HOLLAND, Mich. — At some point during my freshman year in college, I went to a church in town with a friend. When the service was over, I stood up and an elderly man who sat in the pew in front of me shook my hand. I’m not sure I’d even gotten his name before he fired off, “So I suppose you’re from one of those Oriental nations, right?”
I was more shocked than offended. He’d meant it, I’m sure, without malice; I’d certainly heard worse before. I launched into a two-minute spiel about Where I’m Really From, trying to explain what it was like to be born in Montana, raised in Malaysia and going to college in Michigan. By the time I was done his eyes were glazed over and I was fumbling for the door.