Last night I made a phone call to a resort to reserve a weekend on the coast. I was told I couldn’t do the weekend I wanted because they didn’t have any rooms with two beds open for me, my husband, and our two kids. So, I reserved a weekend that really didn’t work out so well with our schedule. And then I realized that a room with just one king size bed is sufficient for me, my husband, my 3 year old, and my 1.5 year old, because there is no way we would get our kids to sleep in a different bed than us. So, I called back and asked for a room for the original weekend. The woman was flat out rude to me. She said it’s impossible because we have four people and we would require a room with two beds. She made no apology, and she made no effort to help me figure out another solution.
What does this have to do with racism?
The woman on the other end of the line was well aware of my name as I had to tell her it to make the reservation. My last name is very Hispanic. However, my last name, is my married name. (My maiden name is very white sounding). I am not Hispanic, although I am mistaken for being Hispanic all of the time due to being half-Korean and half white. Many bi-racial people get stereotyped as being Hispanic due to the way we look. Most people assume I am the race of the people I am hanging out with, which is usually a safe assumption to make. So these assumptions don’t bother me. It is what it is.
So getting back to the woman on the other end of the line…in no way, do I make the assumption that this woman was treating me poorly because of my last name. Yet just because I don’t assume doesn’t mean I don’t have the suspicion. Ever since I took on my new last name, I find myself worrying when someone is aware of my last name. There are so many stereotypes and automatic judgments that come with my last name. I must be clear in stating that I am not embarrassed of my husband’s race/ethnicity. My children are both half Chicano, and I am proud to be married to someone of my husband’s culture. This culture is part of my family, and who I am now. Despite the pride I feel, I know that racism is rampant, and I know what many white people think in regards to the different minority groups. This has led to me feeling anxious that I’m being mistreated when someone knows my last name. Since I took my husband’s last name, I have felt a need to prove myself. I need to show people I am educated, I am intelligent, I am professional. I need to prove this because I am a representation of the Hispanic-American culture whether I was born this way or not.
This is much different than the Asian stereotypes I have encountered. When people know I am Asian, I do not feel the sense of judgment where I feel I have to prove I am intelligent, professional, and good at martial arts (ha ha, I actually don’t know any martial arts). It’s easier to take on the stereotypes of the “good” minority.
I don’t know if the woman on the other end of the line got a picture in her mind of who she might be dealing with after I gave her my last name, and that was why she had no interest in helping me. Maybe she was having a bad day, maybe it’s a bad year, maybe she’s just bitter about life. I don’t know. But I can’t help thinking that maybe if I’d given her the last name “Smith” or “Christensen” she may have been a little bit friendlier.