‘You People All Look the Same’ – Shapiro the Racist, part 3
For the first time in 5 years, I’m not touring a solo show, and I’m loving it. Instead, I’m just doing standup in my local cafe on the odd Tuesday night, and it’s PayWhatYouLike. Last Tuesday I did my ‘How to Be European’ show, where I riff on headlines & try out material for the weekly ‘United States of Europe’ show.
It was a nice crowd with a mix of nationalities, people from everywhere. There was one guy up front who said he was from India. I said: ‘I feel like I’ve met you before,’ and he said no. That was when the audience gave a cautionary ‘Ooooooh’ with the clear undertone: ‘That’s racist…’
I asked the audience ‘What was that for?’ (Even though I knew damn well what it was for. I just wanted to see if someone would say it.) And sure enough, a woman chimed in: ‘What, do you think they all look the same?’
And I was ready. I said, ‘Hmm… I wonder why you’d think that.’ And I explained that this guy was sitting at the Culti Meetup Group table, and I’d been to one of their events last June, where I’d talked to a guy from India, who was intelligent and funny and had the same smile. So yes, it was a case of mistaken identity. But no, it wasn’t a snap judgment about an entire race of people.
(For the record – I’d also met a woman in the audience earlier, and I also thought we’d met before and she’d also said no. And she was white.) (And she was wrong. We had met before, at Boom Chicago.)
So I asked ‘Why did you think I was saying “you people all look the same?”‘ And she said: ‘Well, I’m Chinese.’ Ha! I said ‘you have a super-American accent.’ And she said she studied in Boston and is now living in Amsterdam. I said: ‘You Chinese people are all the same.’
I don’t know what we learned from this episode, but I’ll thank you Mani, for the wonderful case of mistaken identity and the examination of a roomful of casual racism.
This is Mani’s profile pic from Meetup Group. He’s from India, he lives in Amsterdam, and he works in IT. (Don’t judge.)