Colored. It’s a word with so much history in our country. It is treated with caution, its users always delicately dancing around it, ever wary of the consequences of what it may bring.
I must start off by asking anyone reading this to not take offense to my usage of the word “colored.” Here I use it without any of its negative connotations and simply as a way to note those who are not Caucasian (but of course, also because I like to provoke).
But I did chose it for a reason.
Back in the States, “colored” always referred to those who are black, Hispanic, and even Middle Eastern, but never Asian. Somewhere along the black/white struggle, Asian Americans got left behind. Not white, not black, and in general discussions, also not colored and/or minorities. This set-up can be called an advantage as much as it can be called a disadvantage. But alas, that’s not what this post is about.
Instead, it is about how subtly interesting it’s been to be an American of Asian descent in France. Our nation may be called the great melting pot, but in doing so we single out everyone. Here in France equality comes differently. Perhaps there is more discrimination in jobs and such (how can there not be when photos are required with applications?), but in general, race is not necessarily a marker of identity. In fact, it appears that only Romanians are truly slighted by the general population (but that’s thought for another conversation). When we registered at the French university, I was pleasantly surprised at the questions on the application. For once, I was not asked of my race/ethnicity while filling out a form.
In the U.S., I generally get annoyed when people immediately associate me with all things Asian or when Asian(Americans) come up to me and assume that we will be best friends simply because of our common ancestral background. Such is often the case, especially in places where there are few Asian Americans. I suppose it is the innate human desire for companionship that leads to searching for those who are similar to themselves. But usually, similarities solely based on race irritate me like no other.
Ironically, here in France I am much more conscious of others of Asian descent, perhaps because there aren’t all that many here in the south of France. I almost wish for a little recognition at times. Perhaps it is because my “Asiatique” features, as the French say, make it obvious that I am not native French (while how I carry myself apparently marks me as American). In contrast, my Caucasian counterparts, as well as those black or Hispanic, have a much better chance of passing as natives (so long as they don’t let out that American accent).
And that, is precisely why I chose to use the word “colored.”