08/29/2013 02:16 pm ET Updated Oct 29, 2013

Speak Up With Jimmy : Miss Universe 1997 Brook Lee Reacts to Asian American Racial Questions (VIDEO)

"You're Asian. How are your eyes so big?" "If you're looking straight ahead, can you see the floor and the ceiling at the same time?" "So what is the deal with Asia?"

These are examples of offensive questions Asian Americans get asked about their race, compiled by NPR in May 2013. NPR examined the challenges of racial dialogue by asking people to share, via Twitter, questions they get asked about their race. The published results -- in a piece entitled The Questions People Get Asked About Their Race -- revealed questions that were awkward, offensive, and sadly, unsurprising.

I selected some of the questions submitted by Asian American people, and posed them to Brook Lee, Miss Universe 1997. Brook is multi-racial, grew up in Hawaii and represented Hawaii in capturing the Miss USA 1997 crown before winning the Miss Universe pageant. Watch Brook's reactions in this video.

Our goal was to examine the concept of racial literacy. America still has a difficult time confronting -- and even speaking about -- issues of race. But race should not be a taboo topic to be avoided in everyday dialogue. Rather, I believe we can only improve race relations by learning to ask -- and speak -- more respectfully about each other's race.


Speak Up With Jimmy, a Web series, is available at