He: So I was studying with my Chino friend —
Me: Do you mean Triet?
He: Yeah, we were trying to solve a really tough problem —
Me: I thought he was Vietnamese.
He: He is.
Me: Then he’s not a Chino, well unless he’s one of those Vietnamese people who is ethnically Chinese and then I guess he’s technically a Chino…
He: Just let me continue and stop being all politically correct. You knew who I was talking about.
Me: No, I was genuinely confused. And it’s not about being PC, it’s just simply correct.


“Angie, your permission to enroll number is 73258. Eva, yours is 03281. Derek, yours is…”

This session was bigger than most of my orientation sessions. I usually met with 6 or 7 students, but this time around I had a dozen.

I looked down at my roster and then up at the girl in the lavender tank. Sure of myself, I continued, “Janey, your number is –”

“I’m Kelly,” she corrected me.

“I’m Janey,” spoke up the girl in the blue t-shirt. She was seated a couple seats away from Kelly.

“But I thought you were Janey,” I said to Kelly.

She shook her head.

I felt my face go red. I checked the roster again. Both names were there along with some academic and demographic information: Kelly, Chinese, Neuroscience; Janey, Korean, Biology major.

“Sorry. Okay, Kelly, your number is 54106. Adam, 01792. Estela, 65578. Janey, your number is 21945…”

I got the rest of the names correct.


4 thoughts on “Correct/Incorrect

  1. When I was growing up and I heard a Spanish speaker call me China, it always made me really sad. For some odd reason, maybe intonation, it sounded like a slur to me.

    Correcting your friend was totally on point. It has nothing to do with PCness. How do you say Viet in Spanish? (My folks are technically Viet, but we’re ehtnically Chinese and identify as such. And lemme tell ya, they don’t take kindly to being confused as VIets.)

    Here’s one that I never thought I’d get before: when I was in Cambodia with some of the other teachers (one of whom is the most race-naive person I know, let’s call her Nenny), we were just chatting away about our small travel group. Then Nenny said was referring to us and said something like, “Just a group of white girls…” and I had to stop her. She meant a bunch of non-Cambodians and I just had to shake my head because #1 I was mistakened as a Cambodian half the time I was there and #2 I am so obviously not white.
    Is color-blindness and color-ignorant synonymous?

  2. I say Chino to refer to all my Asian friends (well, except filipinos, cambodians, Laos, etc)….but I only do this with my Spanish speaking friends because there is no other term for it and usually the distinction doesn’t matter.

    IMHO, you were being too PC.

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