This Is Who I Am Not

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Being a halfer gives you a real appreciation for what racial stereotyping is all about. Being a half Japanese, quarter British, quarter Scottish person really provides a lot of stereotypes to fall into. The way people racial stereotype others is entirely dependent on what nationality the person stereotyping is.
When I traveled to Japan, the large population of oriental people viewed me as white. They expected me to be everything I’m not, and they were really surprised when I didn’t fall into their stereotypes. No, I do not raise sheep. I do not have bad teeth. I do not turn into an angry drunk. I do not wear a kilt, or play the bagpipes. When I met people in Japan, they had a hard time accepting that not all white people fit into these stereotypes. This isn’t fair at all to British or Scottish people. I know a lot of British people who have nice teeth, and no, they don’t have sheep. As for Scottish people, I don’t know anyone who plays the bagpipes and sports a kilt. Many of the people I met in Japan were surprised to find that I wasn’t out of control or disrespectful. It seemed as if they expected me to be screaming and throwing a tantrum because they believe North American parents don’t have control over their kids.
On the other hand, here in Canada, most white people view me as Japanese. I do not bow when introduced to people. I do not watch anime. I do not fold paper in my spare time. I do not enjoy karaoke. I do not have hello kitty sheets. I do not sumo wrestle. And for some reason, this is surprising to white North Americans. I don’t know very many Asian people who are like these stereotypes at all. In fact, I’m sure there are just as many white kids who enjoy these things as there are Asian kids. When I’m joined in a conversation, someone will ask why I’m not speaking up. Then another person will respond with, “Oh, it’s because she’s Japanese. You know, they’re so quiet and conservative.” I will admit that in a group I can be quiet. However, I don’t think it’s because of my nationality. I would like to think it’s just my personality.

I wouldn’t say that racial stereotypes are a good thing, but I can understand how it happens. It’s easy to categorize someone when you don’t know them. I know I’ve made assumptions on people based on first impressions, but all I need to do is remind myself of what people assume I’m like and I know I have to get to know the person better.
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