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what it’s like to be ambiguously ethnic

This 2014 video addresses the everyday experiences of “What It’s Like to be Ambiguously Ethnic.” The video shows a diverse range of people talking about issues such as the misunderstandings and confused comments and interactions they experience, people trying to place identity categories onto them that they do not identify with, people assuming you can speak different languages, and having to decide what to do when they experience racial or ethnic microaggressions, or the everyday, often unintentional, marginalizing interactions racial and ethnic minorities frequently experience in the U.S. For example, one man of Japanese, Mexican, and Filipino background described a substitute teacher who was taking roll at the beginning of class and did not believe that he matched his name because of his physical appearance. Another man of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Hawaiian, and Korean background describes a situation when he was walking down the street in Chicago and a woman who was having problems communicating with her Uber driver saw him and asked, “Excuse me sir, can you take this call? This Uber driver, I think he’s Middle Eastern, Arabic. Can you handle this?”

Related BuzzFeed videos addressing stereotypes and identity include, “I’m Muslim, But I’m Not…,” “I’m Latino, But I’m Not…,” and the “I’m Asian, But I’m Not…” videos. BuzzFeed is an American internet-based news and entertainment company known for producing content that is popular culture/entertainment-oriented and easily sharable and engaged with through social media. While they also produce news articles, most BuzzFeed content is in quick to digest image and graphics-based forms such as lists, quizzes, and short videos.


What kinds of everyday experiences are the people in the video describing? Why do they matter?

Have you ever asked or been asked one of these questions or received or made one of these comments? What was the intention of the person asking the question or making the comment? How does the intention of the comment relate to the effect of the comment?

What is the difference between overt acts of racial discrimination and the everyday comments referenced in this clip? How do these experiences affect people over time?

What is the difference between racial, ethnic, religious, and national identity? In what ways are these categories fluid and intertwined? Which of them are associated with physical features? Why is it important to recognize that while these categories are historically rooted in “science” based on biology and physiology, that they are in fact 1) socially constructed, and 2) change over time and context?

Why are some identity categories still thought of as “either or,” when they can be “both” or “multiple?” How does this play out in institutional and systemic ways?

When and how do we learn which categories we “fit” into? Are these identity categories self-defined or do people place them on us? Can we choose not be defined in these categories? Who has the privilege of choice?

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