No Such Thing as Bad PR - Geetha
I have to admit that I have been quite surprised at how little criticism there has been of this tour so far. Many people are unfamiliar with mixed race issues: what they are, why they are important, why we would have tour about it, etc. So from there I definitely expected that people would be critical of what we are doing and how we are doing it. Quite fortunately, everyone who we have met to so far has been very positive and supportive. People who come to our events are very enthusiastic, and even just random people who see our RV at gas stations have told us that they think it’s great what we’re doing. It’s so wonderful to meet people all over the country who support this tour!
But the criticism was bound to come, and a few days ago I found that a quick Google search of my name revealed that not everyone is happy with what I had to say in the New York Times article about us. Many of the comments I have to disregard because they authors made completely unsubstantiated assumptions about my personality, and even went so far as to make blanket statements about how all mixed race Asians feel about themselves. However, I think that there were some valid points that were raised, and because a small article cannot fully explain everything I have to say, I thought I would address those here.
One person raised the question as to why I was quoted as saying that I don’t like being asked about my race when I am on this tour where I do nothing but talk about my race. The article did not have the opportunity to fully explore this quote, and it is unfortunate that people understood it to mean that I do not like talking about my race or that I don’t want to reveal my race to anyone. Race is a fascinating subject to me, and I enjoy talking about it, including my own personal stories, with anyone who will listen. What I don’t like is when people—like many of the men I talk to in bars—ask my race as if that is the only thing worth knowing about me. Many people ask me the “What are you?” question, as if once they know, they will have me all figured out. There is no question that my race has played a part in forming my fully identity, but there is a lot more to me than the boxes I checked on the census. The question “What are you?” implies, whether intentional or not, that the only thing I “am” is my race. If you are asking my background because you are genuinely interested in hearing what I have to say about it, great. But I don’t appreciate inquiries that are purely to dispel someone’s discomfort with my racial ambiguity.
Many of my friends and family were worried that I was taking this criticism too personally, but it’s actually not bothering me too much. As one friend pointed out, one of our goals for this tour is to engage people in dialogue and get people thinking about the issues that come along with being mixed race. If people who have never met me and who have not come to any of our events are talking about us on their blogs, isn’t that just the kind of dialogue we want to start? Maybe some people got the wrong impression about the messages I was trying to convey in my quotes, but at least now they are thinking about these issues and getting other people to think about them as well. There’s no such thing as bad press, right?