Tetsuro Shigematsu Headshot

Everything You Wanted to Ask an Asian but Were Afraid To

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Admit it. You find Asians scary. Maybe not physically intimidating. At 5'8'' no one is going to mistake me for Yao Ming. But there are just so damn many of us. And I'm not talking about the 1.3 billion over there in China, but the shiny sea of plastic welding visors right here in Hongcouver.

Wasn't it Maclean's magazine that asked if Canadian universities were "Too Asian?" Sure that was a boneheaded, poorly researched article, but the last time you were driving along No. 3 Road in Richmond on your way to Ikea (as a white person where else would you be going?), are you telling me you never thought "OMG, there is a lot of motherf*&#ing Chinese people here!"

Well, my friend, I'm here to tell you... it is OK. The first step in putting down that burden of white guilt is to admit you have become powerless over such thoughts -- and that your interior life has become unmanageable.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant. So let's bring such festering notions out in the open, shall we? Maybe you've been secretly wondering "Are those Hong Kong gazillionaires going to just keep buying up more and more Vancouver real estate to the point where they will serve as Evil Overlords of the Lower Mainland?"

The answer is yes. Now, let's be clear. I am NOT gloating. I'm screwed too. As a Japanese-Canadian, I'm getting exactly zero per cent of this action. And for what my people did to their people during WWII? Let's just say, no one is going to make this son of a Kamikaze into an honorary Han.

That means you and I are in the same boat. The difference being, as a crafty Asian, I have a better chance of muddling through. I figure I've watched enough Russell Peters' routines I can fake a pretty good Chinese accent. I'll survive. You? Probably not. Unless you count slaving as a barista to pay rent on a basement suite in Abbottsford as a fate less worse than death.

So in the spirit of How to Survive a Zombie Uprising, allow me to be your guide. My qualifications? Just look at my photo! I am so Asian, maybe not the right kind, but while we're still being candid here... go on, admit it! You could never tell the difference! Ah, confession feels good, doesn't it?

But the question is, my non-Asian friend, can you trust me? As an inscrutable Asian, can you look into my inky black eyes and detect a glimmer of faithfulness? Can you reach across the racial divide and find in me someone you can trust? The answer is a most emphatic "Yes." Why? Because deep down, I'm actually more white than most people.

That's right. I'm a banana. Yellow on the outside, white on the inside. Bonafides? I was born in London. Not that 'burb east of Adelaide. London, England, motherf*&#ers.

When I play white person bingo, I score 11 out of 10. "Not possible," you say? Right now, I'm wearing a Lululemon V-neck, playing podcasts of This American Life on shuffle mode on my iPod, as I download Lena Dunham's Girls on BitTorrent, because I've finished watching HBO's Game of Thrones, all while typing this on a 2011 MacBook Pro, while secretly jonesing for the new Retina model.

I'm so white I find Asian girls attractive -- not because they're my own kind but because my inner Rice King thinks Japanese accents are so "kawaii!" I'm so white, I have a Chinese character tattooed on my arm, and I'm not 100 per cent sure what it means.

If that doesn't convince you, I was a friggin' network CBC Radio One host. Before they let you though the front door of CBC Vancouver's studios they make you walk though a body scanner while listening to Anne Murray's greatest hits. I passed so hard they handed me a national show which I promptly used to put Ashley MacIsaac's Celtic fiddlin' into heavy rotation. Your qualifications? Apart from your good looks, you read the Huffington Post? Pffft.

Okay, now that we've established I'm whiter than you, the salient point here is the fact that I am willing to be your Asian friend. (That Asian girl in your group who secretly feels uncomfortable around other Asians? Yeah, you know, the one you feel so smug about because she makes your little gang look so cosmopolitan? Um, yeah. She doesn't count.)

So it looks like I am all you got. Trust me, and before you know it you'll be ordering bubble tea like a Honger AND getting the "Asian discount."

And so in the spirit of solidarity, allow me to extend an olive branch in the form of choices for my next column. That's right. You get to set the agenda. Which of the following questions most piques your interest?

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Which Question Most Interests You?

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So there you have it. Based on the responses I get, I'll answer one of the above, and start what may be the beginnings of a beautiful intercultural friendship. Seriously, if you don't talk back to me, you will leave me no choice but to assume you're being a big fat racist.