I don’t know what it is about Asian restaurants, but all of my racial profiling experiences in eating establishments have occurred in Asian restaurants. This latest one happened at a Korean joint. Still gonna go there because the food is great. But it did make the evening a little awkward.


  • http://www.facebook.com/ann.sulaiman.1 Ann Sulaiman

    I wish people would stop claiming that non-whites are incapable of racial profiling, or that whites can never experience it.

    I’m also glad that you’ve spoken about this, because it gives me an insight to your personal experiences.

    As for racial profiling experiences of my own… I can’t recall any at restaurants, but I guess I could count how other Muslims at times will assume I’m Arab, only to discover that my actual ethnicity is South Asian. (And then after that, the tendency to assume that I strongly identify with the country my parents moved from, only to be shocked and look at me warily, when they find out that the contrary is true).

    Or that time when I went to an Orphaned Land (Middle-Eastern, Israeli prog metal band) concert two years ago; a music journalist there had written in a review that I was evidence of the band’s Arab following. (I wanted to strangle him, because he just saw me with my headscarf and dark skin and got carried away with what he saw on the surface, not to mention my own personal beef with people (namely other Muslims) wanting me to be over-obsessed with the Middle East for their own comfort, if that makes sense…)

  • Gin

    My father is Caucasian. My mother is Thai and Chinese (and in Thailand that’s a whole world of nonsense we don’t need to get into here). My stepfather is a second generation American Japanese. My stepmother is from Beijing.

    I grew up all over Asia (specifically SE) and moved to America for college. Got married and have been here ever since.

    Asians tell me I don’t look Asian (so I get left out of a lot of things). White people tell me I don’t look white (and I get left out too!). So you can see: I’m a very confused mixed raced, cross-cultured individual, haha. I feel like a stranger no matter where I am.

    The specific reactions when I go to Asian restaurants really varies. Sometimes I get the “ABC” reaction you got. I notice the mean reactions are often from people my age and younger. However, from people who have themselves moved here from Asia, I get discounts. I think it’s because while I do not speak any language but English, I act differently because I didn’t grow up in America.

    It’s weird and it frustrates me. Thanks for your video. I don’t feel so alone with the weird ethnic profiling.

  • Yan

    All. The. Time.

    My mother: looks white, identifies white
    My father: looks Asian-ish, doesn’t identify as anything (his mother’s white, his father’s Han Chinese)
    My sister: pale with almond eyes and straight hair, identifies mixed-race
    Me: brown with round eyes and curly hair, mixed-race

    When it’s my father and my sister, discounts and preferential treatment all-round. When it’s my father, my sister, and me, fewer discounts, still better treatment (but weird looks because ain’t nobody can categorise my face). When we’re with my mother, we’re made to wait, we’re seated after Asian-only groups who come in after us, we have our orders screwed up, we’re given different menus, etc.

    And this is in England (btw using the American definition of Asian here, so East-Asian, not South-Asian/ Middle Eastern).

    The one time my Chinese grandfather came to eat with us, the entire staff of this Chinese restaurant bent over backwards for him, made him a special dish that wasn’t on the menu, and gave us free dessert. He doesn’t even speak English OR Chinese (we’re all French nationals).

    This even happens in supermarkets. My father came with me to the Chinese store that I go to regularly, and when HE showed up suddenly I get the price of my total shop shaved, and complimentary sweets.

    What the what?

    I know when you’re an immigrant you get into the habit of jumping on every person who comes from where you’re around, and being especially nice to them because of the overpowering need to be understood, but seriously. It takes the piss when you go so far as to mistreat customers who don’t look like you do.

  • Jan

    Not a restaurant, but…
    When a Korean market opened up around the
    corner from us in Wheaton, we went to check it out. An older Korean lady
    stood blocking the entrance and scowling as if to prevent us from
    entering. We just sort of nudged our way past her and proceeded to shop
    around. She followed us at a distance of 4-5 paces the entire way around
    the store, up one aisle and down another. She didn’t try to say
    anything, but grumbled and looked fierce until we went through the
    checkout line. I guess she did not intend the business to be for us
    white people.

    And now you have comments from Ann, Gin, Yan, and Jan :)

  • Tchor

    I went to a Korean restaurant with my wife (Chinese) and ordered a spicy hot pot. It was amazing, super spicy, damn near blew my head off! I went there with a mate who is white like me. I’d told him about this hot pot and he was keen. The staff did everything in their power to prevent us ordering this dish (except ask us to leave). When it finally came it was bland as fuck >_<

  • http://www.facebook.com/israel.harris Israel Harris

    Growing up I was the only Jewish kid in school till about 4th grade when a kid from detroit who also happened be jewish moved into town. Even with another Jewish kid around, I always felt as if I was somehow ostracized from the other kids…

    Once, around 8th grade while I was peeing in the bathroom, when one of my classmates came in asked me. “Hey Izzy, since your Jewish, that means you’re circumcised, right? Does that mean your dick is shorter than everyone elses?” I don’t remember how I answered that.. or if I answered it with dignity… But I do know now…that guy that asked me that, is extremely gay.

    Looking back on that.. I know I felt like I had it bad.. but I’m sure that guy had it worse cause in small american town, as bad as it can be to be ostracized by your entire school.. It can only be worse if your ostracized by your family..

  • S A Sims

    This always happens to me at Indian restaurants. If I order something hot off the menu I get odd looks and questions like “Are you sure you want that? It’s the hottest thing on the menu.” Being a super skinny White Guy probably doesen’t help my case but it’s made easier when I explain that I was born overseas and am used to hot food.

  • zDubya81

    I’m 6’5″, live in Thailand, am about as white looking as you can get, and also shave my head (because I’m going bald and at 27 don’t want to look 45).

    This is just everyday life, except that Most new restaurants or small stores assume I am just a tourist who got lost and wandered into their shop. So for the first 15 minutes, I get treated as such, which means basically ignored while other people place their orders in front of me while I’m standing at the counter, getting automatically lumped in with the ‘unable to consume spicy foods’ crowd, or prices jumped up from normal.

    The first few years it made me extremely paranoid like everyone was trying to rip me off, and while I still have some of those tendencies, I’ve learned the rules to get treated like I ‘belong’ here. Mostly, I just speak in Thai, as politely as I can, and order spicy foods that foreigners “can’t” eat.

    But I’m also a contributor in that last year when I went to a Thai restaurant in Chicago (which was amazing and Thai owned) I made the mistake of assuming my waiter could speak Thai. He couldn’t, and I had never ordered Thai food in English before, so I looked like a double douche stuttering over simple English words while my brain is wanting to communicate in a different language.

    So, yeah. It happens