By Thea Lim, cross-posted from Bitch Magazine
While I was writing our weekly True Blood roundtable with my Racialicious peeps on Tuesday, Tami Winfrey Harris said:
Watching King Russell go rogue on national TV made me think of the dread many POC feel when the media spotlights a member of our race doing something bad, dysfunctional or stereotypical–that sense that the bad behavior of another will stick to you in a society that lumps every brown person together. I just pictured vamps across the States watching Russell and shaking their heads. Aw, shit! This motherfucker…My neighbor is going to be giving me all kinds of side-eye tomorrow!
Don’t worry if you don’t get the King-Russell-going-rogue reference: what I wanted to share with you was Tami’s observation that people of color often feel anxious, sad, angry or personally hurt when a member of their race does something stereotypical in public.
I rarely feel this way, despite the fact that I proudly identify as a woman of color. The reasons for this are various—the shorthand version is that, in the genetic lottery that was my parents’ interracial English-Irish-Chinese-Singaporean union, I came out looking pretty ambiguous. Unlike my sibling who looks pretty mixed but also clearly Chinese, I have Inverted Chameleon Face: wherever I am, I look like I’m from somewhere else. People can tell I’m mixed, but they’re not totally sure what I am. (So yes, this means that many a time people have asked me what are you?… the worst time was when dudes at a bar where I worked placed bets on “what I was” and then called me over to settle the debate.) Thusly, growing up in Singapore, folks always thought I was white. Now that I live in North America, I am never really sure if people read me as Asian, white, or Other.
So, I don’t know whether or not others associate me with any public bad behavior carried out by my people. And usually, because I identify as a mixed race woman of color, I feel equally steamed about racist or sexist or racist sexist behavior directed against any group—and this is why I write for Racialicious, pan-ethnic space for people of color extraordinaire—whether it’s the Oscar Grant verdict or the politics of transracial adoption. But I rarely feel personally hurt.
And then I came across Olivia Munn.
So I decided to write Olivia a letter.