“Are you Eurasian?”

I was at Yum Cha a couple of weeks ago with a few friends (one of whom is Eurasian). It was very crowded and we had to share a table with a middle-aged lady and (presumeably) her teenage son. We didn’t really say anything to them. I think that’s the etiquette when sharing a table at Yum Cha; you just treat your half as a separate table. After our first order arrived, the lady asked my Eurasian friend:

Do you mind if we settle a bet we have going here?… Are you Eurasian?

I didn’t think much of it at the time, but when I was relaying the story to Heidi she thought that it was very rude of them to ask. Considering it further I imagined that it sounds very offensive if you replace “Eurasian” with any other race:

Are you Aboriginal? Are you white? Are you black? Are you Asian?

Asking country of origin doesn’t sound as bad as asking race. Maybe beacause you assume that they are basing their query on more than your appearance (possibly taking into account your customs or accent). That makes it more cultural than racial.

Are you Canadian? Are you Thai? Are you American?

I guess that I didn’t take offense since they were asking because the teenager was Eurasian and probably looking for some sort of racial solidarity. You don’t see too many Eurasians in Perth and it may sometimes feel like he’s the only one. I think that a lot of Eurasians (living in Australia) may feel a cultural similarity and connection with other Eurasians because they assume that they have probably grown up in a similar cross-cultural family environment. This won’t always be the case. Race is different to culture, and it doesn’t intrinsically connect people in the same way that culture does.