Contents Different From Packaging
Rating: PG
Artemis Actaeon

One of my best friends is Twi'lek and Bakuran. I know that's unusual, but apparently sometimes it can happen. He does look human and Twi'lek, so there is no reason to doubt his claim. In school we would say he could have a holy war just by being in a snit! It's a joke, but there are problems he has that none of us others has.

For instance, he can't get through security at the spaceport in under an hour because he "looks" like those ethnicities normally profiled, despite the fact that he is 100% Coruscanti, of immigrant lineage (like all of us!). Why doesn't he protest? Because then he'd be put on a list, and that can apparently take much longer to get through. It's a matter of accepting the best of a bad situation, since he flies intergalactically for his work, and other systems can be far worse. He also accepts it because it does protect his privacy — he doesn't need to divulge any personal details if they are only going to judge him by his face. He notes that security on some outer rim systems is delighted he speaks Basic without an accent, and he gets treated nicely. Sometimes you can use perceptions to your advantage.

When he was living on Corellia, on Alderaan, and on Naboo — systems which pride themselves in their sophisticated egalitarianism and warmth — those same people were actually very rude about finding out his species and would ask pointed questions. When he would say, "I'm Coruscanti," they'd rattle off other possibilities, ask him questions in an insistent tone, "Where are your people from?" They couldn't let it go, until he had to say, "I'm sorry, but you're offending me; it's none of your business. Please stop talking to me." Yeah, it was uncomfortable, but seriously, how is that his fault? Why do folks need to know where his ancestors really came from? Isn't it enough that he's "here" now? Strangely, they all thought they were being polite in their curiosity.

Worse, he was raised and educated in an ethnic neighborhood — but it wasn't the same ethnicity as that of his parents. So he can speak the vernacular of that other ethnicity far better than he can of his parents' native tongues. Some people were offended that they couldn't talk about him to his face, because they weren't sure if he would understasnd them or not, it seems.

Mostly, when people try to guess species or ethnicities, they guess wrong, and there is always a perception of offense. So, why do it? Equally, asking about one's race is fraught with peril. I worked with a man who tried to say, "Greetings, lovely ladies," in Huttese to a couple of lovely Twi'lek girls ... but he didn't know Huttese very well, and he called them shaag — but these girls were not slaves! They happened to be free and they were startled and offended — they actually called the constabulary on him! I can't blame them really, since they probably thought he was accusing them of being off their leashes, or maybe he might have been a slaver, himself!

He asked me later what he should have said, and I said, "'Hello,' in Basic would have been correct." He thought he was being nice, and was so upset that he'd offended these young girls, and simply couldn't understand why they didn't see his intent. And of course, they were responding to his skin, his clothes, and species, too — so sad for the young man, and a hard way to understand that there is such a thing as "trying too hard."

A man at work tried unsuccessfully to guess my ethnicity, and ended up guessing wrong. Not thinking it important, I didn't disabuse him of his notions till he started denigrating my actual racial and species components, thinking he was showing how well-versed he is about ethnic relations. I had to tell him that I am no longer interested in hearing from him; the racial epithets — even if they were not mine — were harsh and disgusting. But being that he decided to trash my ancestry, he went too far to impress me and fell into a trench and broke his legs, so to speak. Why show your colors that way? If you knew I was such-and-such a race, does that mean you wouldn't have chatted to me?

And for goodness sake, don't take the high road and call me a snob! After all, you are probing into my component background without telling me anything about yourself. And that I didn't ask you your species breakdown probably means it is not of interest to me, and maybe you should take the hint and stop asking.

Basically, I consider it private information, to divulge in the course of conversation and friendship. Noticing I look different and wanting to know my ethnic mix is the equivalent of saying, "Why are you so short?" It's not my choice, and only a part of who I may be. And didn't your mother tell you that asking personal questions, or pointing to someone, is just simply rude?

Then again, there are situations when I've been dropped in amongst beings who are relatively homogeneous, and thus I look like I may be from some other-rim planet. Then, "Where are you from?" becomes something that is irresistible to ask. The situation is different, and I am not offended. For instance, a friend once went to a district where the people were small and not-human. They couldn't resist trying to touch him — so hairy, so pale, so blonde, no carapace! "How can he see with such pale, sunken eyes?" they asked. They were genuinely amazed and hoping to learn about him — they were not denigrating him or insulting him. When he spoke their language, they were shocked and amazed — it was simply outside of their experience that a man who looks so unlike them could speak their language and understand them! It was hilarious to see, but they were genuinely warm and curious, and they learned a lot from that encounter.

I don't divulge my ethnicity because of people who have pursued me due to ethnically based fetishes and stereotypes. It's the same reason I don't show holos of myself anywhere. Who I am is harder to define, and not really based on my packaging. If people are offended by my reluctance, that's really more about them than it is about me.

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