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Wrong impressions

1970 passport photo:


I've debated even writing about this but it's just lingering in my head; sometimes writing THROUGH something is easier than writing ABOUT something.

On Sunday we had to take my mom to the airport for her trip to see my younger sister. She stayed with us for a month and we were able to enjoy some great Japanese food and spend time with each other. I still haven't picked up my knitting as much as I'd like, but it can wait.

Since she needs a wheelchair at the airport, I typically ask a ticket agent for a pass that will enable me to accompany her to the gate (I've done this a few times in the past with no problems). One of the Continental Airlines employees pointed me towards a set of three ticket agents who were free and I approached them and asked them for a pass -- I gestured toward my mom who was waiting on the other side of the ropes (in her wheelchair) and I asked for a pass to go back to the gate with her. I explained that I was her daughter and the male ticket agent looked at me -- then looked at her -- and I said, "She's Japanese." The ticket agent said, "How do I know you're her daughter?" (Obvioualy, since I'm married, I don't share the same last name as my mom). I told them my mother's name and where she was traveling and he just looked at me and said, "So you're HALF-Japanese?" He didn't believe me. He pointed at himself and said, "THIS is what half-Japanese looks like." And, actually, I could tell by looking at him that he was, in fact, Japanese. I asked him what the other half was and he said, "Dutch." (My other half is Irish-American, but he never asked me that). He very RELUCTANTLY gave me a pass to go to the gate with her and . . . I understand that it's his job . . . and I know I don't LOOK half-Japanese. I don't speak Japanese. I don't read it. I can't even use chopsticks. I didn't have anything on me other than my phone and my driver's license. I thought I was going to have to wheel my 78-year old mother to the ticket counter and let them interrogate her. He must have been feeling charitable -- he let me go to the gate.

I would love to go back and prove it to him, but I won't. I'm sure he's already forgotten about the 5'2" non-Japanese looking potential troublemaker. I had nothing other than my sincere insistence that I was being truthful and genuine. At this point, I'm just glad I didn't have my double pointed needles with me or they'd never have allowed me to go back with her!

Some things have happened recently that are making me wonder if I've given people the wrong impression or offended somebody in some way. I'm typically unfazed by what others think about me (you're free to not like me!), but it would really bother me if I have hurt somebody's feelings or offended them. Those of you I call my friends are those to whom I lend my full support -- and sometimes I'm overly enthusiastic about that. And because I know myself and I realize I'm NOT likely to ever go back and talk to that ticket agent (even though I could . . . and have had imaginary conversations about that in my mind), then it's highly likely that those whom I've offended will probably never tell me about it. That's okay too. Just know that I'm sorry.

By the way, if you're a reader, please know that you're allowed to lurk here and I'll never force you to comment; no delurking contests here. The comment approval system is in place so that when I hit "publish" and step away from my computer for the afternoon, I won't find a lot of spam comments or trackbacks when I get back. (I can count on one hand the times I've had to delete an offensive non-spam comment).


Here's another thought. So, if you had been adopted and had no biological link to your mother, he wouldn't have allowed you to take care of her? Situations like that are so frustrating

What a beautiful little girl you were.

I am sorry that you had to go through that whole ordeal. Yes, it is his job, but it is not his job to be rude like that.

Job or not, he sounds terribly rude.

Its interesting that these types of encounters in our lives stay with us. For me its because it feels somehow unresolved. You'll probably never know what caused Mr. ticket fellow to be so adversarial to you. Could be he just finished a "how to id terrorists" course for his job or perhaps he had a toothache that day. Sometimes its the not knowing that can be really irksome.

Love the photo!

Sometimes it does help to write through the thoughts going round your head. I often have to do that too.

Hope that your mom got back safe and sound. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

Such a bizarre feeling to have to 'prove who you are'.

So glad that you did decide to write about what happened. Think people really need to stop and think before they speak sometimes. It is strange how prejudices are not just black and white. Though black and white prejudices are still offensive, I believe we are less surprised when it happens. It those prejudices that fall into the many shades of grey that get me.

Was at a holiday party in a small group of people. This guy was telling a long story that really was quite funny and interesting an in the middle of it he said a very short sentence that subconsciously let slip a rather nasty prejudice. I didn't know what to say being I was so shocked but then I realized without even knowing I had done it, I had taken a big step backwards from him while I turning my body away from him. Decided instead of saying something to him (which looking back, I should have manners be damned), I just abruptly left the conversation.

I am sorry that happened to you and very glad you were able to accompany your mother all the way to her gate.

I completely understand your feelings. When my family imigrated here, the wonderful people at Ellis Island couldn't understand our Welsh name and hacked it up. Their hack job has left me with a name that is very Oriental sounding. I get thousands of comments saying "...but you don't look oriental...". I get voting information in every Asian language that exists. No one stops to ask what my other background is. I am proud of my total heritage and you should be too. In the big scheme of life he is just a dust spec that hopefully will never cross your path again.

How ignorant he was. And what an adorable picture! I love that you made me think about something that would never occur to me...

Feeling the need to defend ourselves can sometime overrule every other thought in my head. I can not count the number of conversations I have replayed or respoke in my head wondering if I would have come off better if I had said, ___. ((hugs))

Oh, how rude. I'm 1/2 Korean, don't look it, and I'm forever getting, "are you sure?" when I tell people.

So, I feel your frustration, and while it's aggravating to have to "take it" sometimes, I think you handled the situation well.

I think that he was rude, and the way that you feel about what happened is because you are a nice, sensitive person who feels hurt when others are rude. It is so hard not to be affected by what people say to us and sometimes it just goes round and round your head doesn't it. I have times like that too!.... big hug and forget the rude man!

Janet, you have such a huge, warm giving heart. I'm sorry you had to experience this rudeness with your Mom. Unfortunately, this is a sign or our times and I would contact the airline. This behavoir is not acceptable. Have a wonderful holiday and remember the warmth of your visit with your Mom and daughter.

Racial profiling by any other name... I'm glad that you were able to accompany your mom at least.

Well, goodness! People can be so rude and there are so many different kinds of prejudices. I think most people don't have the gall to voice their more obvious ones, but they are not so vigilant and let more subtle ones slip by. Even though I look very obviously Asian, I don't necessarily look to some people like I'm from the particular country I'm from, and it still surprises me that I get grief about it. So I sympathize, but I think you handled things well. P.S.--hope your mom has a good trip.

A few years ago I worked for an African-Canadian arts organization...a performing group...who had a mandate to keep a certain percentage of the troupe "black". This made auditions very interesting...because not everyone who has Black heritage looks like it. One specific example: a performer who looked like she might be Italian or Hispanic...but was born to a very pale skinned white man and a very dark skinned black man. My boss was a dark skinned Black man. He didn't believe this performer was Black, despite the fact that she strongly identifies herself as such...and pushed to the point of making her prove it in the audition. Not at all acceptable. What makes his behaviour worse is that his mother is white (scottish) and his father is Black. He has 3 sisters, 2 of whom look white.

Our arts funders didn't help. They would look at the troupe and decide for themselves who was Black and who wasn't. In reality, they didn't truly know.

Genetics is a mysterious thing.

I can't imagine you ever hurting anyone's feelings! That's crazy talk! :o)

No way can I imagine you coming off as offensive. I really can't even envision what that would look like.

I remember seeing a picture of you after a makeover when you were in CA visiting your sister and you actually *looked* very, very Japanese. It really surprised me because I'd not have guessed that with just a different makeup style you'd look so very different.

What does this mean? It means you need to go to California to get another makeover and *then* go visit the airport again and see what Mr. Gatekeeper has to say to you. ;)

On a more serious note, I'm really sorry you had to encounter someone who apparently needs a lesson or two from Miss Manners.

I get that kind of reaction when I'm with my dad because he's caucasian and I look more asian (my mom's Korean). My sister, on the other hand, doesn't look asian at all (except for her eyelashes and eyebrows) so she gets that when she's with my mom or if she tells people she's Korean.

That's pretty awful of that ticket agent to judge you. He of all people ought to know that just because you have mixed parentage doesn't meant it's always going to be evident. One way or the other.

I'm sorry you had to go through that. I know how frustrating it can be.

He pointed at himself and said, "THIS is what half-Japanese looks like."

As if there is only one face for being any race or blend of races! I'm sorry some people are so backwards still.

Love the photo, but then you know I love vintage photos.

Sorry about your experience at the airport. There is no excuse ever to be rude.

OMG. All I can say is, what a stoonad!!!

Also, I really can't believe that there isn't more of a "procedure" in place for times like this - what if you were adopted or escorting your aunt or something? But that's besides the point... I just can't believe that he was so rude, and that you're now feeling like you have to apologize for it. Please don't.

Oh, there's a lot going on here. Firstly, the airport incient was unfortunate and I'm sorry you had to experience it. I strongly feel though that your message in this post goes beyond that - but I can't quite put my finger on it. Of course, if the ticket agent was able to sense something through your "sincere insistence" that you were "truthful and genuine" then so should your readers. At least, I do. ;) xox

Okay, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that this guy had recently been hassled himself for his heritage, and it just came out when talking with you. It doesn't make what he said any less rude or any more acceptable, but it might be a touch less annoying.

You handled it so well considering the grave situation.

That's a lovely photo!

A cool passport photo (how nice - I hate all my passport photos!).

I hate that we live in a world where we have to justify the way we look in this way. Sorry that you had to experience it first hand like this.

this sort of stuff infuriates me!!

such a sweet, sweet photo of you. you are lucky to have such a tiny treasure from your childhood!

now who would not like you?!i'm glad you posted this. airports are difficult places these days. hope your mom got home safely.

I was very offended when I read this over here and how dare he! I have a few imaginary words over here for him too!

But you are so right...sometimes it is just better to write through something.

No need to prove anything to anyone you know who you are and I've read some of your archive posts - you are proud of your heritage too!



''this is what half-japanese looks like''

UH NO, that is what fully stupid looks like. How incredibly tacky and unfounded, furthermore what does it matter? I'm thinking TSA doesn't ask for your blood type or personal lineage proof to escort people to their gate. What an idiot.

Oh look I wasn't speechless after all. LOL

Hi, I'm just reading through your archives, and came across this. it resonates, because I'm half Mexican (the other half is Swedish and Irish), but I look so NOT Mexican. If you don't look like your typical "ethnic" identity, it can feel like you're in between two worlds.