Get With the Program

Darby called me last night from the road. His band was in Virginia, and it was his first time being in the south. Let’s just say that it hasn’t made a good impression so far. He’s experienced some of the bigotry and intolerance that we don’t even dream is possible here in California. They played in a bar full of rednecks that were hollering epithets at him and a couple other of the guys all night.

This didn’t really surprise me. I’ve found that “Southern Hospitality” is purely a marketing ploy to attract tourists, and it’s about as real as Disneyland. Either that, or it’s reserved for the blond haired and blue eyed folks only. I’ve been treated with more kindness, courtesy, and respect in New York City than I ever have in the two southern states I’ve been to, South Carolina and Florida. Now, Florida is a weird case study, because there’s northern Florida, i.e. Tallahassee, which is The South, and then there’s Miami, which is it’s own little globe.

I was in Tallahassee once with the University of Miami Band of the Hour. (Yes, I was in the marching band in college.) I was pretty well insulated from the public, being with the band. But I remember being shocked to find that I was in the South, and people really were hollering at us. Of course that was mostly because we were the rival school’s band, but point being, they weren’t very friendly, let alone hospitable.

Then a few years ago, I visited South Carolina to meet Dez’s family. I’ve never been out and out stared at like that before. Everywhere I went, you’d think that I had a neon sign over my head that screamed “NOT FROM AROUND HERE!” From the second I stepped of the plane in Charleston to the time I left, there was a constant barrage of eyeballs on me. It was unnerving, to say the least. Once again, not very hospitable.

Obviously I look like I’m straight out of Oakland. I walk the walk. I *hella* talk the talk. I have the uniform. But it just never occurred to me that I could visit somewhere within my own country and be treated so foreignly. And knowing that people sometimes don’t know what to make of my ethnicity on first look, I had to wonder if some of those people were staring at me trying to figure out which slur applied.

I’ve been mistaken for mixed more than enough times to realize that plenty of people look at me and see a hapa. ‘Hapa’ has come to mean a person that’s part Japanese. It’s derived from Hawaiian, where hapa means ‘part’. A hapa haole is a person who is part white. A hapa kepani is someone who is part Japanese. Apparently it’s become popular here in California, too.

The first time I heard it was from one of my friends from Oahu, who had apparently assumed I was half Japanese for years before the subject came up, and I corrected him. Just the other day, one of my co-workers who is Asian asked me if I wanted a mochi, and was a bit confused when I didn’t know what it was, because she thought I was Japanese. When I told her I wasn’t, she was shocked, and said, “I totally thought you were a hapa!” I guess it’s because I have smallish eyes.

Of course, there are people I tell these stories to who are mystified, because to them, I just look like a total white girl.  If anything, I’m one sixteenth native American, but don’t ask what tribe, because my great grandmother wasn’t telling.

Anyway! As if it matters. White, native, or Hapa – I’M AMERICAN! I’m American, he’s American, we’re freaking Americans!

Isn’t it about time that we work this shit out America? Enough with the racism. Enough with the intolerance. Enough with the xenophobia, the homophobia, and all the other bullshit phobias.

Let it go, people!

Just sayin’.

Author: peggyluwho

What do you want to know? I'm a California native, and right now, I live 6 miles from where I was born. I'm single. I'm a feminist.

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