7 Things NOT to Say to Asian-Americans

By Stacy Straczynski

7 Things NOT to Say to Asian-Americans

Confronting subconscious biases and stereotypes about race is a frequent occurrence for many professionals in the workplace—in particular, those from traditionally underrepresented groups. While many comments and questions are raised merely out of curiosity or ignorance, it doesn’t lessen the offense.

“Stereotypes make people feel like they don’t belong, like they’re an outsider looking in,” according to Linda Akutagawa, a Japanese-American and CEO and President of Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics (LEAP). “It’s not necessarily the phrases or comments said, but the insinuations and how things were said.”
What can your organization do to improve cultural competence?

According to Jennifer “Jae” Pi’ilani Requiro, a Filipino-American and National Manager of Diversity and Inclusion for Toyota Financial Services, everyone has a choice of how he or she addresses negative comments. “In a case where there is a personal relationship and a certain degree of trust, I encourage people to have a private conversation to explain the negative impact,” she says.

Educating employees and exposing them to diversity is “critical to addressing comments born of ignorance,” says Dr. Rohini Anand, Senior Vice President and Global Chief Diversity Officer of Sodexo, who is Indian-American. “These impact how Asians are represented in the workplace.”

7 Things NOT to Say to Asian-Americans

1. “You speak English well. Where did you learn it?”
Typically meant as a compliment, this is one comment that really “pushes my buttons,” says Anand. “Just because a person has an accent—and possible appearance—that’s different than the mainstream” results in the assumption that a person can’t communicate.

2. “You need to improve your communication skills.”
Akutagawa does note that with globalization, there are increasing numbers of professionals who speak English with accents. And this can become an issue during performance reviews: Many times, Asian employees are simply told they need to improve their communication skills but are not given any elaboration on what that means.

“No one wants to come straight out and address the accent,” Akutagawa says. “It’s a two-way street: The manager has to think about what they’re doing to listen fully and be present in conversations.”

3. “Asians are not discriminated against. All of my doctors are Asian, and the Asian kids in school are the ones getting top honors. It’s the white kids who are at a disadvantage.”

Even positive stereotypes are damaging: The myth that all Asians want a career in medicine, math and science is limiting. Additionally, you should never assume that an Asian employee is the IT person.

4. “Asians are good workers but seldom want to become leaders.”
There’s a strong stereotype that while Asians are good individual performers, they are not leadership material—and that’s OK with them, according to Akutagawa. As a result, she says, there is an unconscious bias that prevents Asians from being considered for more senior-level positions.

For example, Requiro recalls an anecdote someone shared with her: “After voicing her opinion in a meeting, my colleague’s male manager said to her, ‘You’re not like my Asian wife. You speak up.’ It is hard to forget a story like that.”

Anand says the issue lies in a lack of cultural competence. Many Asian-Americans with strong non-Western cultural roots might have a quiet leadership style, more behind-the-scenes than what is considered mainstream. The solution? Draw attention to a variety of successful leaders and management styles.

5. “Can you recommend a good [Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, sushi, etc.] restaurant?” Or “Chinese food is cat meat.”
Don’t ask for dining recommendations out of context or assume an Asian has this information on hand.

6. “Where are you from?” “No, where are you really from?”

Aside from the fact that the question already implies that an Asian is an outsider, repeating it is even more offensive. Akutagawa says, “I get the question only every so often, but it’s frequent enough to remind me that stereotypes are there.”
“How often do you go home?” also should be avoided. Requiro says her typical response is: “I am from the Monterey Bay Area. I can drive there in about five hours,” even though she knows this isn’t what the person meant.

7. “Asians are overrepresented at senior and C-suite levels.”
Despite a variety of data, including DiversityInc Top 50 data, that consistently prove otherwise, this is a comment Akutagawa heard a speaker say at a recent conference. “It was so blissfully thrown out. My thought was, ‘We have a few high-profile CEOs and all of a sudden we’re overrepresented?’ Maybe when people see the one, they feel like they’re being overrun.”

The actual numbers show that Asians, much like other underrepresented groups, are lacking representation in upper management: DiversityInc Top 50 CEOs are 8 percent Asian, and Fortune 500 CEOs are only 1.8 percent Asian.

5 Ways to Prevent Asian Stereotypes

Don’t perpetuate stereotypes—even positive ones.

Make opportunities available outside the stereotypical career track.

Assign cross-cultural mentors and offer stretch assignments.

Elevate the mission of resource groups beyond sharing cultural practices and celebrating Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.

Draw attention to successful Asian leaders and role models.

More Things Not to Say

Any derogatory term

“You don’t act very Asian.”

“What’s your name again?

“You all look alike.”

“What kind of Asian are you?”

“Are you a bad driver?”

“Can you speak your language?”

“Were you a fan of Jeremy Lin?”

“Why do you only hang out with Asians?”

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75 Comments

  • I don’t understand why people would say any of these things… it’s difficult for me to understand stereotyping. People are people. Maybe it’s a generational thing? I often notice it is older people who tend to not like Asians the most. It seems rather inhumane to me… as if they are sociopaths that don’t understand basic human kindness and compassion. Unfounded hate is a illness that corrodes the heart.

    • Hi chad I am from Kazakhstan which is in Asia and people in my grade still make fun of since I am Asian even though they known me for 10 years
      I live in fredonia is.

    • I was just at Rite Aid and asked a Chinese young lady when will the other pharmacist
      from the Orient be in??? I used that term merely because other Asian people work there like people from Indian and Pakistan and Muslims from the middle East. She got so offended that instead of helping and teaching me she became irate and indignant and was rude (rest of post edited)

  • Yohan Anthony

    I’m an Asian American, my parents are from Sri Lanka, but I have no problem with people asking where I am from, I’d rather them ask me than assume I’m African, Arab, Hispanic, or Indian, as many people have. And I don’t mind if people ask if I “speak my language”…most people who ask the aforementioned questions I’m ok with aren’t trying to be racist, they’re just curious and I understand that, I’m curious about other people’s ancestry. I think one should have some pride in their heritage, whether they be Irish, Cherokee, Japanese, Sinhala, etc. because it helps build some self-esteem, as long as you don’t use your pride of your heritage to put down others.

    • Likewise, when they asked me where i was orignally came from i am proud to say it and when they asked me why i speak english so well – i always tell them that english is our second language those types of comment i will of course entertain but things like about driving, or other offensive gesture and comment it is not right.

    • I love in your response you stated “… whether they be irish, Cherokee…” Most people are also ignorant to the fact Cherokee, Sauk, Fox, Sioux etc. liked to be called such. We are proud of the tribe or band we come from. Most “indians” i know, would rather be called Indians than Native Americans. We are all pretty sure we was here first, and don’t know no “American” for basis as a name. Native American was contrived from the American Government and the census bureau. Once again to pigeon hole us and force us square pegs thru their round hole. Thank you for the respect.

      • Referring to Native American as Indians may be racist to real Indians. Just because you don’t like the term Native American doesn’t mean you should take someone else’s racial identity. Indians are from Indian.

  • Raj Patel

    Ha! Number 1 is why I’m here. I was a bit annoyed when this girl casually asked me “How do you speak English so well?” and then promptly asked if I was born here. I responded that I was and she brushed it aside saying “never mind” as if it were not offensive at all.

  • I find this very strange. I do not find any of the above offensive. I enjoy very open conversation and the more I stay opened, the more I see a common thread that binds all of us.
    I graduated from one of the premier institutions the IIT, 29 years ago. Been with some of the brilliant minds and they cut across religion, region and community. We all made fun of each other, enjoyed the diversity ( a mini India ) out of respect and insight and not from politically correct view. In all these I learnt, how to understand what people say without taking offensive of how it is said. I know at the core of my heart, people across the world are social animals and want to be connected at a human level.
    I am afraid as we lose open honest communication in exchange for politically correct speech, we are nourishing a true Balkanized nation, with concealed predisposed views than develop honest deeper understanding of fellow humans.
    Ganes

  • Why is asking for someone’s name again offensive?

    • I was also puzzled by the prohibition against asking someone to repeat their name. I’ve sometimes had to ask white Americans to repeat their common white-bread name if I’m in a noisy environment where it is hard to hear. I just don’t see how it’s offensive to ask a name repeated by anyone if you just didn’t catch it the first time. (This is also coming from someone who has an unusual name and is always asked to repeat her name. I’d rather repeat my name and have people get it right.)

    • In your eyes it may not be offensive, but when people ask me how to pronounce my name in Korean, I simply state, the same way its pronounced in English. Also having people constantly asking me what my “real” name is, is really offensive, considering the fact that they see my as “different” and asian so I must have a different “asian” name. But I really don’t, yet theyalways seem to ask me: “what asian are you?” ” why are your eyes so big, aren’t they supposed to be small and asian?” Or “can you speak asian to me?” And even “did you move here from Asia and that’s why you say you’re from Wisconsin? ” . It drives me nuts but I just state that I’m Korean and then walk away.

      • Ya mia when people ask what my name is they would ask what does it stand for then I wold tel them that is my name and it doesn’t stand for anything

    • It can be seen as offensive, because it may be that they look like they’re from the Orient, and someone could think their name was Misaka, or something. I look like a light black, but my grandfather was japanese, and people always ask me things like why are you eyes like that? Which is another typical asian stereotype. Asians can have names like anyone else in the world, ignorant people will assume it has to be an asian name.

    • They dont tip IP: 104.35.144.69

      what if LING LING doesnt want to repeat it again?

  • I find most of these questions odd, and usually I just assume that the person asking the question is a bit dim (unable to phrase a questions accurately), or is unconsciously egocentric. When I think they’re trolling, I just troll back.

    Them: Where are you really from?
    Me: I was born in Australia
    Them: I mean, originally where are from?
    Me: My mum’s womb.

    • HA! Love this – one of my best friends is Chinese-American, born in NYC. She gets this a lot – and her reply usually will go – I’m from New York and then when pushed (since everyone always seems to follow it up with the “really – where are you originally from” stupid question) she says the Bronx. That will usually get a *sigh* from the person she is talking to. On two occasions when I was around to witness the interaction the person asking has turned to ME and then repeats the question! As if my friend is too stupid to understand the question so they need to get the real story from me (I am white)! Frightening!

  • It’s, indeed, interesting that even so-called “positive” stereotypes are regarded here as offensive. After all, there’s practically no reaction when WASP’s are regarded as “polite” or volunteers are considered “helpful”

  • I share Yohan Anthony’s and Ganesh’s opinions that most of the questions we’re asked come from the questioner’s genuine desire to know more about us and our heritage. My mother was Caucasian and my father was a very dark skinned Asian. Not only did they have a biracial marriage, but they reversed the traditional roles of “white man” and “native woman.” Believe me, I know what it’s like to grow up in a racially bigoted environment! I know what it’s like to go to a school friend’s house, have the parents see me, and then be told my friend can’t play with me anymore. My parents showed me how to keep an open mind and learn to distinguish prejudiced statements from genuine questions where a person simply wanted to learn more about us.

    I believe it was the great author, Pearl Buck, who first called kids like us “rainbow children.” When there are enough of us nobody will be just white, yellow, or dark skinned anymore. We should never tolerate hateful or belittling speech to us, about us, or about anyone else. We then have the duty to speak up and make it clear that we will never tolerate such speech. Even more important, we have the privilege, the obligation, to answer sincere – even when awkwardly asked- questions and share our knowledge. If we aren’t willing to be the teachers, how can we expect others to just “know” what’s all right to say and what is offensive?

  • Francesco

    There are some decent points here but others sound immature, entitled, and oversensitive. If you have an accent, then naturally folks will realize English is your second language. Take a compliment without the chip on your shoulder. I lived in Asia for a decade. I cannot tell you how many times locals complimented me on my language skills. Daily. Was I offended? Of course not. Also, I was frequently asked to recommend good American restaurants in my ethnicity, just as I am asked back in the States. It feels flattering to help.

    Frequently, I was told all white people look alike, look like hairy apes, smell funny, are dishonest, and far worse. I was also excluded fairly often because I was a foreigner–and charged more, denied employment, and cheated because I was a foreigner, too. This is serious and doesn’t really happen in America. Did I ever feel entitled to others pretending we were all exactly the same? No. And frankly, I enjoyed being different from the majority.

    It is because America is so unusually tolerant and welcoming of all nationalities that these 1st and 2nd generation folks get all worked up over what often are trivialities or even compliments.

    And by the way, I have been asked plenty of times in America where my forebears came from. For me, it’s something I am proud of.

    • Asians are still a small minority in North America because it takes longer to migrate from Asia to North America since they are very far compared to migrating from Asia to Australia and New Zealand since Australia and New Zealand are closer to Asia than North America.

      But anyway, in Atlanta where I live, Asian stereotypes are the worst. Even as far as their jobs go. Everyone always assumes Asians are either doctors, nurses, dentists, engineers, Asian food restaurant owners, pharmacists, nail salon workers, dry cleaning workers, and massage parlor workers and that’s it. And as an artist, people think I should have any of these jobs even when I can’t do them and quit being an artist because it isn’t an Asian job.

      • Tammy Tran

        Okay, first all jobs that asians commonly have are what you’ve mention but not always true. Some could be actors or designers. It dosent matter what peopld think, show them who you really are and that you have the abjlity to do something other asians dont do the common. Yes i am an chinese-vietnamnese-american

    • Doesn’t happen to who in America? Why do you think the anti-discrimination laws exist here?To try to equalize an otherwise unequal playing field…

    • I absolutely agree and can relate with you on many points. Some of these questions are so oblivious, though, that it would create the pushed-out feeling you describe experiencing during your time in Asia. (I lived there too, Japan, and got the same treatment often). It was not a big deal but it was exhausting, so we should not do it. I do think people could tone down the rhetoric, though, as I have found some blogs of very angry folks who are just extremely hateful toward Whites. I met a Japanese person who said she understood “the terrorists’ point of view” regarding Western men, and it saddens me to see that kind of anger.

    • Great stuff and counterpoint. I really don’t know why many asians get offended so easily. My chinese wife tells me I smell and am too hairy, fat, etc. If I give her any similar assessment she would be upset for a month. Many asians I have met act pretty entitled, which perhaps adds to being easily offended. But there are un-tolerant peeople all over the world.

      Congrats on being adventurous with your career!

      • Luke Visconti

        I’m feeling sorry for your wife right now. Why would you post something like this? Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

      • The classic “if I’m not offended by statements made about my racial group, then you shouldn’t be either” sentiment. White people have been the historically dominant group in America. That’s why their statements towards other racial groups are disproportionately more hurtful. That’s why “making fun of” white people isn’t the same as making fun of other racial groups.

        Just because there are un-tolerant people all over the world doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t work towards making our own home a better place. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

    • When I’m living my life, I’m not actually aware that I’m Asian until someone reminds me. These stereotypes are irritating because to them white folks, I’m “Just another Asian” who is super smart, knows martial arts, and doesn’t speak English while none of that is true. As a result, people stay away from me because I seem absolutely unapproachable. I feel like my individuality has been denied by these prejudices.
      I HATE culturally ignorant, racist, offensive, white strangers. Sometimes when stuff happens, I imagine…some pieces…….burning….heheheh. Oh yes.

      //rant.

  • Heritage questions are totally cool in my book. After all, it’s okay for me to ask a blonde kid where in Europe their family is from. It’s only annoying when people try to be politically correct. Pro tip, folks: nationality is how much the front of your passport reminds you of apple pie and cheerleaders. Ethnicity is how long you can be outside without sunscreen. It’s not nitpicking, it’s patriotism.

    Sidebar rant: “why do you only hang out with Asians?” is a completely legit question. Unless you are physically incapable of interacting with people outside your race, there’s no reason for all your friends to be of a race that makes up <5% of the population. Ethnic cliques are no better for diversity than country clubs and Brooks Brothers catalogs.

    • And I have to agree that in an environment where people of all nationalities and backgrounds are supposed to be celebrated, it is suspect when all of anyone’s friends come from the same nationality or race as they themselves wouldn’t be accepted or allowed into that environment if other people had a mindset like this.

    • Most white people are only friends with white people, so can you blame minorities for avoiding racists like you and seeking company in people who will not hate them based on their ethnicity?

    • There are blonde kids whose families. Are not from Europe

  • Hello.
    It depends on where you are.mi have spent a lot of time in Hawaii and California and yes there are Asian stereotypes but every ethnic groups as stereotypes. I am not Asian but all my friends except one is Asian and since there Asian Community is huge here the stereotypes are not seen as much as some place where there is not a large Asian community base.

  • Largely driven by media.

    Many people are sick of hearing about racism that racial prejudice doesn’t exist or they choose to ignore it. It’s the attitude of: Why is it even still up for discussion? Equality (be it gender, race or whatever), like democracy is not an end state but a process to which the bar should always be set higher. It concerns everyone because we all have race and ethnicity on our minds whether we like it or not, even when we don’t realise, that is, what we are thinking about. Of course, many people state they don’t think much about race, but that’s just the problem, because every single one of us has a tendency to naturally follow mental scripts/beliefs.

    What is considered racist today is as clear as mud, but it’s a fact that Asian Americans are poorly represented in media. These weak representations based on cheap stereotypes for entertainment is not only damaging towards the individuality of Asian Americans, but to Asian American children. Not to mention the self-fulfilling prophecy that many Asians would be vulnerable (e.g. In school, a child who is automatically thought to excel at math will not receive the right attention etc)

    Hollywood in particular offer weak representations based on cheap stereotypes for entertainment. Portrayal of AM’s are one-dimensional and one-way traffic compared to for example African Americans who are better represented by Hollywood and AM’s have a long way to go before we reach that point.

    Of course, in an ideal world, it shouldn’t matter, but the fact is that most people (intelligent or not) obtain most mental scripts or beliefs unconsciously/consciously from media. While AM’s are desexualised the females are hyper sexualised and you can witness this in western society from occupation to relationships. AM actors mostly play villains are cruel, weak, unromantic, foreigners, math genius, not athletic and wouldn’t be able to get a joke if it came with the manual.

    Hollywood directors have no excuse but to represent all races fairly/equally and no way is it down to a lack of talent and bankable leading Asian actors. Attractive talented AM actors are consistently typecast.

    We must try to see everyone as an individual, be open-minded, and not succumb to implicit bias and cheap stereotypes perpetuated by media which translates into the real world. We all need to call out stereotypes and narrow-mindedness in order to challenge the status quo.

  • Them: Where are you really from?
    Me: Okay okay. I’ve just flown in from Mars
    Them: Look of confusion. Eventually the penny drops. Hopefully they walked away a bit more open-minded.

    It is definitely not okay to pose this question in most context because it assumes Asians are perpetual foreigners, which surprisingly you see often in media. The question is at times posed with a sense of superiority and malice behind it. Asians Americans are born in America. For the majority American is all they know and how annoying would it be for people to constantly ask you where are you really from?

  • The what’s your name again first of all why is that bad some people will forget. And if your name is complex of course they need to ask you again what is it better for then to call you lady.

  • In order to sound more respectful if I am curious about someone’s ethnic heritage/cultural/ancestry, I don’t say “Where are you from?” or God forbid “Where are you really from?” I say instead “Where is your family from?” or even straight out “What ethnic heritage/cultural/ancestry do you/your family identify with?” Also, most of the people I know, if they were offended by me asking, would say something like “I was kind of offended by the way you phrased that question.”

    Also, I have a friend who gets asked to repeat and spell her name on a daily basis, because it’s an ethnic/not common name. She says that she doesn’t care, because she sees it as someone else’s commitment to making sure they don’t butcher her name.
    For the record, her name is spelled like this: Ohy-Ku

    • I used to get a lot of 6. Sometimes 1 and 5, but never any of the others. Lately I’ve only received these questions from Asian-born immigrants who seem to be really excited to find someone they connect with. When they realize that I’m American-raised, they seem disappointed. Most of the time they drop the issue immediately. Once in a while a person will keep pressing for some semblance of a connection. In such cases, I try not to be offended. If I were living in another country and I met an American, I might get really excited too.

      • I have Canadian born friend ethnically Chinese, sometimes waiters in a Chinese restaurants are perplexed that she cannot read or understand spoken Cantonese

    • It is none of your business. Do not ask.

  • I am Caucasian, and I once said “I hate Barack Obama.”, and before I could elaborate, one of the African American kids in my class shouted, “That’s racist!”
    That little anecdote was shared so you can see how an comment intended to be innocuous can ignite racial tensions.

    *For the record, I was asked to give an example of free speech. I must admit, it was not wise in that I failed to say that this is what I was demonstrating, and that instead I just blurted it out. Also for the record, Barack Obama is in fact perfectly O.K. in my book.*

    • I believe, as Americans, we all need to embrace more diversity into our individual lives. Its that diversity that makes us American. As a young child I immigrated from Taiwan in the early 70s at the end of the Vietnam War. I certainly encountered some very overt discrimination and attacks from kids and even teachers. As a way of survival, my parents told me to assimilate as much as I can into American society. When I was growing up, I came to identify with “White” America. I’m married to a white man and most of my friends are white. A few years ago, at a party, I said I thought George Bush was an idiot. I was promptly told by a white friend to go back to China where I came from. I didn’t know until then what she thought of me. (Now I do use this term “white” to generalize all Americans with European decent). Recently I stopped using the term “African American” because a black friend told me that she doesn’t identify with Africa. That made sense. Afterall, we don’t call white americans “European Americans” I would like to see the day we stop identifying a person based on their race. I think that day is coming sooner than we know. So, my New Year’s resolution is to expand my color wheel of friends.

  • I imagine so much depends on context, but if someone responds to my friendliness with attitude, I just cross them off the list and assume they have social problems. And no, no one gets to tell me what I really meant.

  • The truth of the matter is, I constantly get hit with the “Are you Chinese” question and it makes me sad. When people are determined to play the “What Asian are you” game without even bothering to ask me for my name first, it’s like being told “You don’t belong here”. When I tell people I’m not Asian, the typical response is “Then what are you”. It’s as if I’m a thing, rather than a person, and categorizing me is more important than getting to know me.

  • What really is annoying is when people tell me I’m not Japanese, like my being Asian-American makes me any less Japanese. People tell me, ‘Oh well, even if Japanese is your first language and you are of Japanese descent doesn’t mean you’re Japanese. You’re German because you have a German last name.” You know what no, no, my stepfather is German. My legal last name is not German and you can shut up. People need to stop being rude to people because they are not 100% American or not 100% the ethnicity they prefer to identify with.

  • Give me a break, every other ethnic minority has to live with that, SO WHAT, put your big boy pants on and stop your whining. This country is not a melting pot, or at least, we don’t easily melt together and neither should you expect it. And shut up about complaints about positive stereotypes, ask black people if they would resent people making assumptions about them being doctors or scientists. The problem here is that the second generation Asians are just a bunch or whining wussies, not at all like their hard working TOUGH parents. DEAL WITH IT…Stop Whining. OH and one more thing…stop with the Ethnic-American crap, if you really want to be accepted be an American. Till you suck it up just a little, sorry no respect or pitty.

    • Ben, the KKK just called. They want you as their official spokesperson.

      • Lets be a little realistic and less idealistic. The pharmacists in the Los Angeles County Hospitals are perhaps 95% Asian, many Vietnamese. You can “youre a racist” me as much as you want, but this fact breaks Federal law and County Hospitals get Federal funds. The Civil Rights Laws passed in the 1960s were really about getting more Black
        professionals (Black professionals were relatively rare in the 1960s, fortunately this has changed)
        but the politicians were smart enough to explain the law in non racial terms. ” The ethnic
        mix of the workplace had to reflect the ethnic mix of the community ” was the way it was stated. The law as it is written is not being followed in Southern California

    • Anonymous

      Lemme guess, you’re a privileged, wealthy, white man. Well, as it just so turns out you aren’t oppressed nor do you get stereotyped extremely offensive things like ethnic minorities do. That whole thing about “be American to be accepted” – might want a reality check, seeing as Americans are defined simply by living there and being a citizen. Therefore, you’re a citizen, you’re American. In case that’s too complicated for you to understand, let me sum it up for you – people can be 100% Asian and 100% American at the same time. I understand that you might not be able to process this huge load of info, but it’s true. As much as you might hate people stereotyping you by saying you’re just another average white person, I can tell you from personal experience that whatever hatred you feel because of that is nothing compared to what you feel when a person stereotypes you with these sort of things. By the way, last I checked there’s no such thing as “pitty.” You should probably go back to third grade and learn how to spell.

  • The way I get around number 6 is I’ll just ask, “Do you speak another language?” Nothing offensive about that. But in my experience there are 2 types of Asians: (no, not American-born or, well, the other kind) Those comfortable with the fact that they’re Asian, and those who aren’t. My ex-girlfriend was the latter, and was always looking for a reason to be offended. When I told her I’d never make another Asian uncomfortable by asking them if they were bilingual instead of where they were “really from”, she would always grimace in anger.

    People just need to learn to chill. Most of these comments, when said/asked, are NOT intended to offend, and to those that do take offense I would say learn to get over it. Tranquility is learning to accept things that don’t change. Diversity is a good thing. If anything, just take pride in knowing that you’re more educated/socially tact than they are.

  • As a white American, I have to take issue with some of the views posted in the article above. I’ll also remember this article the next time I’m called or referred to as “round eye”. I’ll remember this the next time I’m offered a fork (instead of chopsticks) in a Chinese restaurant. Doesn’t that assume I don’t know how to use chopsticks? Same with complimenting someone in their language skills. It’s a compliment! The author of this article says complimenting someone with an accent on their language skills assumes the person with the accent cannot communicate. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite! The assertion makes no sense. Finally, asking someone to repeat their name is not rude. It’s actually part of polite discourse to ask someone to repeat their name if you didn’t hear it/catch it the first time.

    Some of these points are valid. Some are not and are the product of incorrect assumptions. How about instead of assuming what someone means, you ask them exactly what/how they meant what they said/asked? How about fostering communication instead of telling us what we can ask and what we shouldn’t ask?

    • That’s funny, when I go to a Chinese restaurant they hand me chopsticks. Maybe it’s your confederate flag ball cap, suspenders and belt that tips them off.

      Or perhaps if the 1994 Ford Tempo with the NRA stickers.

  • Catherine

    I’m Chinese and I live in Canada, usually, people don’t ask me those questions, but even if they do, I wouldn’t get offended by most of them, but I have to agree, some of them really does hurt my feelings a little(just me, not the general Asians) and I think people really should stop saying these things

  • I really be noted this article. I like to share my experiences.

    Item #1: Once I was chatting with a gentlemen of, dare I go into detail, most likely West Sub-Saharan African origin. In modern terminology, we refer to this category as “African American”, due to the demographic being predominantly descendants of victims of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. But I digress. We were chatting about old cars at a symposium. He asked me where I’m from because I “have no accent”. Before i proceeded to scoff and walk away, I told him I am from Texas. He then said, ” you just dont like you’re from around here.” Then I asked him where he’s from. After he replied North Carolina, I told him,” you don’t look Native American.” ;)

    Note: With the anthropological Bering Straight theory in mind, the fact Native Americans and Pacific Islanders share distinctive genetic markers makes Asians and Latinos more “local” than Caucasian and African immigrants.

    Item #3: As a millennial graduating into this god-awful job market, I often get the impression I’m being shunned for opportunities because I don’t fit into the stereotypical Asian Amercan mold. The general perception out there is that Asians are mostly engaged in STEM majors and professions. Because I studied something else, I got less hits by recruiters on job sites and quicker rejections from companies. Asian Americans seem more likely to be type-casted into STEM, which ironically, itself, constitutes a form of discrimination.

    Item #4: I would argue that the “bamboo ceiling” is, itself, a double bladed sword. Perpetuation of stereotypes will only reinforce the type-casting of Asian-Americans into the sociopathic STEM category. That being said, having known a substantial number of STEM-leaning Asian-Americans growing up, I can safely say they tend to become increasingly sociopathic, not to mention disconnected from real world issues, the further they’re invovled with their engineering, medical, computer studies and professions. Sociopaths don’t usually make good leaders. More often than not, these Asians tend to bring it upon themselves. There’s some concern to why for every Gary Locke, Jeff Ho, or Kealoha, there’s thousands of Asian STEM “automatons”.

    Item #5
    Funny more often than none, I usually get asked, ” where I’m really/originally from”, by Asians and Asian-Americans. Usually the discussion ends with European-Americans if I say “Texas”.

    Perpetuating Stereotypes:

    One thing I simply can’t stand is how Asian-Americans seem to cling more tightly to their cultural identities. They derive all their personal self worth from this! Funny, when I meet a non-Asian for the first time, the heritage question usually comes after the first 20+ questions, assuming it comes at all. For Asian-Americans, it’s usually the first question… It’s like one of those, “Yeah, nice to meet you too. Don’t you want to know my name first?”, moments. It’s tough to tell others to not be pretentious when you are being so yourself.

    Once I was being recruited by a campus Chinese cultural group. They said they focus on culture and history, but like many of such clubs, it was a social group for Asian kids to bunch up together, insulated from the rest of the student body. So I asked the president to name the major Chinese dynasties. He was stumped…..:)

    Once I was quizzing an Indian-American 7th grader. I asked him to name the 3 branches of government. He paused for a second and asked me to ask him a science or math question. I asked him how does he intend to become a productive and engaged member of society just by regurgitating scientific theories? Even if a scientist intends to innovate, he must be in touch with the problems and needs of society. So I asked him an organic chemistry question. He got a well-deserved “F”.

    Another time I was outside a cafe on a Friday evening. A local high school band was playing there with a small crowd of their classmates. I watched the one and only Asian boy walk out around 6:30. I asked him why he was leaving so early? He said he’s got some homework to do, and he’s trying to “be a good Asian kid.” I asked him, “Why? Try using that brain of yours to think outside of the box, for a change.” Hope I made that one think. If not. Well, I tried…..

    I agree with this article’s advice against perpetuating stereotypes. Not everything in life is within our control, but we may influence the aspects we can control. Drawing from my Asian American upbringing, it’s the the die-hard (and somewhat misguided and oversimplistic) worldview that everything is within our control and if one suffers hardships, then it’s most likely something we did to deserve it. If this is the mentality, then Asian-Americans should sleep in the bed they made, and not complain about some “bamboo ceiling”. Life is more than about making money and falling in line. A good leader is aware of his surroundings, thinks outside of the box, and seeks to make a difference.

  • I really enjoyed this article. I like to share my experiences.

    Item #1: Once I was chatting with a gentlemen of, dare I go into detail, most likely West Sub-Saharan African origin. In modern terminology, we refer to this category as “African American”, due to the demographic being predominantly descendants of victims of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. But I digress. We were chatting about old cars at a symposium. He asked me where I’m from because I “have no accent”. Before i proceeded to scoff and walk away, I told him I am from Texas. He then said, ” you just dont like you’re from around here.” Then I asked him where he’s from. After he replied North Carolina, I told him,” you don’t look Native American.” ;)

    Note: With the anthropological Bering Straight theory in mind, the fact Native Americans and Pacific Islanders share distinctive genetic markers makes Asians and Latinos more “local” than Caucasian and African immigrants.

    Item #3: As a millennial graduating into this god-awful job market, I often get the impression I’m being shunned for opportunities because I don’t fit into the stereotypical Asian Amercan mold. The general perception out there is that Asians are mostly engaged in STEM majors and professions. Because I studied something else, I got less hits by recruiters on job sites and quicker rejections from companies. Asian Americans seem more likely to be type-casted into STEM, which ironically, itself, constitutes a form of discrimination.

    Item #4: I would argue that the “bamboo ceiling” is, itself, a double bladed sword. Perpetuation of stereotypes will only reinforce the type-casting of Asian-Americans into the sociopathic STEM category. That being said, having known a substantial number of STEM-leaning Asian-Americans growing up, I can safely say they tend to become increasingly sociopathic, not to mention disconnected from real world issues, the further they’re invovled with their engineering, medical, computer studies and professions. Sociopaths don’t usually make good leaders. More often than not, these Asians tend to bring it upon themselves. There’s some concern to why for every Gary Locke, Jeff Ho, or Kealoha, there’s thousands of Asian STEM “automatons”.

    Item #5
    Funny more often than none, I usually get asked, ” where I’m really/originally from”, by Asians and Asian-Americans. Usually the discussion ends with European-Americans if I say “Texas”.

    Perpetuating Stereotypes:

    One thing I simply can’t stand is how Asian-Americans seem to cling more tightly to their cultural identities. They derive all their personal self worth from this! Funny, when I meet a non-Asian for the first time, the heritage question usually comes after the first 20+ questions, assuming it comes at all. For Asian-Americans, it’s usually the first question… It’s like one of those, “Yeah, nice to meet you too. Don’t you want to know my name first?”, moments. It’s tough to tell others to not be pretentious when you are being so yourself.

    Once I was being recruited by a campus Chinese cultural group. They said they focus on culture and history, but like many of such clubs, it was a social group for Asian kids to bunch up together, insulated from the rest of the student body. So I asked the president to name the major Chinese dynasties. He was stumped…..:)

    Once I was quizzing an Indian-American 7th grader. I asked him to name the 3 branches of government. He paused for a second and asked me to ask him a science or math question. I asked him how does he intend to become a productive and engaged member of society just by regurgitating scientific theories? Even if a scientist intends to innovate, he must be in touch with the problems and needs of society. So I asked him an organic chemistry question. He got a well-deserved “F”.

    Another time I was outside a cafe on a Friday evening. A local high school band was playing there with a small crowd of their classmates. I watched the one and only Asian boy walk out around 6:30. I asked him why he was leaving so early? He said he’s got some homework to do, and he’s trying to “be a good Asian kid.” I asked him, “Why? Try using that brain of yours to think outside of the box, for a change.” Hope I made that one think. If not. Well, I tried…..

    I agree with this article’s advice against perpetuating stereotypes. Not everything in life is within our control, but we may influence the aspects we can control. Drawing from my Asian American upbringing, it’s the the die-hard (and somewhat misguided and oversimplistic) worldview that everything is within our control and if one suffers hardships, then it’s most likely something we did to deserve it. If this is the mentality, then Asian-Americans should sleep in the bed they made, and not complain about some “bamboo ceiling”. Life is more than about making money and falling in line. A good leader is aware of his surroundings, thinks outside of the box, and seeks to make a difference.

  • This is very funny actually. I’ve traveled throughout Asia extensively and I can tell you from experiences that if you appear to be from a different culture the native people will most likely call you names that stereotype that culture or race you appear to be from. In my case it’s words like “Die Hard” or other words like “Puti” (which literally translates to “white” in Tagalog) or assign a celebrity name to you that they see fit. When I’m with my girlfriend we get called Brad and Angelina, very funny I think, not offensive at all to me. Draw your own conclusions! In my opinion a person would only be offended by cultural questions or terminology if said persons EGO was a bit out of control. Never underestimate the power of a persons EGO or self perception. In the USA we have a saying “Take it with a grain of salt.”

  • What a flawed article. (and picture) It’s true some of the stuff may be Slightly offensive, but as a South-Asian-American, I never understood why the word “Asian” only applies to people who have ancestry in China, Vietnam, Korea, Thailand, Taiwan etc.when there are at least 50 nations in Asia. A better title would have been “7 thing not to say to East or Southeast Asia Americans.

    • Dave Reardon

      Exactly … it’s pretty arrogant for one part of Asia to claim the entire continent for itself (full disclosure: I am Chinese-Hawaiian-Irish-Norwegian. I am part-Asian, but to be more specific, I am part-Oriental).

  • Sometimes it’s just seems like people need something to cry about…This one amazes me. I’m a 53 yr old white American man, My previous girlfriend was originally from Indonesia. I met many Asians personally for the first time in my life, I thought everyone of them were wonderful people. Guess what? I asked them where they were from…OMG and guess what? They were not offended, why would anyone be offended with that question? YOU CAN”T ASK GOOG:LE EVERYTHING WE ARE HUMAN BEINGS PEOPLE…GROW UP. A couple of years ago I went to France for a couple weeks and ohhh wow!! Those mean oh French people ask me if I was from American, I have never been sooo offended in my life, I rarely comment on these things but this one just floored me because I had the opportunity to get to know many Indonesians who now live in the US…Maybe they are stronger less whinny Asians? They laughed when I showed them this…

  • I wish people could actually apologize for their racist comments. It hurts a lot more than people of other ethnicities think. I think, in the US, racism towards Asians doesn’t count as real racism.

  • I landed here because I was trying to find out if there was a polite way (or, conversely, a way to definitely avoid) to ask an Asian person about their heritage. I used to think of Asians as only Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, etc., but it finally dawned on me that hey, ASIA. Lots of Asians, lots of countries in Asia, lots of different appearances, languages and cultures. I am from a small town in Indiana that was almost 100% white. I did not know a black person until I was in a county children’s choir. I am fascinated by other people’s cultures and languages.

    Today, I heard two of our actuaries, Asian ladies, speaking to one another in an Asian language. English is not their first language, and I actually thought they were from different ethnic backgrounds. But they were speaking together so clearly they had a language in common. I wanted so badly to ask about their heritage because I want to learn, not because I want to offend, annoy or hurt anyone. When I used to work with a lot of black ladies, I openly declared my ignorance of black culture, and found my questions answered with a lot of good-natured laughter and honesty. I think any offense was tempered by their knowledge that I really wanted to understand more about a culture different than my own.

    Sometimes I am hesitant to ask questions, but I’ve developed some icebreakers that I hope convey what I am trying to ask without being offensive, and to be a little more insightful than “what kind of Asian are you?”

    “What is your heritage?”
    “What country/what part of the world did your family originate in?
    “Your name is unusual. I like it. Does it have a particular meaning in another language, or is it a family name?” (Because sometimes that exotic name is actually how they say “Steve.”)

  • Man! What a bunch of PC wimps! Anyone with mongoloid genes is Oriental. Period. They come from the Orient. As noted everywhere, Asia is a very big area and includes India, Pakistan, Russia and even Afghanistan. When someone sees a person from Japan, China, Viet Nam, Korea, or any other Oriental country, they are seeing people with distinct genetic similarities. They are Orientals from an area described as the Orient. There is a reason Indians don’t want to be called Asians. They are caucasians. This is all a joke.

  • Isabella Stewart

    Hello! I am a quarter Japanese and I am often made fun of. People don’t believe that I am Japanese and often call me a weeaboo (someone who pretends they are Japanese). Though I am only one quarter Japanese, I embrace because it’s the only thing I know how to do (also because I have no idea what the other 75% of me is) . Also, I grew up hanging out with my grandma (she is 100% Japanese) so I picked up quite a few things from her. Now, these kids that make fun of me say that since I am only 1/4th Japanese, I am a weeaboo (which really doesn’t make sense) and they do the thing where the pull the skin on the outside of their eyes to “make themselves look Asian”. When I tell them to stop, they say “So-and-so is more Asian than you and doesn’t get offended!” What am I supposed to say to someone who does this and should I just pretend that I’m not Japanese at school so I am no longer made fun of for it? (I am super sorry for my grammar and the way I structured my sentences; I am 14 and I suck at English.)

    • Chinese-American

      Call them out of being racist. You are what you are. Tell them if they would tease a Jew for not looking like a traditional ‘Jew’. You might want to guilt-trip them and accuse them of trying to take your heritage away (you’re not lying, it’s true), just like what they did to African-Americans. Be proud of who you are, and don’t back down. Talk to other Asians, and ask they why they don’t support you. Get people on your side essentially.

      Kids can be so stupid in middle school, and sometimes you have to stand up for yourself. It’s a balancing act between being angry, and also being respectable.

      • Enoughalready

        I am sorry, but that is horrible advice for a 14 year old child in this day and age. What he needs to do is be the best person he can be and rise above that kind of nonsense. They are just a small part of his life journey. If is really upsets him, he needs to tell his parents first, then find a peer group that he can vent his frustrations in. You should never suggest children confront each other and refer to each other as “racist”. That is a huge part of our Country’s problem right now. Name calling is name calling. It is just as “not okay” to refer to them as “racist” as it was for them to refer to him as “Weeaboo” (is that really a word…honestly, I would probably just laugh at it and move on it sounds like something I would name my hamster). What I am saying is, the lesson you are teaching him is, “name calling is okay”. This attitude is part of our school violence problem.

        People are just dense sometimes, and we forget that we all offend someone at some point in our lives. The key is to try to accept everyone and try to get along; and those that can’t accept who we are, we should simply move on from them. They are not worth the energy.

  • Enoughalready

    The article is offensive. I think it is time this entire country get over the whole “offended” thing and move on with life. To the Gentleman at Rite Aid, if your intentions were not ill intended, then you did nothing offensive. Everyone wants to label themselves “Asian American” “African American” “Latin American”. It is just plain silly. Our culture is the American culture. If you wish to live in the Asian Culture, then move to a country in Asia (which is a continent, so you should have plenty to choose from).

    We are one country, under God. What is offensive, is forcing others to know your personal “rules”. Get over yourself, life is short. Go outside and remind yourself what it is to be an american. Light some sparklers on 4th of July (parent supervision please), Go watch a baseball game, eat some hot dogs, go swimming at the local “fishin’ hole” hit the beach and learn to surf. And through it all. Stop spending so much time trying to fit the thousands of cultures in to one that deserves a culture of its own. Be PROUD to be simply an American and the rest will all come together. Promise. Peace be with anyone that reads this and God bless (I hate to think of all of those offended because I had to nerve to mention the God I choose to worship). Think about it.

    • You don’t have to be offended. But you should learn your basic American history if you’re going to give other people advice about it.

      What is on the great seal of the United States of America? “E pluribus unum” – it means out of many, one. The many do not have to blend in to your rosey eyed vision of what this country never was.

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