At Face Value

Once again, Solo’s back in the hizzy (house)! Don’t worry I’m not going down that road again. Instead of explaining myself, I thought I’d set this up with a somewhat daily encounter with me.

Will: Hey man, you know my wife’s Korean right?
Solo: Yeah, I could tell. Could you tell I was half-Korean when you met me?
Will: It was crazy when I found out, cause I have half-Korean nephews, but when I first met you I was like, dude he’s totally Mexican.

Being from a small town, I was mainly around White people. The only Asians I knew when I was a child was my mom and her sister. But it never occurred to me that I was halfway between Asian and White. I thought I was white until the 2nd grade. My best friends in Elementary school had very white skin, while mine seemed like it never lost it’s summer tan. Still it never occurred to me that I looked any different than anyone else.

After high school I moved onto college in Seattle, Washington. It’s more diverse than Ellensburg, but I still felt White. My first experience of feeling different than a white kid was the first day of ensemble class with my mixed Black and Spanish professor, Hadley.

Hadley: Hey man, how you doing?
Solo: Pretty good.
Hadley: Man I’m glad to see you here at this music school, I’m feeling like a lot of young brothers these days are missing out on their roots.
Solo: What?
Hadley: You know what I’m talking about.

Tru dat Hadley! Not really though. See, I’d been totally white in my mind for 18 years at that point. Then this guy comes along and assumes I’m either Black or Spanish in one meeting. That’s when I realized the world sees you literally, at face value. It’s never angered me though. If anything, it’s probably helped me in life. I’m able to sway between different races without breaking a sweat. And doing this I’ve observed one noticeable likeness of all people. Everybody’s the same!

Old Spanish Lady: Que hora, es?
Solo: What?
Old Spanish Lady: Que hora es?!?
Solo: Oh, no halbo espaniol.
Old Spanish Lady: Okay, what time is it?
Solo: 2:30.
Old Spanish Lady: Gracias, now you say, de…nada.

Then she walked off with her nose in the air. She was disappointed with me cause apparently to her, I didn’t know my native language. I did study 2 years of Spanish in high school, and I actually knew what she was asking. I just don’t like to pretend I can speak their language cause everybody here thinks I’m Spanish. I can’t walk into a corner store without the clerk telling me the amount in pesos. It’s crazy.

I guess I don’t really know what this post is about. None of these things bother me, their just experiences in my life that make me laugh. The way I see it, none of these things really matter. Maybe I’m human form of a chameleon in people’s minds. Once they can register a look in their head of what I am, they can act accordingly. Whatever the case may be, it makes for funny stories.

Solo: Hey I noticed your last name is Kim, you’re Korean, right?
Korean neighbor: Yeah.
Solo: Cool, that’s my mom’s maiden name.
Korean neighbor: (Confused) What…..wait, you’re mom’s Korean.
Solo: Yeah, my dad’s White from America, she’s originally from Seoul. I’m mixed.
Korean neighbor: (Examines my face) Ooooooooh, naw man I don’t see that at all.

One love.

13 thoughts on “At Face Value”

  1. Yes Solo, you are the International Man of Mystery. I’ve known you forever, and perhaps only Tiger Woods can pass for as many ethnicities as you…

    For instance, at my wedding last year, you were sporting a mustache and long hair, and generally had the look of Carlos Santana. So, with your ever-evolving look and the fact you speak like an East Coast rapper now, I can understand how people get confused…

    Keep up the good work, Solo…

  2. I wonder if most white people can pinpoint so accurately when they realized they were white? Seems like for me I knew there were differences in skin color and ethinicities at an early age but I never really thought about what that means when I walk down the street or into a grocery store. In other words, all the ways that whiteness can affect interactions with other white people or people of color. I wasn’t exposed to thinking about that until later in life though college, music, and personal relationships with people of color.

    You know what’s crazy though Solo is that the whole time you thought of yourself as white in Ellensburg, I didn’t. I thought of you as biracial or mixed (as you say). I don’t think that changed too much of our interactions but it was there in the back (and sometimes front) of my mind.

  3. now that’s crazy DA. you just blew my mind. if you think about it, back then you were the one listening to tupac, grandmaster flash, and let’s not forget, shaq diesel, “…it’s what i used to listen to, ridin wit my moms, look at me now, i drop bombs…”

  4. Hansen, I always thought of you as white. Maybe it’s because of how far back we go, but I never thought of you as mixed or biracial. The only time that I thought of you as another race is when I’d have some korean food at your house. Seems wierd to me that people treat you differently. You are right in that what it all boils down to is that everyone is the same and everyone wants to be treated the same, with respect.

  5. word up bailes. you were one of my white friends growing up and i never felt different. in a way, being from a small town has it’s advantages. nobody really is trying to gang up on other races cause there’s about 4 asians, 3 black kids in the entire town. makes for interesting convos.

  6. At least Solo has a name that is not synonymous with blond hair and blue eyes. My usual encounter and reaction is usually:

    STRANGER: You don’t look like an “Ole Hansen”.

    ME: I’m half Korean.

    STRANGER: Oh. Which side?

    This conversation is so common for me, there are times the person doesn’t even have to ask. I just say, “I’m half Korean”. I don’t take offense because usually it is a client or a court clerk trying to get to know me on a personal level.

    And I will say the my immediate answer to their second question is “my mom”. Now, those who know me, THIS is extremely difficult. I suffer from sass-mouth. I have a PhD in Smart Ass. There are times I give them a look, and the person realizes what they asked. At least at this time, I can comment like, “My dad is the Korean. We come from a long line of Koreans named Hansen.”

  7. Funny stuff Ole. I can picture your “look” vividly in my mind. And can I say you really earned that PhD. You’ve put in a lot of hard work and it shows!

    George doesn’t pull off Korean very convincingly however. :)

  8. Furious, what’s up Doc? Can we rock?

    Bailes is white? Let me take my head out of the microwave cuz that just nuked my mind!

  9. Yeah, believe it or not DA, I’m white, though some ladies might tell you otherwise. Hansen, that does seem like an advantage now that you mention it. It’s wierd how races gang up on each other like you mention, I don’t really get it, but then again I’ve never really been the conflicting type. By the way Ole, that’s hilarious that people ask you that and I would have a hard time biting my tongue also. Most people don’t speak before they talk, I must admit that I’m guilty of it fairly often.

  10. i think you meant “think” before they talk. but me too bailes, it’s hard to admit that sometimes, i applaud your honesty.

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