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Camouflage April 16, 2006

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Ramblings.
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Americans generally can’t figure out what I am.

I suppose a large part of it has to do with the diverse nature of American society. It’s easy to forget that America is a nation of immigrants (“melting pot” comes to mind), and thus a person of Oriental or South Asian or Middle Eastern descent could be as “American” as anyone else. Against this backdrop I just don’t stand out, and the fact I’m Filipino becomes little more than a footnote if anyone really cares to ask – and people rarely do. Which, ninety-nine times out of a hundred is actually a good thing: I get treated no better or worse than anyone else around here.

But to some extent this is also probably because to Americans, all Asians generally look alike (at least I think they think that way). I can sympathize: I’m the same way in reverse. It doesn’t help that my appearance is generally unremarkable (or if you’re not too fond of me, insert your own adjective instead). So when people do try to guess, they often guess wrong. Am I Chinese? Vietnamese? Thai? I can’t help but feel that their thinking is preconditioned by whatever Asian fast-food takeout joint they frequent on a regular basis.

This morning, however, someone figured it out.

It happened to be this very pleasant lady I was sitting beside during Easter Mass. When the mass ended, she caught my attention and asked, “If you don’t mind, what’s your country of origin?”

“The Philippines,” I replied.

“Aha!” was the reaction, and with a smile, “I thought so. I have a bunch of Filipino students, and you look like them.”

And so it was that a schoolteacher from New Hampshire figured me out. Maybe it’s time I donned a different disguise.

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