Is It A Joke or Is It Offensive?

Today after I heated my food up in the old cafeteria of Hunter College, I found a seat across from this older looking man who told me, “a table shouldn’t be only for one person.” Which is an opinion I wholeheartedly agreed with as each can fit up to 4 people. However after I pulled out my chopsticks, uncapped my lunch, and started eating I did not expect to having a conversation over my food… It went something like this:

Man: “What are you having? Chop suey?”

Me: “I..uh…It’s uhh…mapo tofu…”

Man: “What?”

Me: “It is…uh…tofu…”

Man: “What’s in it?”

Me: “uh…tofu…(looks down at food)…scallion…pork…”

Man: “oh, did you make it?”

Me: “No…”

Man: “Who made it then?”

Me: “My mom…”

Man: “oh, its even in a glass bowl!”

I swear, I have never been so uncomfortable about what I have for lunch ever. When this man asked me if it was chop suey, I had a rather mixed reaction to his question ranging from understanding to offended… I was understanding because his intent for the question to come off as a joke was clear, however, poorly delivered and vastly misplaced. His line of questioning made me fell truly offended because it showed his ignorance towards other cultures and his inappropriate “joke.”

Chop suey (link is to wiki definition), is widely known in American culture as the stereotypical Chinese staple food. According to Lily, there is also a font called “Chop suey,” among the many other food related fonts that are associated with Chinese food (aka the  font you see on Americanized-Chinese Food Take Out) seen in her article, Stereotype(face): Origins Of The Chop Suey Font.

However I digress, Chop suey does NOT equal to the different types of Asian/Chinese/Ethnic food you see out there! I do not know how many times I need to emphasize that… It is basically saying that all Europeans/White people only eat salad. What I am trying to say is that it is okay to ask “What are you eating?” and NOT okay to ask someone you do not even know if they are eating chop suey… The reason I say this is because it A) makes you look incredibly stupid and B) it may be offensive to the person you are asking. Your friends would only be exasperated at you and tell you what they are eating and just let it go because they know you are joking, but I have never met that man before in my life so it was definitely NOT okay…

My friend jokes around with me about him not believing that I have metal chopsticks because he jokes that I could just “accidentally” take someone out with it right up the jugular. Its hilarious because he’s seen me eat food in our classes before, and he would just ask what I’m eat, which I would just tell him about it. This is a process of introducing my cultural background to them and satisfying their curiosity. He’s never asked me if my food was chop suey instead he asked me what I was having for lunch.

and what was that comment about it being in a glass bowl? Why couldn’t my food be in a glass bowl? >:[ (I am not going to start on that…)

So for all my reader’s out there, please please PLEASE don’t see some Asian person and ask them if they’re eating chop suey and they won’t ask you if your eating grass, I mean, salad…

Here is what Mapo Tofu is: link (to Wiki).

A/N: Sorry for not blogging in such a long time! I went on winter break after my last post and I just never got around to adding a new post. I guess you can thank that man who set my inner-feminist off for coming back here to update… >:O

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One thought on “Is It A Joke or Is It Offensive?

  1. Slamantha R

    Good post. Perfect example of this obsession our society has with making unknown cultures exotic and “other”. One thing to note is that it isn’t quite like saying all white people it salad. The implication that all Asians are eating chop suey isn’t only hurtful because its false and stupid, its hurtful because stereotypes and exotic imagery have been systemically used in this country to oppress people of Asian descent. That doesn’t and has never happened to white people in this country. This is probably why it might’ve been hard for him to understand.

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