“I grew up in Beverly Hills. The only Chinese I know is from a Mr. Chow’s menu. Besides, I’m Korean.” – Christina Yang, Grey’s Anatomy

It’s a very strange thing that’s happened four times over the past nine days. And it’s even stranger that it should happen in this country.

Thursday, 6/19/08, Corporate Communications Division, RHB:

Kim Ping: You barukah? (Are you new?)
Me: (a little startled that a woman so clearly Chinese is using Malay) Yes, I am.
Marina: This is Sandra. Sandra, this is Kim Ping, from Procurement.
Kim Ping: Sandra… Are you Chinese?
Me: Yeees…
Marina: Nampak macam orang putih ke? (Does she look white?)
Kim Ping: No, macam Melayulah. (No, she looks Malay)
Me: (thinking) Whaaaat?

Yesterday, Commercial Division, RHB:

Alwin: Sandra, you are Malay or Chinese? *
Me: (slightly incredulous) Do I not look Chinese?
Alwin: Actually, not really. But I saw that your surname is Chinese, but you don’t really look like it, some more today you are wearing baju Melayu *.
Me: (baffled) No, I’m Chinese.
Amanda: 100% Chinese?
Me: As far as I know.
Christina: Oh, we just asking *, because normally Chinese people don’t have double eyelids.

Today, Subang Parade:

Hana: While you were in the fitting room the salesgirl said you’re very fair for a Malay. I’m like, “She’s Chinese.”

Some eyewear store
Salesman 1: Miss, are you wearing colored contacts?
Me: Um… I don’t wear contacts.
Salesman 1: Oh, because your eyes can see have very hazel color. *
Me: No, no. No contacts.
(A few minutes later)
Salesman 1: Miss, are you mixed **?
Me: Excuse me?
Salesman 1: Yah, you look like mix with Malay. *
Me: (astounded) I’m Chinese.
Salesman 2: Pure Chinese?
Me: Yeeees…
Salesman 2: So you speak Chinese?
Me: Yeeees…

I’ve always thought I look as Chinese as everyone else, and it never fails to throw me off when people ask otherwise, and even more so when they’ve already taken a look at my name in black and white. Maybe if I wore my glasses and had absolutely no makeup on people would have less trouble telling my race. That way even the double eyelids can’t be that misleading.

*Grammar is deliberately erroneous to accurately represent the manner of speech
** The term used to describe multiracial people

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