I heard a fucked up conversation on the Muni Train the other day. I was on the K-Train on the way to Powell to do some Christmas shopping. At first it started off innocently enough, between an older Chicano lady and a younger Chicano male. She was saying how she was surprised he didn’t speak any Spanish (He was a 10th generation Mexican American). Then it got progressively worst:
Woman: You fucking sellout! How can you say you’re white! You’re CHICANO! How can you not speak Spanish or eat tamales for Christmas! I feel so sorry for you!
Man: I NEVER SAID I WAS WHITE. My family’s been here since the Civil War! We’re from San Antonio. What am I suppose to do if my mom never taught me Spanish? We eat tamales, just not every Christmas.
Woman: What do you do for a living?
Man: I’m a teacher.
Woman: OH! How fitting. Those kids have no idea their teacher is an idiot. What do you teach?
Man: Special Ed.
Woman: That’s why! Those kids are too stupid to know any better!
Woman: Fuck you! You’re not fucking white!
Man: Fuck You! I never said I was white!
Woman: You fucking sell-out!
Man: You fucking bitch!
It wasn’t awkward sitting there at all. What I was intrigued about most was how she focused on how “ethnic” he was based solely on him not speaking Spanish or eating tamales for Christmas (which I incidentally had today during Christmas from my Mexican American uncle, and damn it tastes good on cold days like this). I got to wondering from my own experiences, and I think I understand her points of arguments, although I don’t agree that she’s completely right… But I think a lot of people base their judgment on how “American” vs. how “Ethnic” someone is on the following points, in order:
The problem from my own experience though, is that my ethnic identity has been questioned not by the above 3 points. But by stereotypes of what it is to be Vietnamese. Which are the following:
2. Smoking (cigarettes, of course!)
3. Paying for (alcoholic) drinks
5. Having a prevalent amount of Vietnamese friends
6. Chilling at Vietnamese coffee houses
If it were based solely on the 6 points I just mentioned, then yes, I am completely Americanized. But seriously, in this day and age, when the term “American” is being debated and our president is, to use an aged old term used during the times of slavery: mulatto. Does it make sense to even judge people on these merits? We have people I consider as Americans who have been here for decades, who came over to the States illegally when they were infants who do not enjoy the freedoms native born citizens have (please check out the Dream Act portal and help it finally get passed) and people are still arguing over how “white washed” someone is for not eating tamales on Christmas Day (delicious!) or not gambling at Garden City Casino on a Tuesday night?
All I can say to you haters is Fuck You. You are no better than the opposite end of your argument, the English Only proponents. Do not eat pho, gamble at Bay 101, fuck a Vietnamese girl, drink ca phe sua da and call yourself more Vietnamese than me. To use a term I’m stealing from that Chicano American: “Fuck You! I never said I was white!”. I do not want to perpetuate stereotypes, whether it is the Eastside San Jose Vietnamese gangster or the well-to-do model minority. We have a Black President. All bets are off. We’re all Americans, whether you like it or not!