THE MASH UP: How being comfortable in YOUR OWN SKIN and COMEDY can cause a Chinese, Jamaican, & Sicilian to get along without a DIVERSITY Trainer.
‘So we have to save these people before we save ourselves?” questioned Bob, the Chinese American guy sitting in the aisle seat next to me.
“I guess so,” I replied with an equally puzzled look of “like why would we do that,” then chuckled at this insane start to small talk.
“Well, I’ll save you and you can save me and that should be good enough,” he continued.
“Plus, they’ll need someone at the bottom to help with safety down there,” I responded and we both laughed out loud.
At that point our exit row mate in the window seat, a young electrical engineer and Sicilian named Andy, poked her head out from her book, leaned in to catch both our eyes and said, “I want in!”
It was then that we really began to laugh. (If you haven’t deduced already that I was the Jamaican please stop reading my blog and go to more remedial blog. I can’t keep holding the class back for you… just kidding wait no I’m not)…
We talked about how we would exit if there was a real emergency. What kinds of jobs we had: Bob was a politician, I was a “harrasser” of politicians, and Andy was the youngest and probably made more money than all of us by staying out of politics. We even made fun of the fellow in the exit row across the aisle who slept the whole time the flight attendant was giving instructions and when she pointed to him to acknowledge that he was willing and able to perform the duties he replied, “yes.”
Let me digress and say that I would have said yes to almost anything to keep the legroom that comes with the exit row. Flying is cruel and unusual punishment using restricted circulation and death by dry, salty peanuts that WE PAY BIG MONEY TO EXPERIENCE.
So far the conversation had been extremely comical. And maybe this stereotype might offend – and I hope it does so someone will post on my blog – but Chinese Bob was the ringleader and biggest comic of us all. Something I thought was pretty unusual for my stereotype of a quiet Asian man. Don’t judge me. I said in my “About Me” section that we ALL make assessments about people before we actually get to know them. I never professed that all my assessments were PC. But I should have know he was different than my stereotype because he looked over 6 feet tall. Then the conversation took an interesting plot twist when he mentioned he had a 1/2 Black 1/2 white son. Burrrrrrrrrrrr?!?!?!?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I know my next comment should have been better censored but really who am I kidding- we were all way too comfortable being open and candid to go back now. Clearly, I had let down some of my “I’m amongst the others better be on my best behavior” guard. Bob let it go talking about his black son to a black woman. And Andy, well Andy poked fun at her Sicilian side for only claiming Sicily not Italy, but mostly she had exposed that she was a cool white girl that wasn’t intimidated by two “minorities” talking race. She kept pace the whole conversation, didn’t try to interject some “I’m down” comment but definitely didnt flinch either.
So I asked him, “Now why you go and do that?”
“What do you mean?” he looked shocked. It wasn’t a shock like “this lady is rude, how could she say that.” I told you we were all genuinely past that place of PC. It was a look of “I really don’t know what I did?” So I explained…
“You know mixed race children have a hard time in this country. Always asked to check multiple or other boxes. Not quite knowing where they fit… and then you throw in an Asian dad that doesn’t look anything like him. This kid will be explaining for the rest of his life.”
WE ALL LAUGHED!!! Yes, and with the same genuineness as all the other great jokes and moments we had earlier.
He proceeded to share that his son would also tell people that he was Chinese. I commented that that was an awesome thing! Him self-identifying I explained was important. I shared my growing up in Brooklyn since I was 3 but when asked what I was in terms of nationality I stated unequivocally- JAMAICAN! Not Jamaican American- just Jamaican. Parents culture play a huge role in how we see ourselves and no one should tell someone else how they should or should not see themselves.
Andy agreed. She was born in American but never left out that she was Sicilian. Bob said that his son’s mom was concerned because he wasn’t Asian – but we all agreed- YES HE WAS! 1/2 Black, 1/2 White, 1/2 Chinese… you do the math- extra credit for students a bit behind on credits to graduate to my next blog post.
What’s the point of this blog… We were a bunch of mixed race and culture people who threw politically correctness out the window. We didn’t have anything to prove to the world or each other AND because of that – and some naturally funny people- had great, honest dialogue about race in America without a diversity coach. BE YOURSELF WITHOUT APOLOGY AND LET THE CHIPS FALL WHERE THEY MAY… I suspect if you don’t make any new friends at least you can sleep well at night knowing the ones you do have love you for exactly who you are.
Frankly, I am going to be me because everyone else is taken!