Spotting Race Bores

Race bore” is a term commonly used to put down people who don’t pretend that race doesn’t exist. It’s a term coined by people in the majority. For us minorities, the real race bores are people who insist race doesn’t matter but impose racial preconceptions on all their interactions with us. Dealings with such people are boringly predictable. Here are the 6 types of race bores I’ve spotted.

1. Patronisers
They are convinced that Asians occupy an inferior place in the natural order. They approach us with the kind of charitable impulses normally reserved for children, animals, the handicapped or the insane. No matter what your abilities or achievements, patronisers relegate you in their minds to a subhuman order. If an Asian rises to a high position, patronisers asume he must have received special treatment. What makes patronisers difficult to spot and dismiss is their consistently supportive attitude. They find everything an Asian person does marvelously praiseworthy but never quite adding up to equality. These may well be the most closed-minded of all race bores.

2. Imposers
They see Asians as non-entities on whom they can impose bad manners, solipsistic conversation, offensively outspoken views and other indulgences. You can spot these types by the liberties they take from the first meeting. They often display an unusual degree of ease and volubility in the company of Asians. Unfortunately, some Asians mistake this for rapport and warm feelings. The warmth shown by imposers is fueled by their knowledge that their subpar behavior isn’t well received by others of their own social milieu. Imposers are weak-willed opportunists but they aren’t malicious or hateful.

3. Dominators
These people get their world views from old movies and TV shows. They are convinced that Asians not only don’t mind being dominated by other races, but expect it. If an Asian person responds with unexpected assertiveness, dominators begin talking more loudly, more rapidly and even cut off the other person. If they find that the Asian person persists in being more articulate, witty or knowledgeable, dominators lose interest in the conversation. Dominators are deeply insecure but aren’t usually malicious or hateful.

4. Dividers
These are the most detestible from a moral standpoint. Their underhanded approach consists of telling an Asian person that he/she is “different from those other Asians”. Another common tactic is to compare Asians favorably with “those other minorities”. This approach actually succeeds with some insecure Asians who would like to believe that they are special and, therefore, are immune to racial prejudices. Dividers typically harbor deeply ingrained insecurities resulting from growing up with marginal family, social and economic situations.

5. Fetishists
These people are among the most difficult to dismiss because they rarely show offense or disrespect. To the contrary, they see Asians as repositories of special wisdom, knowledge, intelligence, mystique, physical abilities, sex appeal, cultural knowledge, wit, etc. They often pursue Asians as possessing the answers to all their problems. Deficiencies like poor English ability, unattractive physical features or odd tics and mannerisms only seem to inflame their ardor. Fetishists make serviceable friends/lovers for Asians who may lack the social/romantic options to scrutinize motivation.

6. Free-associaters
The sight of an Asian person immediately sets off a string of free-associations of all things Asian. On meeting an Asian, they immediately declare their love of sushi, martial arts movies, anime, Asian cities, Asian actors, Asian authors, Asian dentist, dry cleaner or neighbor. They are convinced that all Asians and things Asian are connected by some cosmic web. Conversations typically jump from one topic to another until the free-associater has run out of Asian topics or the Asian person confesses to some knowledge of one of the named topics/persons. Free-associaters are the most benign as their behavior results from ignorance rather than malice or ingrained prejudice. They are often well-intentioned and open to learning about Asians and Asian culture.

Let me add a bit of perspective about race bores. As annoying as some can be, none are half as bad as the hateful types of racists who harbor active ill will against Asians and other minorities. Even if it were possible to avoid all contact with race bores, I don’t mean to suggest that we should. Many are decent people with limited contact with Asians. As a matter of fact, educating race bores may hold out the best hope of improving the social climate for Asian Americans. Being able to spot the various types and their tendencies does make it easier to interact with them without confusion or overreaction.

I hate to use the old cliche, but some of my favorite people entered my life as race bores…