For reasons unbeknownst to me, I’ve attracted more derogatory comments re: Asian identity for the past year in San Francisco than I had for the preceding two years in Boston. An assortment from the past two weeks:
- “What is this, your alter ego?” - Genius Bar genius at the Apple Store in downtown SF, upon seeing my Chinese name stored in the Apple system. (He proceeded to accuse me of misleading him with two different names. I tried to explain to him that I adopted the English nickname for practicality purposes, and that I never use my Chinese name except on legal/billing documents, but he just demanded that I pick one, for his edification.)
- “Lang Lang is my favorite Chinaman” - A co-worker.
- “Is there a language problem?” - Elderly lady at the De Young Museum, who passed by me in a walker after I didn’t hear her ask me to move.
- “I love Asian girls. Their skin is so smooth and they are so petite.” - Fellow bus-traveler, en route home from work. (The only non-white speaker from this set. Also, not a joke.)
And, my favorite thus far, even though it does not fall under the two-week timeframe:
- “I have my Torah, and you have your white smoke and bells.” - “Paula”, a woman who joined my friends and me during what ended up being our last round of beers at an Irish bar on St. Patrick’s Day.
Hypotheses for the spike in SF-fermented racism, despite the Bay Area’s famously bleeding-heart progressivism and diversity (vs. Puritanism & Historical Racism/Segregation of Boston):
- Too many un-assimilated Asians. Stop speaking your Asian languages everywhere, goddammit! This isn’t Little China. That’s what Cupertino and Milpitas are for.
- (Almost) Everyone in SF is a transplant.
- I am unconsciously racist toward white people, and they are justifiably retaliating.
Other, more serious hypotheses welcome. It’s been a baffling two weeks. If nothing else, I suppose they have simply been a testament to that most heart-breaking lesson after college: you have left paradise.