Racist Ignorance Is Bliss
This is a brief anecdote about something that happened when I went out to dinner with my parents a few years ago. My parents came to visit me while I was living in NY and were eating at a restaurant in Little Italy where the tables are about four inches away from each other and everyone can hear everyone else's conversations. My parents are Korean immigrants who have lived in the US for forty years, and we usually converse in a combination of Korean and English. The only other diners at the restaurant were a twenty-thirty something white couple who I presumed from their conversation to be on a blind date or a first date. The girl was trying desperately to impress the guy and appeared to be dominating the conversation while he looked mostly bored. I can only assume the girl had spent some either living in Japan or learning Japanese because she animatedly turned to us (we were conversing privately in Korean and English) and began speaking Japanese. The only part of what she said that we understood was surimasen because we are Korean and do not speak Japanese. My grandparents spoke Japanese due to occupation and the outlawing of Korean language, but my parents do not speak Japanese. So while this girl was trying to impress her date with her cosmopolitanism we were just staring at her blankly as her date looked down at his napkin in mortification because I think he realized from the beginning that we were not Japanese. Eventually, my dad answered her in English, "So you want me to pass you the salt?" After he passed the salt, she cheerfully thanked him in Japanese and went back to chirping away at her date, who looked like he wanted to disappear as we proceeded to discreetly snigger at her in Korean. As we exited the restaurant, I overheard him decline her invitation to grab a dessert and watch a movie at her place. He escaped down Mulberry St. as my parents and I flashed him a smug smile. The girl blithely ordered gelato from a street vendor, exaggerating the Italian pronunciation of every single flavor while the unsmiling vendor drummed his fingers impatiently.