Quoted: Resist Racism on Mistaken Identity

Excerpted by Latoya Peterson


A Chinese American journalist on an interview is assumed to be making a food delivery. Thomas Lee reported that he was wearing a dress shirt, black slacks and black dress shoes. When he later related this story to others, he was given advice about how to avoid being mistaken for the delivery guy:

    Worse yet, people offered me tips on how I could avoid this problem in the future, as if I was somehow to blame. Wear a jacket. Carry a briefcase. Walk differently.

If people can make excuses for why you were mistaken for somebody else, they can refuse to see racism. I’ve worn the jacket. I’ve worn the suit. I’ve carried the briefcase. And I’ve still had white people try to hand me their dirty dishes in a restaurant. I waited over an hour for a job interview because nobody thought I could possibly be the candidate. And if you read this thread, you’ll see that this is a common experience for people of color.

It doesn’t matter how you’re dressed, because your race is sometimes the only thing white people can see. Formal wear doesn’t even help the situation. A friend was at a big-deal dinner function (which I won’t name for the sake of his privacy) when he was asked when he was going to bring the beer in. Apparently a scheduled delivery of cases of bottled beer had not yet arrived.

It’s funny, you might have the experience of being mistaken for the Chinese food delivery guy. And it might just seem to be an incident in isolation. You have all those other experiences, and if you talk about them white people might try to tell you that it’s just you. Heck, even sometimes people of color will try to tell you this.

Because of course, most people don’t see race.

—“Mistaken Identity, Part 387,” Resistance, Resist Racism

(Image Credit: Mattox at stock.xchng)

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Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at team@racialicious.com.

The founders of Racialicious are Carmen Sognonvi and Jen Chau. They are no longer with the blog. Carmen now runs Urban Martial Arts with her husband and blogs about local business. Jen can still be found at Swirl or on her personal blog. Please do not send them emails here, they are no longer affiliated with this blog.

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