American Anthropological Association

People are Asian – rugs are Oriental.

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Race exhibit asks provocative question: ‘Are we so different?’ | Local News | The Seattle Times.

The attached article appeared in the September 27, 2013 edition of The Seattle Times newspaper, and provides the public with information about a traveling exhibit, developed by the American Anthropological Association that inspires us to consider not just what race is, but what it is not.  By the way, I changed the title of my article after fellow blogger, www.letstalkaboutfamily.wordpress.com commented on my article – see below.

The central message of the exhibit is that what we call races are not separate genetic or biological groups, but distinctions created by people, oftentimes to mistreat or isolate those they regard as different from themselves…But those distinctions come from emotion and prejudice, not science.

The writer of the article, Jack Broom, states: “In the enlightened Pacific Northwest of 2013, it may be tempting to think of racism as a thing of the past, or something that happened elsewhere.”

I live in a suburb of the Seattle area and have no doubt that racist thoughts run rampant through my local society – oftentimes with a fervency that should shock the sensibilities of everyone.  I know I was shocked when I recently experienced the following:

I’m out to lunch with a female friend who characterized “oriental” people as being very abrupt.  I told her that I took offense to her statement for several reasons: 1) I was pretty sure the term ‘oriental’ was replaced by the word, ‘Asian’ a long time ago; 2) how can she so readily characterize billions of people using one word: abrupt; and more importantly, 3) my daughter (biological, born in Anchorage, Alaska, whose dad, my ex-husband, is Chinese, born and raised in Hawaii) is half Caucasian and half Chinese and if push came to shove, she might be characterized as looking Asian.  My friend’s response: “Really?  I thought Megan (not her real name) was American?”  God help us all.

How does one respond to that?  Well, I did, but I’d like to keep this article G-rated.

Second example: my husband and I are in the market for a new bed so I did some preliminary in-store research last week at a nearby store that specializes in mattress sets.  I told the salesman that I was looking for a fairly firm mattress so he proceeded to point out various mattresses for me to lay on so I could test the different degrees of firmness.

The last mattress he showed me was very firm.  When I laid down on it, I told him that we wouldn’t be comfortable on such a firm mattress.  His response: “That’s the mattress the Asians buy.  For some reason, all my Asian customers buy that firmness.  Must be a cultural thing.”

Ugh – I walked out.

The writer summed up what visiting this installation at the Pacific Science Center might show us: “…the exercise helps make the point that dividing people into groups may tell more about the people doing the dividing than those being categorized.”

Amen to that!