What doppleganger week means to a person of color

February 13, 2010 § 4 Comments

Are you my celebrity look alike?

(cross-posted)

Facebook’s Doppleganger week is over. And I missed it. I knew it was going on. I caught on as my friends posted their celebrity look alikes, and was amused and enlightened to discover that I have friends that look like Natalie Portman, Ashley Simpson and Sara Ramirez.

I missed out on it, not because I didn’t get the memo, but because I could not come up with a good celebrity doppelganger. Probably because I am an Asian American woman, the first celebrity contestants that I thought of, I admit, were, Disney’s Mulan, Lucy Liu, Trini the yellow ranger (from Power Rangers, is that still on?), and Zhang Zhiyi. But I don’t look like any of them.

So, I continued, thinking about all the other possibilities, which did not take long because there weren’t all that many other possibilities. Given, my mind was limiting myself to not only Asian female celebrities, but only the few that I have seen and heard of.

Then I felt this familiar feeling of exclusion and difference that stems from my allbeit un-traumatizing but still poignant experiences of growing up as an Asian American girl in the whitest city per capita in the country. (Livonia, Michigan if you are wondering.)

I was hesitant in writing this post because I don’t want to turn the fact that I don’t look like celeb into a race issue. I can already hear the accusations coming at me. Pulling out the race card to explain why you don’t look like a hot celeb, are you? How convenient!

I understand there is no rule that your doppelganger has to be of the same race. But your doppelganger, by definition, is supposed to look like you. And I look Asian. And Hollywood, and American cinema and media in general is very White, so White that most of the time I don’t even notice because its just the norm. But its times like these–yes, times even as trivial as doppelganger week–that I am confronted with race.

There are some times when I try to be different. But for the rest of the time, when I am neither seeking to fit in or stand out, I still find myself getting left out. Doppelganger week reminded me that I don’t look like any of the people on TV or in the movies, and neither does my family. It brought back familiar feelings and memories of not just difference but exclusion, not belonging; memories as benign as never being able to trade the foods in my lunchbox because it was unrecognizable and foreign to my classmates, and as hurtful as the time when my mother and I were called “chinks” when we walked out of a shopping center.

I identify with desi blogger Anna from Sepia Mutiny,who wrote about how doppelganger week brought back a rush of memories. She recounts going to souvenir shops as a kid and excitedly snatching a license plate or key chain emblazoned with her name “Anna”, while her sister would glumly turn to the “V” section only to find that her name “Veena” was missing, nonexistent.

That I can’t think of a celebrity look alike; that Veena can never find her name on keychain really is not a big deal. You can tell me to cry a river, and I won’t be offended. But experiences like those are everday for Veena, me and people of color beginning as far back as we can remember.

I’m not saying that doppelganger week was racist. I’m saying that for people of color, race is inescapable. Colorblindness is not a choice, but a myth. And choosing to ignore race does not mean that race and racism will go away.

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