Strangers boxing you into racial categories

229 posts in this topic

I don't think this is specific to Germany (though I've experienced it here more), but I was wondering if anyone else has noticed some stranger's compulsive need to put you into some racial/ethnic box – it's really starting to piss me off. I'm German/American, and have a dark hair/eyebrows and fairly light skin, and people just won't accept it when they ask me where I'm from and, depending on my mood, I say I'm German or American. People then ask, "oh, but your parents are Turkish/Italian/Greek, etc?" When I say no, they say, oh, but why do you look that way? Do I need to explain my looks to any passerby? I understand if its in context and you are talking about families, origins. But STRANGERS, in a non-social situation? Do they need an in-depth family tree summary to categorize me? Do they have an internal box they need to tick off like White, Black, Other?

 

Furthermore, in the past two months, I've been approached, not once, not twice, but thrice, with total strangers saying things like:

 

Situation A: (Crowded Ubahn station) Excuse me, are you Turkish?

Situation B: (Crowded airport at the gate to London) You're flying to Istanbul, right?

Situation C: (Me reading on the UBahn, the elderly man sitting next to me): Oh! I can't read that! It's Turkish! me: Er, no English. him: But you're not from England!

 

Anyone else get this? Okay. Rant over. Thoughts?

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Situation A: Weak chat-up line (opener).

Situation B: Weak chat-up line (opener).

Situation C: Old man chat up line (probably just literally wanted a chat).

 

Be flattered.

 

Touche. Maybe I'm just being ultra sensitive because of the sheer volume in which this has occurred in my life!

 

No photo! That would totally blow my cover. Plus, as Keydeck mentioned, I clearly already have my hands full with old men, etc. Hottt.

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Could it be that some people are just interested? Merely making conversation. You may be reading too much into this. To be honest being half American could mean your ethnic origin could be from anywhere. People don't stop looking Chinese just because they were born in America.

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Could it be that some people are just interested? Merely making conversation. You may be reading too much into this. To be honest being half American could mean your ethnic origin could be from anywhere. People don't stop looking Chinese just because they were born in America.

 

Word! But why do I need to justify my looks? Just like if I randomly talk to a stranger in America, who may have Asian features, I don't ask them for a summary of their lineage!

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Touche. Maybe I'm just being ultra sensitive because of the sheer volume in which this has occurred in my life!

 

No photo! That will totally blow my cover. Plus, as Keydeck mentioned, I clearly already have my hands full with old men, etc. Hottt.

 

If you look anything like Arunadasi you're probably leaving a trail of broken hearts and a lot of male dribble in your path.

 

Edit: I meant dribble from the corners of their mouths.

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This reminds of my son.

 

He came home Monday complaining about this one girl from another class, who was talking with one of his friends and asked that boy "who is your Turkish friend"? My son doesn't think before talking (much like his mom) and said "that is racist, but if you must know I am Italian and American"....

 

Easy enough... Though, I did explain that she wasn't being racist, but that she probably saw other handsome boys, that her parents said were Turkish. And, that maybe she wanted to know more about different cultures. As, he had this puzzled look on his face and said "yah, maybe you are right..."

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Touche. Maybe I'm just being ultra sensitive because of the sheer volume in which this has occurred in my life!

 

so this happened 3 times in the last 2 months.

and prior to that how often did it happen?

 

I really think it's a non-issue, friendly folk making convo.

 

though

 

 

Situation B: (Crowded airport at the gate to London) You're flying to Istanbul, right?

sounds like a looper if you are at a Gate to London.

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though sounds like a looper if you are at a Gate to London.

 

You'd be amazed how many people queue up at the wrong gate/check-in desk/airline.

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Oh, I once had a Turkish woman come over to me while I was sitting in the park and address me in Turkish. When I replied in German, she said "Oh, I thought you were one of us". (I was wearing pretty baggy trousers at the time, paisley-patterned!). I was amused (to think that the way I dressed made me look Turkish).

 

Then there was the time I was spoken to in Mallorcan dialect when I walked into a shoe shop in Palma. "Oh, I thought you were one of us," the man said. I was flattered.

 

There are worse things. What gets me is when I say "Oh, I'm from Wales". "Oh, England." "No, Wales, part of the United Kingdom." "Oh, it's all the same anyway." (Then I remind them about the rivalry between Prussians and Bavarians.)

 

Or how about this exchange in Karstadt two weekends ago: "Do you have portable CD players?" "No, we don't have that any more." "You seem to have fewer and fewer things in this store." "Oh, but we have lots of very nice shoes. Why don't you go to our shoe department on the next floor?" Grrrr.

 

I'd say that the reason the Germans think you're Turkish is only because that is the biggest minority group. An example of a limited imagination.

 

And yes, I find that people tend to try and put people in categories. According to the psychology course I did this last academic year, it's because it makes life easier and brings order into a chaotic life.

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You'd be amazed how many people queue up at the wrong gate/check-in desk/airline.

 

then perhaps the person was checking if they were at the correct gate.

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Look on the bright side. At least they never asked if you were Stephen Hawking.

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What gets me is when I say "Oh, I'm from Wales". "Oh, England." "No, Wales, part of the United Kingdom." "Oh, it's all the same anyway." (Then I remind them about the rivalry between Prussians and Bavarians.)

 

I say I'm from the North of England: oh you mean Scotland? NO

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Yes this is quite specific to germany, and it is something that happens to me A LOT since I moved here (and not before). I have dark brown hair and eyes so I'm always being asked if I come from India or Turkey or Iran (which I don't). Telling people I'm from england isn't enough, they want to know, "But where are you REALLY from?". If it's someone asking who has known me for a while, I don't mind too much, but when it's a stranger and they want to know within a few minutes of meeting if I'm from india etc, then it makes me very uncomfortable and somewhat offended because you just never know if there is something racist behind their asking. Also I don't see why it's necessary to pigeonhole someone into a fixed category the second that you meet them. Just 2 weeks ago I went to a party and a girl asked me where I was from, I said england, and she replied "Oh but you don't look english. Still, I suppose england has lots of immigrants." I mean, wtf. Can't they accept that every population has genetic diversity, end of? Are they going to treat me differently if they believe that I come from asia instead of europe?

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See, if that were me I'd be flattered. You could always reply "Yes, I'm from India - dark, mysterious, an assault on the senses and I know the Karma Sutra front to back and back to front. Your room or mine?"

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It's quite easy to find racist behaviour and/or comments if you really want to.

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post-156076-1354701853717_thumb.jpg

I think she's unhappy to be still mistaken for a human, given her (allegedly) supra super-human looks!

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