it off you?"
To our shock, the mover replied, "Shit. Injuns ain't nothing but Jews. Those bastards will make $2.00 out of a nickel and rip me off. Hell, I can't even decide who I hate worse. Injuns or Jews."
Ten years ago, I probably would have gotten into the guy's face and baited him into a fight. Racial slights are my Achille's heel. Few other things make my blood boil.
However, I'm a father now. My daughter needs me in her life. Part of that social contract involves me making smarter decisions and recognizing that my life has greater importance than it did when I was a young man.
So I took a deep breath and looked at the mover a little more closely. He was missing two teeth, was carrying a knife in his belt, and literally had a "redneck" tattoo on his bicep. The tattoo looked like it was done at home after drinking a bottle of moonshine. He was a scary-looking dude. Even scarier was his 300 lb. son who looked like the illegitimate love child of Sasquatch and Australopithecus.
So what did I do?
I bit my tongue, said nothing, and cursed myself in silence. I think it's important for people to step up and say something when faced with racism, ignorance, and intolerance. That's a philosophy that I want to pass on to my daughter and my silence made me feel like a hypocrite. I hated myself for not beating the crap out of this ignorant redneck but, as it should be, my family's safety trumps everything.
So instead of confronting him, I shorted him on the cash, spit in his soda, and then slashed one of the tires on his pickup truck.
I'd be lying if I said it didn't make me feel better.
DO I BLAME THE DUMB WHITE CHICK OR THE MEDIA?
Last week, I was in a restaurant when I noticed a young woman staring at me. As I walked by her, she flirtatiously reached out for my arm and said, "I just wanted to say that, for an Asian guy, you're very good looking."
How the fuck did we reach a point in our culture where that's supposed to come off like some sort of damn compliment?
You know what that comment represents to me? That the stereotype of the emasculated Asian male is continuing unabated and the concept of Asian male masculinity is not being portrayed in America's media, pop culture, or society.
Look at the depiction of Asian males in movies and television today. For the most part, we're portrayed as nerds, computer dorks, or socially inept geeks. The sole exception seems to be the martial arts experts starring in blockbuster action movies. However, has anyone noticed that, even then, the Asian guy never gets the girl? They can kick ass but they can't get a kiss?
I've mentioned it a million times before but take a look around. There are plenty of masculine Asian role models around us: baseball players Ichiro Suzuki and Kaz Matsui, actors Daniel Dae Kim, Will Yung Lee, John Cho, and Sung Kang, and Survivor winner Yul Kwon.
Aside from being great-looking guys, these men are all interesting people doing interesting work. They're smart, outspoken, and charismatic. Whenever I see them, I'm proud that they're changing the perception of Asian men in America.
So why don't we see more of them?
KISSING YOUR BROTHER
I recently met two Asian-American women who told me that they don't date Asian guys.
One woman's rationale was that kissing an Asian-American man felt like kissing her brother. The other Asian-American woman said she simply wasn't attracted to Asian-American men.
Over the course of my lifetime, I've pretty much dated women of every color and ethnicity known to mankind. To me, an attractive woman is simply an attractive woman. Race was usually the last thing I looked for in a woman.
On the other hand, there's a certain comfort in having a shared cultural or ethnic background. When I dated Korean-American women, we could always joke about the pervasive smell of kimchi in the house, the extra homework from our fathers, the ubiquitous consumption of SPAM, and our mothers' steadfast belief that you could die from sleeping with the electric fan turned on all night.
Anyway, I don't disparage the two women who refuse to date members of their own race. However, I do find it interesting that their statements seem to be unique to Asian-American culture. I never hear black women say they won't date black guys because it would be like kissing their own brother. And I've never heard a Latina woman say that she simply wasn't attracted to Latino men.
Why is that?
PUTTING MY MONEY WHERE MY MOUTH IS
Currently, I'm in discussions with several production companies to turn MetroDad into a network television sitcom. All three companies are major players in the entertainment industry and their interest has resulted in my getting agency representation and a potential book deal. Right now, it all looks very encouraging so I'm crossing my fingers and keeping my expectations in check.
Here's the dilemma...
How strong am I willing to push in order to keep the main character Asian-American? Am I willing to jeopardize any potential deal? Would I walk away from the opportunity on principle? As I mentioned above, I feel very strongly about the need for the media to portray a better representation of Asian-American men.
The sad reality is that no network is likely to pick up the sitcom if the lead character is Asian-American. That's a factor beyond my control. Let's face it. America probably isn't ready for a comedy centered around an Asian-American father raising his daughter in New York City.
On the other hand, someone's got to be the first to try, right? How do we know America won't accept an Asian-American lead character in a sitcom if nobody even tries? I'd like to think that if the material is funny enough, people won't even notice that the character is Asian-American. Is that realistic? I hope so, my friends. I hope so.
We'll see what happens as discussions proceed further. I'll keep you all posted.
As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts on all of the above. Fire away!