scottopic: (chinks to the infinite power.)
[personal profile] scottopic
The answer is "Of course". The answer is always, automatically "of course".

It's always, because it's right up there with "Are you a god?"

It's automatic, because I get asked this often. Like several times a year, by strangers on the street.
In elevators at Dragon Con. In MARTA stations.

And once again last week.

I was at an art show featuring a friend of my brilliant artist friend, EK Huckaby.
It was a typical in-town sort of gallery showing in a pretty cool gallery. A wealthy woman in the Edgewood District of Atlanta decided she wanted to support artists she liked and converted an entire wing of her enormous Victorian into a gallery. The sorts you'd usually expect were there - lots of dark blazers and cocktail dresses, but with a nice bohemian element, and EK in the midst of it, being his wonderfully dark and bizarre self.

The work featured altered photographs for the most part. Odd landscapes with things that hinted at a supernatural element...but maybe it's just the lighting. A dead rabbit is a reference to an obscure Warhol piece. A tiny mouse is hidden...somewhere.

I was reading the artist's statement by the greeter's door. I like how people tic/k.
A fellow was near the desk, drinking one of the complimentary drinks, looking like part of the crowd, which is to say I paid him no attention beyond courtesy.

Mid-sentence, the subject line landed on the page in front of me.

"Do you know Kung-fu?"
"Of course."
"I was thinking you look kinda like Bruce Lee...I guess he's a little younger."
"And dead."
"Yeah. So...what sort of martial art do you know?"
"Oh? What's that?"
"Brazilian kickboxing."
Keep smiling
"Oh, cool...I have a friend who knows aikido. Is it like that?"
"No, not really. Ok, see ya."

There are other esprit de escalier that came to mind immediately, the dinner conversation with Faidra, EK and his lovely companion Carolyn and more even days later. I can't be angry about this sort of thing, although anger is in the swirl of the experience. I've laughed a lot about it, and the overall fact that this happens to me so damn often.

This speaks to me because ...think about it... someone asking you if you know martial arts is an implied challenge of sorts. Asking it simply and strictly because you look Asian is an aggressive act of racism. There's an odd angle because out of the many dozens of times I've faced point-blank open racism (in public!), this particular line of questioning is always black men, and I don't even know where to begin on what that may mean within the data point called "my life experience."

When describing what happened at dinner, I remarked "I don't think he was out to offend me."
EK replied "Are you sure??"

No, no I'm not.

With that, I'll leave this here:

Date: 2011-01-20 04:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
A while back, i went with a friend to EK's homestead. Fascinating place!

Date: 2011-01-20 04:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
But is it sad that I got a little excited at the possibility that I knew someone else who knew capoera? I had one friend who was very into it, and I've wished I'd know more people who did it since.

Which is not to say racism doesn't suck and ignorant questions are always ignorant, just that I <3 capoera.

Also, when someone asks if you're a God you say yes, so, kudos.

Date: 2011-01-20 11:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
There was a capoera studio in Atlanta last time I checked, admittedly years ago. Ironically it was hosted at the same community-center kind of place AIT ran games (where I first ran into Scott). There are also tons and tons of videos you can buy. As you know, all it takes to learn a martial art is a good musical montage of clipped training scenes consisting of, maybe, 2-3minutes. =)

Tim C.

Date: 2011-01-21 07:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh I don't want to do martial arts. I want other people to do martial arts so I can watch them do them. I'm very easy to please that way.

Date: 2011-01-20 07:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
As the joke goes... I know Karate, and a few other Japanese words.

Date: 2011-01-20 08:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Perhaps, there being a shortage of approachable asians in atlanta, masses of black men hope for YOU to be the "Neo" to their "Morpheus"? This is of course, because they have yet to run in to you in a chemically altered state. ;) This makes me curious...i want to take a poll, do ALL asians get asked this question? (you REALLY should answer, "No, since my ancestors were carnies (plural of carni/carny??) I learned to throw knives instead..."

Date: 2011-02-10 08:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hah, yes on the carny bit.

But I also always remember what you said in your experience in security/bouncer-ing: "We hate when we have to face an Asian dude."

Which is why I always give lip to the big dude at the Highlander door.

Date: 2011-01-20 11:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
May I ask what general age these men are? Early on most, if not all, of Bruce Lee's American students were African-American men as there was still a racial bias of whites against Asian activities. I've run across a whole host of "Lee-Legacy" martial arts styles (Jeet Kun Do, certain branches of Jujitsu etc.) that were founded, maintained, franchised and taught by African-Americans who readily admit their admiration and borrowing of Lee's approach of "use what works, mix it up." Here's one link on the topic, but I don't vouch for the veracity, I just grabbed the first thing Google provided to show that I'm not just totally making this stuff up! =)

Of course none of this forgives mixing up capoera and akido in a conversation about kung fu. Nor does it excuse asking in any sort of aggressive manner. Did they think that, if they had the right code..the right phrasing, you'd agree to let them in on the soopah-sekrit training temples in some dark back alley of China Town? That's just head exploding.

BTW, are you any good at the violin and math? =)

Tim C.
ps. It's not for racial reasons, but I will forever be asked or inquired, "Do you know Tom Clancy?" or "Do you know your name is close to that writer, Tom Clancy?" Not the same at all, but just a taste of being known for something that you have no control of and perhaps no desire to be associated with, and for me it's just an annoyance for 10seconds with no further consequence, unlike institutionalized racism.

Date: 2011-01-20 11:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Capoera and Aikido are very similar! In that they.... uh... both involve circular motions? ^^

Maybe you should change your response to, "Of course, but you shouldn't assume so based on my appearance."


Date: 2011-01-21 04:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
How people identify themselves is an odd thing. I think perhaps there was no harm meant. I've found over the years the majority of black men I have met tie being black with something essential that I don't quite understand. Black has a capital "B" and carries as much weight as being a MAN.

Having attempted to establish this premise, the next leap is to interpret the question about Kung Fu as the effort of one minority to relate to another. From an ignorant perspective, martial arts is part of your Asian-ness. Asking the question is about trying to demonstrate *getting* what you're about and a spring board for a more relaxed exchange.

I find some parallels in my own comings and goings. Most white folk could give two shits I'm bi-racial. It's a non-topic. Far more black people, particularly women, are a little too interested in how I identify myself. I have to be about something that revolves around my race. I used to think it was about trying to force something on me, but over the years I've come to realize it's more about the need for community.

That's my optimistic view point FWIW.

Re: Identity

Date: 2011-02-10 08:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think this is a very interesting angle on it, and I appreciate your sharing of your viewpoint. So while it's still offensive and aggressive to me, I can see how it's perhaps less intended as offense.

Thank you!

Date: 2011-01-21 05:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I really don't think they were out to offend you, though the comment was definitely racist. Most of the time I find that people ask questions like that because they are culturally ignorant and are generally curious to learn about other people. However, America is filled with this awful 'passive' racism -- people want to ask questions but they don't realize that what they're asking is so racially charged and negative. It's the awful semi-racist jokes people laugh at, or the assumptions based on perceived ethnicity or culture. I find this passive racism more offensive than full-on racial slurs or the like. It's all offensive, but I think America takes the cake on trying to make racism okay through the guise of jest and ignorance.

Date: 2011-01-21 06:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Honestly, I wouldn't say that this is a tendency of just Americans. Where ever I travel, I always have people asking me stupid questions. People make assumptions about my ethnicity (no one expects that a person as pale as I am could ever have something like a Cherokee background), sexual orientation, political affiliation. It boggles my mind because I was raised to *not* behave like that.

The one I get most, though, is people trying to determine what subculture I subscribe to. Everyone wants to know if I'm a Gothic, because I wear so much black or pointy shoes. Really? A Gothic?

Date: 2011-01-21 09:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Face it, You just look like an action superstar.

Nobody asks this guy if he knows Kung Fu.

Date: 2011-01-21 09:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
On second thought. After looking into his eyes for a few minutes... I am pretty sure he knows Kung Fu...


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