Saturday, May 10, 2008


I get into tiny arguments with my fiance, Jim, about how openly racist people are in the Ozarks without even knowing it.

**Let me clarify, I do like the Ozarks. I'm not making fun of all of the people who live here.**

However, let's be honest. This area has a reputation for being one of the "whitest" areas in the country, though I'm really not sure if that's completely accurate. We do have a lovely KKK leader near Harrison, Arkansas. We did have lynchings in Springfield. It is a fact that blacks in Pierce City, Forsyth, and Harrison were forced to leave their homes nearly 100 years ago. Wiped away, banished.

courtesy Banished American Ethnic Cleansings

Click here and here to see earlier posts on Banished

And I could talk for hours about the annoying little things that have happened to me or my friends. This week, we had some Korean international students over for dinner, and they said they were afraid to go downtown because their friends told them they would get harassed...

Unfortunately, I can attest to some of their concerns.

  • One time, someone said something like "5-dollars sucky sucky" when Jim and I were walking into Bijan's. I thought Jim was going to lose his chili. That was a great way to start a birthday dinner.
  • One of my Asian guy friends was harassed while working downtown one night. A bunch of guys started interfering with his job, and he asked them to leave... they started saying crap about him doing kung-fu on them. (which on a funny note, he does know Martial Arts)
  • A former small-town police chief called me Connie Chung... "Hey, we've got Connie Chung here to do a story!"
  • A water patrol officer called me Michelle Kwan. That was an accident, but still, WTF?
  • A viewer writes, "if you only knew how we Ozarkians feel about this..." Guess what? It's "Ozarkers" first-of-all, and secondly, I claim to be one every now and then...
  • An extremely beloved and former worker of mine told me that I'm a hard worker because I have the "Asian Gene". Seriously?
  • Another former co-worker showed me a video he took of an Asian woman dressed in a scantily clad outfit, while calling her "Michelle" on tape. He later lost his job for a number of things.
  • Strange men have randomly come up to me and asked if "Asian women are good in bed." How the hell would I know?

The list goes on. It freaking kills me. Anyway, long story even longer...

Today, I was on a computer in a public place, looking at pizza recipes for my other blog. Some dude comes up out of nowhere and asks me if I'm looking for a sushi pizza recipe. A what?

Pseudo Re-enactment:

Michelle typing.

guy: Hey, what are you doing, looking at pizza recipes?

ms: Yes.

guy: Are you looking at sushi pizza recipes?

ms: No... what?

guy: I don't like raw fish.

ms: OK.

guy: Nope.

ms: You know, not all sushi is raw.

guy: If it's raw I'm not gonna eat it. No way.

ms: gasp.

Guy walks away.

Michelle is annoyed... it boils and festers and builds and spews out on her blog.

OKAY, so it's not like someone threw a box of rice at me (which happened once... thank you Nathan for scarring me for life.)

But it still pisses me the F off.

Jim's argument is that this kind of stuff happens everywhere. I agree, but to an extent... but I always tell him he'll see it more if we have biological children together. I don't mean to go on a soap box, but I can't believe people are so ignorant... little comments like that are so irritating. I WOULDN'T EVEN EAT A G-D SUSHI PIZZA! WHO WOULD?! THAT SOUNDS TOTALLY DISGUSTING!! I suppose because I'm Asian, that's the first thing some f-ing loser thinks I would eat. I also eat fish heads and rice, man. And I excel at math and science. I also play the piano in my spare time, but I am naturally gifted at the violin, too. And let's not forget, I'm very subserviant to men.

LET ME JUST CLARIFY: I grew up here. This is my home state. And sometimes it sucks to live here. This is such an issue for international adoptees... and even first-generation kids. I mean, I'm nearly 30 and I still put up with this. This is a life-long struggle that needs to be addressed better in our schools, the government, our workforce, and in our general lives. This is why we need more resources for adoptees and minorities in the Ozarks.

We have to do better for our children.

Which reminds me, do you know there are more religious hate groups in Arkansas than in any other state in the nation? That's according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. RELIGIOUS HATE GROUPS. Does anyone see anything weird with that?

**And on another side note, I love all people. I am not bashing on any group... most of my family is Caucasian, and on most days, I would laugh if someone called me a banana (yellow on the outside, white on the inside.) Afterall, what would you expect?**


Kelley G said...

Thanks for your blog Michelle!

Although the question about Asian women in bed did make me laugh! You should have asked him how Asian men were in bed since he was so interested.

My dtr. is only 5 and has asked me several times "Why does everyone think I am from China?"

Poor thing wants to bleach her hair blonde thinking maybe her peers will stop asking so many questions!

I have been assaulted with many rude and stupid comments esp. by the elderly in Wal-Mart. I think just by walking through the sliding doors there that ones IQ must take a hit. There is no other way to explain it.

I was once told that my daughter was cute but could never be called beautiful because of her "flat face". WHAT!!

Of course, after the fact, I came up with the rebuttal of, "well you are cute as well but could never be called handsome because you are too damn old!" LOL.

I think my actual comment back to the old fart was, "Beauty is in the eye of the Beholder!"

Michelle said...

OMG Kelley! I am so glad you commented. When I talk to parents and tell them the things I went through, I can tell some of them think it won't happen to their child.

Their expression seems to say, "society is different now" or "that was small-town stuff, it won't happen here" or "my kid has a lot of friends, it won't happen."

But the truth is, as we get older, more things are bound to happen.

Society is disappointing at times... and the thing is, it never ends. There will always be some sort of issue that relates to adoption or race that pops up every now and then.

It's just one more challenge.

By the way, your daughter is beautiful!! In fact, so is your entire family~

Complaint Department Manager said...

Full disclosure: I lived in Arkansas for 20 years and yes, I'm aware of the KKK in Harrison...and the other group around Mountain Home. I, however do not subscribe to such least for the last 15 years. I had some rather "harsh" things to say to the "other than white" race. Eventually, I grew up and low and behold, had even changed my dating habits. Truth be told, of the last say..5 women I dated seriously, only 1 was white.

Attitudes CAN change IF the person is willing to change. I see and hear forms of ugliness and (in the words of Val Kilmer as Doc Holiday) I abhor ugliness. The one thing I always kept in mind when observing such ignorant behavior is to consider where it is coming from. The way I see it, Personal opinion = Time.

The reason why you hear such nastiness around here is that the ignorant ratio is high here. Trust me, there are even worse places than here, but with those areas having larger populations, it kind of dilutes the ignorance level(you should know this with your keen math skills...of course I'm kidding).

As far as your fiance, sounds to me like you need to work this issue out before you walk down the isle because (forgive me for saying this but...) I can feel and see that chip on your shoulder from across the way. If you both don't get through this, it will raise it's ugly head later and who's to say that it won't escalate. Just so you know, For what you are exposed to, you have EVERY right to be angry or upset.

Keep in mind, not everybody here is well travelled and/or open minded as they should be. I could go on and on about this, but...I hate typing...and those annoying crakers too.

Todd said...


This has been your best blog yet in my opinion. This is exactly the reason I like your reporting. You are "ballsy" and tell it like it is. I have been wanting to ask you the question if you have experienced racism for a long time but was actually afraid I was racist just asking the question. People expect rednecks to be racists but what gets me are the so called "christians" that preach "morals" are some of the most racist I have encountered. I am from Arkansas and have a true story... When I was in the fifth grade this preacher I knew actually used to tell racist jokes and used the "N" word on a regular baises. I was not, and am not now religious, but I asked him one time, "Didn't God create black people too?" He said "yes he did" and never really spoke to me about it again. Years later after he moved on to a different town and later died, his widow told me that after I asked him that question he changed and would even tell his congragation(s) about how a naive, unknowing kid in the 5th grade taught him a lesson about God that he would never forget and changed his life from that point on. That is probably actually my most fond memory as a child.

Keep on with your great blogs and reporting!

Michelle said...

Thanks for your support guys! I just want to add that I think most people are generally good people--even racists.

I'm not trying to get political here, but I was really touched with Barack Obama's speech when he mentioned how his white grandmother was afraid of black men. Racism hits everyone at some point, we have all said inappropriate things or have been in uncomfortable positions, and racism hits closer to home than we like to admit sometimes.

The only thing these days is people are generally better at hiding their "isms"...

As for Jim, we're good! It was probably a bad choice of words to say "tiny argument". I meant that he has not experienced racism the way I have, but he has experienced it. When we were walking into Bijan's, and a guy offered me five bucks for a "sucky", I thought Jim was going to get into a fight. I told him to forget about it, but only because I had heard that about a million and ten times (like, get an original insult, dude!) But, I know we will have other challenges as parents...and that always hurts more, at least, that's what my mom says.

And Todd! What a great story! I can't believe that as a young boy you changed the outlook for an adult! Totally cool. You were a smart and insightful kid!

Marina said...

I laughed so hard. In empathy. Being 50/50 (I saw that somewhere) I got a lot of "what are you?" growing up. Not so much anymore.

Once, when I was dating this guy, we'd go to his grandma's house once a week. She was originally from Puerto Rico, and because she was strangely crabby yet sweet, she reminded me of my mom. So one day my then-boyfriend decides he wants a street hockey net, only they are expensive, so I tell him we can just make one. We buy the pvc pipe and nylon cord and put it together. And as I am making the net by tying these alternating knots, his grandma comes out and tells him "Oh, yes. It will be a good net. Japanese people know how to make nets because they fish."

I do NOT fish. I learned to macrame in Girl Scouts, and I learned to make stuff I wanted because my parents were extremely tight. Both parents.

On the flip side, I got called racist for my dead-on impersonation of my mother. I've heard lots of people do impersonations of their parents, so I don't get it. I mean, I am not impersonating "generic Japanese lady". It's my mom! I think if I were doing an impersonation of my WHITE mom (from Minnesota, or even Germany), it would be different. Weird.

I get Asian-y presents all the time, and half the time I kinda like them, but then I feel weird about it. Like "What the hell, you give me this 'Me-So-Pretty' hand cream just because I am half Japanese?!? Oh, but it does smell good, and I dig this packaging..." I do like sushi. And I know judo. And I am super-smart too, but only about some things. So I am torn.

Thanks for the blog. My fist is raised in solidarity! (then I giggle behind my hand, embarrassed by my boldness.)

Michelle said...

Marina!! I love it!

We live parallel lives, sort of... WEIRD!

I realize I tend to make fun of all-things Asian on occasion just because it's like being the funny fat kid (which I also was, sort of)...

I also notice that when I order food at any type of Asian restaurant, I sometimes start talking in a weird broken english accent. I think that's because I worked at a Chinese restaurant as a teen... and have tried to communicate with my Korean family that way for years.

I get Asian-y presents, too!! Holy crap! It's kind of awkward, right? Unless they're totally cool... but let's face it, most of the time, they're less-exciting, Americanized, cheaper versions of the real deal. But good for me, I like getting presents. And lots of them. :)

I am giggling behind my hand right now!

Aaron said...

I am a Spanish teacher and have heard plenty of stories at our local teacher conferences from native Spanish speakers. One teacher told a story once that while she was speaking in Spanish on the phone while shopping in the south-side Wal-Mart Supercenter, someone came up to her and asked if she had a green card.

Baffled at first and quickly coming back, she said, "What?" And the person asked the question again. Then, she was trying to confuse the person who asked, saying stuff like "What? You have to have a certain card to shop at Wal-Mart? When did they start doing that? Do you have a card to shop here?"

I think her comeback and confusion was very funny, but the idiocy (nah, it's not even ignorance) of someone actually asking if she had a green card because she was speaking in Spanish on her cell phone is totally baffling.

On another note, my wife, who is black, and I (a native white Ozarker, who didn't realize Ozarkian was wrong :D) have not really had any direct racism happen to us in the Ozarks. We've questioned a few things here and there, but we also try not to be the couple who is always on guard because we're different races.

I nearly forgot: My wife did have one blatant racist thing happen to her, but it was by a sushi chef at Izumi Hatake. (He is no longer working there.) She waitressed there for a brief time, and after he found out that her husband is white asked, "How are you going to determine which kid is more superior (sic) than the other?" He went on to say that he figured she didn't like to hear that, but "it's just how it is." Hmmmm, is it now? I never liked how he prepared sushi anyway!

I think it would be interesting for someone to do a story on what exactly is being done for minorities in southwest Missouri. But, I don't think it should be what is being done for the minorities, but rather what is being done to change the minds of racist traditions in the Ozarks? I think that is the real key to changing that kind of environment in/around Springfield.

Very interesting. Loved this blog entry.

Amos said...

When I was in college, my grandparents had the hardest time understanding how my (second-generation) Korean-American room-mate flunked college algrebra THREE times. And ate two of his three meals every day at fast food restaurants (mmm...Chik-Fil-A) and refused to eat fish or anything green. And took 5 1/2 years to graduate. They were horrified when my mom called them out one day, saying "You just think that because he's Asian." Which was true, but I don't think they realized their own bias.

Of course, he was the first person to note that he being being the "Asian guy with a camera" during a wedding we went to a few weeks ago in LA ... the guy was snapping photos while were riding bikes.

Jason said...

"Strange men have randomly come up to me and asked if "Asian women are good in bed." How the hell would I know?"


Top notch post, Michelle. People just do not realize the damage that is caused by their words and many do not even realize the biases within themselves.

But I have to ask...why did you bring up the "religious hate group" section of this blog? It seemed rather unnecessary for me taken in with the rest of the content of the post.

Besides, a hate group is a hate group. (Now, I have my opinions about the SPLC but that's a whole different can of beans... :) )

Michelle said...

Good point, Jason!

I mentioned the religious hate groups as a side note...

it was supposed to go along with the beginning paragraph, when I mentioned the KKK.

When you look at the SPLC, they keep watch of hate groups, and I thought it was ironic that there are more religious hate groups here than in any other place.

The religous hate group I'm thinking of is the one in Zinc, AR.. run by Thomas Robb: Check him out at

I almost interviewed him... but after several phone conversations with his people, they must've found out Michelle Sherwood was not a white person! I got found out!

angie goff said...

AMEN Sista!
I've gotten so tired reminding people I'm not a rug or a package of noodles when they ask me what kind of oriental I am.But I have started to use that as an opportuntiy to tell them about where I come from. The best was when I was the only asian reporter in Sioux City Iowa and people would constantly confuse me with the African American reporter at the competition. Or how bout when viewers would call the station and ask to speak to the dark dark-haired girl. I got called Connie too.. than Lisa Ling by two homeless men while doing a stand-up in SC. Does it bother you when people tell you you look exotic? Once I again... I want to feel flattered but I can't help but feel like some kind of flower. Hmmmm. Well here's the upside for us this summer Michelle: YELLOW is IN! Why don't you say we wear it in style!

Shari said...

I wanted to see "Banished" on Independent Lens on PBS in February. Unfortunately, they did not repeat the program. I'm waiting for it to become available to rent it. Thanks for sharing about your experiences as an adult adoptee. I think its good for potential adoptive parents to educate themselves on all aspects of adoption.

Sky Girl said...

I have heard more open racist comments in the Ozarks than anywhere I've ever lived. I suspect people here are just more ignorant about letting their biases out. I once heard a person I really like a lot refer to a person from India as a "dot-head" as if this were a socially acceptable thing to say. I was shocked!

Leigh said...

Michelle! I cannot believe that list! That is RIDIC! I'm glad you wrote about it- your blog is the best!

Love you and miss you!

Aleah Weltha said...

You know this irks me to the nth degree, Michelle. You're one of the most rockin' Ozarkers I know!

Anonymous said...

Hey Michelle:
I wasn't sure where to post this.I'm sure I'm on the wrong blog.I saw your letter in the News-Leader about hoping you get to attend an election party of the winning party, and is that bias?
The answer to that is of course not.
Bias is when you criticize everything one candidate does, but ignore it when the other person does basically the same thing and you don't critcize them as well.
The thing that bothered me about this election was how the media basically ignored the independent candidates this year.They recieved almost no coverage at all.I never even heard until almost 2 weeks before the election who the independent candidates were for state offices.There was a small letter in the paper that stated briefly stated what they would do if elected.We heard plenty from the major party candidates.
Even on election night, on tv, they posted the numbers for McCain and Obama, but no numbers for the independents.How is that democratic?