ATR 24 – May 22, 2006 – Voicemail 206-203-3983 –

We share a story from one of our listeners, a college student, about his experiences with race on campus.

Carmen interviews Angela Nissel, author of the new memoir Mixed : My Life in Black and White

Jen and Carmen share a couple of listener feedback items. One is about the fetishization of mixed Asian/Caucasian people that goes on in many Asian cultures and countries. The other is about whether a writer can realistically portray a character of a different ethnicity to their own.

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Duration – 57:23
File Size – 26.4 MB
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6 thoughts on “ATR 24 – May 22, 2006 – Voicemail 206-203-3983 –”

  1. To Corbin, the young man who had the young woman ask what he “was” – it really sounds to me like that young woman was hitting on you, or at least opening the door for you to respond.

    Obviously, I wasn’t there so only you can answer this question but think back. Could that possibly have been what was really going on?

    Back in my young single days, I’ve had girls say “hey, you’re really tall.” Now, since height isn’t as charged an issue as race, I didn’t think “what a stupid question. Is that all I am to you, just my height?” I know that it’s really hard for women to open up and start a conversation or to come right out and say “hey, you’re kind of cute.”

    “What are you?” is a really stupid and offensive question, but if you’re a girl trying to open dialogue with a cute guy, you tend to put your foot in your mouth. It’s no more stupid than saying “hey, you’re really tall.”

    When you responded with shock (which is understandable) she probably took your reaction as disinterest. If I were you, and if I thought the girl was cute, I would have respond to “what are you” with “Well, why don’t you guess. You get three tries and if you fail, you have to take me out for a drink.”

  2. I really enjoyed Carmen’s interview with Angela Nissel, so much so, I googled her and listened to a podcast I found at Some of the anecdotes she recounts from her memoir during her book signing/reading were pretty funny!

    Speaking of books…since I’ve discovered ATR I’ve read a couple of books by your guests. Such as Scott Poulson-Bryant’s “Hung” and Robert Jensen’s “The Heart of Whiteness.” And I’ve also visited (Which is where I learned of the “Grace Lee Project”).

    ATR is wonderful source for the meta-exploration of racial/social inquiry.

  3. This is in response to S.O.’s comment.

    I have had the experience many times where I try to explain to friends or family a situation I’ve been through where I felt someone was being racist. 99% of the time, there’s always someone who tries to tell me, “Are you sure so and so wasn’t just trying to be your friend, are you sure they weren’t staring at you because your beautiful, are you sure are you sure are you sure… Enough… Yes, there is always a possibility that a situation was misinterpreted, but when you live either as a mixed individual or in a interracial relationship, you get pretty used to what racism feels like. You don’t need anyone else to tell you that your experience is not really valid, and that you must be paranoid. Racism is real. It happens. But when someone reaches out and tries to share their experiences, we should all listen and understand their perspective without first trying to shove the “Are you sures” in their face. I don’t mean to be so strong, but this happens all the time.

  4. Adina,

    Appreciate the comments.

    I’m guessing from your comments that you’re assuming that I’m not mixed or I’m not in an interracial relationship. Who knows, maybe you’re not.

    For the record, I am a little bit mixed. And I am in an interracial relationship. I am not white. I’m Asian, with a tiny bit of European blood and my wife is white, and we have 2 beautiful mixed kids.

    I saw myself in a lot of what Corbin said because I used to be Corbin. Girls would come up and say some really off the wall things, and then it occurred to me that they were just trying to be friends, make a connection, or more. Then I realized that instead of looking at every interaction as an opportunity to be insulted, I should look at interactions as people trying to reach out. It was like a huge weight was lifted. Thankfully, that was very early in my teens.

    They say that it’s not what life throws at you, but it’s how you react. That true in life and that’s true for people too. My race has so little to do with who I am. If I put race first and foremost in my interactions with people, we would never get past the surface. I am so much more than my skin color or the country my parents came from. So are you. So is Corbin.

    I’ve been in relationships with women who never dreamed they’d be with an Asian guy. It’s not that they were against it, it’s just they wouldn’t think about it. If I come in with “ASIAN GUY” flashing on my forehead, that’s all I’m going to be. But when you interact with people as a real, fully fleshed out human being, racial preconceptions just fall by the wayside. They cannot withstand the force of a real live human being.

    Wow, I just wrote a lot. Hope I didn’t lose you in there somewhere.

  5. S.O.,
    First, I make no assumptions at all of where you’re coming from. My point was just that we should respect people’s experiences, and support them. We don’t need to justify or declare or correct, just listen and support. We can never know exactly how someone feels. You say you you used to be Corbin, but you can never be Corbin. Each person goes through their own experiences, he has the right to go through his just like you do.
    The reason I am so strong about this point is that the most difficult experiences I’ve gone through as a white woman married to a black man is not the “racism” felt in public, but it is my family and friends blatant inability to deal with my negative experiences. All that I have asked is for an open mind, nothing more. But I often spend more time justifying myself to people about uncomfortable experiences I’ve had then just talking about the experience itself.
    I totally agree with your quote below. But sometimes outside cultural experiences can get you down. Just having someone to support you and listen, that is healing, that helps. But someone telling you that you’re you probably are misinterpreting your experiences, that does not help.

    People assume that what works for them will work for everyone else. Let’s not assume. Let’s support.

    “They say that it’s not what life throws at you, but it’s how you react.”

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