When are people going to understand that people of colour can actually speak English?
In a display of astounding ignorance, "Spider-Man: Homecoming" star Tom Holland asked a Korean-American actor how he knew English so well.
According to Koreaboo (via Nextshark), the English actor was being interviewed by Eric Nam, who at times had to translate the English-speaking interview into Korean for the audience, when Holland complimented Nam on his English and asked him how he learned it.
"You speak great English, though, man. How did you learn English?" an impressed Holland asked.
Nam had the best reply: "I'm American. So, you know... there you go. Surprise!"
Holland's co-star Jacob Batalon, who was also being interviewed by Nam, asked him how he learned Korean, to which Nam said that he learned it when he arrived in South Korea.
"Oh shit... I mean... oh shoot! Is what I meant to say," Batalon said.
In fact, Nam was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, and graduated from Boston College in 2011. According to his Wikipedia page, he used to work as a business analyst at Deloitte Consulting in New York City before going into the entertainment industry.
Nam, who is fluent in Korean, also speaks Spanish and Mandarin.
Holland's comment left many people unimpressed.
But some defended Holland's question, saying that because the interview was conducted in South Korea, it was only natural for Holland to ask how he learned English.
Tom Holland went to a foreign country where English is not a commonly spoken language + he doesn't know Eric Nam was born in America— 〰 (@cramoisied) July 15, 2017
Others said that Holland was simply being ignorant, and shouldn't be called racist.
Ugh I hate to cape for this kid but Tom Holland isn't racist for complimenting Eric Nam's English. He's just ignorant. There's a difference.— Girl Davis (@Thatgirldavis) July 15, 2017
But this kind of question (along with "Where are you from?") actually is offensive to people of colour, because it's a reminder that they don't belong. In short, if they don't look white, then they must be "foreign."
"Stereotypes make people feel like they don't belong, like they're an outsider looking in," Linda Akutagawa, a Japanese-American and CEO and President of Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics (LEAP) told DiversityInc in 2013.
"Just because a person has an accent — and possible appearance — that's different than the mainstream" results in the assumption that a person can't communicate or must be born outside of North America, said Dr. Rohini Anand.
Ranier Maningding, the blogger behind The Love Life of an Asian Guy put it bluntly: "In all my 27 years of existence, I have never been in a situation where I had to question the English speaking abilities of a person," he wrote in a Facebook post.
"As a general rule of cultural etiquette, white folks gotta stop questioning our English speaking capabilities."