Was mistaken for a racist today in a group of people when I said “Bring her sushi and red wine and she’ll be happy.”
At the time everyone was joking about how to bribe a new employee but the laughter stopped when I spoke up. Then someone asked if I knew for sure she liked sushi or if I was being racist. I didn’t even understand the question.
The new employee is the only other person in my company from Hawai`i. When we discovered each other a week after she started at the company, we had lunch at the nearby all you can eat sushi restaurant and talked story. We still instant message each other daily! I had absolutely no idea how what I said could be construed as racist.
Then I realized I was the only person who seemed to forget she is Chinese.
In my world, sushi is not a Chinese food and red wine, is just red wine. The new employee happens to be Chinese from Pearl City and she likes sushi and red wine! told the group, I was not being racist. She loves sushi like 99.9% of Hawai`i born people. She is Chinese, not Japanese. However sushi is Japanese, not Chinese. Even after I explained, I’m still unsure anyone in the room, besides me, knew the difference between Japanese and Chinese.
I certainly wasn’t the one being racist. It is absolutely possible to be racist when attempting to be “aware” and/or “sensitive.” However, based on the reactions my statement garnered, I would hazard a guess that an ‘assumption’ was made that all of Asia eats sushi. Or worse! Some may have assumed she is a different ethnicity, entirely.
Racism is sneaky. Sometimes sushi really is just sushi.