Thursday, May 05, 2005

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?


Anonymous beth said...

I guess I'm not "in the know" as the one guys says, because I would never call someone who is half Asian a "Hapa." Perhaps he can get away with it, but from reading the rest of his blog I bet he gets smacked in the face a lot or at least people want to.

May 06, 2005 6:02 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geetha, I get that question too and I find it tiresome and rude. I am not that patient about discussing my racial makeup to people who only want to stick me into some little category to ease their tiny minds. People who ask that question almost never want to discuss race or my racial background. So I just say one nationality and wait to see if the person asking the question stops asking questions or goes away. 99.9% of the time they do.

By the way, if I was on the dating market, and the first question the guy asks me is that question, that guy has cut himself out of dating consideration. Peace out man, hope you find someone less "exotic" for yourself.

Enjoy the rest of the tour!

May 07, 2005 8:23 AM

Anonymous Arana said...

Hi Geetha,

I'm Arana. We met at DePaul this past Tuesday. We were talking about having gone to U-M in Ann Arbor. I think it's dynamic to see a Wolverine taking the lead with the multiracial awareness movement.

However, I'm not surprised that you or any of the rest of the Gen Mix crew received criticisms for whatever you said. That's to be expected. That's the thing about going public with stuff. You're not going to please everyone. Your experience is your own, and no one can challenge any of you about that.

Just keep your head up high and keep on going. I'm happy to see that most people you all have met have been very receptive to what you all had to say.

Great job!


May 08, 2005 11:37 AM

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