Stereotyping based on how I look

The average person who looks at me will assume I’m Chinese. A more nuanced person might see that I actually look a bit Vietnamese. And when most people see my last name, they will know for sure that I am Chinese, at least partly. When others who are familiar with Vietnamese middle names see my first, middle, and last names, they will then know for sure that I must be Chinese-Vietnamese. That would be a very educated (and accurate) guess.

A few years ago, when I shared information with my wider team about my YouTube channel and Instagram handle for Yvonne meets Food, I scored a lot of new followers and subscribers on both platforms. A large number of my colleagues regularly look at my Instagram content every day. So when I was having a 1:1 chat with a colleague I don’t chat with much (and doesn’t follow me on Instagram), as she asked to speak about specific work related items, I was a little surprised when she ended the call with, “Hey! I haven’t forgotten about your food channel! Don’t forget to send me your chicken chow mein recipe! It’s my absolute favorite Chinese dish!”

The call ended so quickly that I barely had a chance to even respond to that other than nodding and saying bye. But it was such an annoying way to end. Here goes a White colleague stereotyping me regarding how I look and just assuming that all my content must be stereotypical Chinese dishes she’s aware of… like chicken chow mein, something I never order and cannot even remember the last time I ate. Why don’t I also just share with her my family’s top-secret recipes for General Tso’s chicken and beef with broccoli (hint: our family never made those dishes, much less ordered them at restaurants!). Maybe she will feel like she knows me and my culture even better then!

It would be nice if in 2024, I could chat with people who are from a culture different than mine and hope that they don’t stick me in a box, whether it’s regarding personality or food I eat/make, based on a white-gaze stereotype that they’ve contrived in their heads and need confirmation is actually “true.” I don’t exist to confirm harmful racial stereotypes other people have.

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