A few weeks ago my boyfriend had a racial encounter with a valley metro worker while he was waiting for his friend at the light rail on the day of Aloha Festival. A little background, my boyfriend is Asian he is half Chinese and half Vietnamese. He was born in England but has lived in Arizona since he was 8 years old. So as I was saying on the second day of Aloha Festival, near Tempe Beach Park, my boyfriend was waiting for his roommate at the light rail who was bringing him his laptop. While he was waiting a valley metro worker who cleans up around the light rail stop began trying to talk to him saying “hey you look like him”. My boyfriend ignored his comment but light rail worker just kept talking, going on to say “you know him” and proceeded to perform kung fu moves. My boyfriend just continued to ignore him as the worker then went on to say “not Bruce Lee that other guy, you know”. The worker seemed to get frustrated that he was not responding to his antics and told him to not be angry, that it was a compliment. His roommate finally got to the station and infuriated with the workers actions, he got the number of the maintenance car the worker got into and called the company to file a complaint. He called right away and began telling the man on the other line what happened. However it was not until the man realized it was a racial incident did he stopped my boyfriend and said “hold on let me right this down”. A few days ago my boyfriend got a call back from valley metro calling for more details about the incident.
This incident brought about the stereotype that all Asians look alike. As he was obviously trying to say that he looked like Jackie Chan, one of the few famous Asians in media. Something I found interesting about this incident was that the valley metro told my boyfriend it was a compliment even though he is comparing him to one of the only Asians seen in media and did it in a very stereotypical manner. This reminded me about the incident with the Native American mascots and how many people in favor of them told those who were opposed to be happy, that is was a compliment to them. It is hard for people to see that being compared to a stereotype is offensive to some because it is the only image they have known about that group of people. But that does not make it ok as they are not looking at the perspective of the group it is offending.
I was surprised to hear that the company called back for more information. I am curious about what other questions they will ask him and how they proceed with this incident. I wonder if the worker will be punished and how he will be punished if he is.