THE BLOG
10/25/2010 04:34 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Color Me Right: Sharron Angle, 'Asian' Is Not a Compliment

I wish I could say that Sharron Angle's "You look Asian to me," comment was not too familiar to many of us Latino and Black professionals, but I'd be lying.

Take this comment from a certain exec I got a bit ago, ushering me into his office for our first meeting as I started my TV career: "You don't seem Hispanic to me..." Without a pause, and before my Dominican-derriere hit the chair, I put on my best Charo accent, "Do I es'eem Es-panic do ju' now?" (When in doubt, temper and educate with humor.) Sadly, his answer, wrapped in a chortle was, "Oh! Yeah, now you do!"

Many of us who went to college and plowed ahead despite of and in defiance of lingering ideas of where our brown or black selves should be have encountered this idea of We-Categorize-You-With-Elevated-Race-Status. How many of us heard growing up, "You seem white to me"? This was a regular throw-away comment lobbed my way several times in my Jesuit undergrad, as if saying that because I seemed 'white' (read: better), as opposed to recognizing that I am just one part of a large Hispanic diaspora, I should feel better -- that I should have been ashamed of where my family came from and honored to be welcomed into the 'club'.

Not so much.

It's not a compliment, people. We don't want to be anything we are not. We want to be recognized for what and who we really are -- even respected for it. (Really, even a bit of r-e-s-p-e-c-t? Un poco? Ay Dios.)

Why so much hard work? Why not instead realize that educated, well-spoken people of all and many colors are really just one part of their whole group? Nope. Rather, we are excused away as anomalies, freaks of our kind. Scratch our skin and underneath we must be a 'better' race? The culprit is that nasty and naughty self-sabotager called cognitive dissonance. Unable to comprehend that educated, well-raised people of a group you may hold in lower opinion exist, it's easier to just turn them a different 'color.' My eyes say that you are one of those people but my (addled) brain says that can't be, so presto-chango, abracadabra -- you are something else (something that doesn't rattle my wrong-headed convictions so much).

Newsflash: As proven by years of demographic research, differences within groups are greater than differences between groups. If you can't comprehend that we are part of a whole, and not rare deviations that you must excuse with qualifiers, then you just don't know enough of us. Get out more. It's good for you. And most importantly, it's American.

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