Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Aw mom, everyone's doing it! Or, thoughts on race.

OK, so I tried that goofy myheritage.com face recognition thing, where you upload a picture of yourself and it tells you what celebrities you look like. Obviously, I had some spare time last night to undertake this incredibly complex scientific undertaking. Here's what it told me:

Paul Walker
Patrick Dempsey
Johnny Depp
Phillip Seymour Hoffman
Raul Gonzalez (who the fuck?)
Zinedine Zedane
Jesse Bradford
Enrico Fermi (my personal favorite)
Luke Wilson


So I tried it again, with a different picture (longer hair). Only four duplicates: Walker, Depp, Bradford, Wilson.

Hey, I'm totally cool with looking like Paul Walker or Johnny Depp, as I've heard women say they're cute. Ignore the fact that Walker couldn't act his way out of a wet sack. But let's be real people. Other than the fact that we have facial hair and, you know, ears and eyes, there ain't that much in common.

The lesson? The website is shit.

But it did get me thinking. The truth is, I don't really look like anyone. And you can blame South Africa. As you may or may not know, South Africa is made up of three main ethnic groups. Blacks, Whites, and Coloureds. Now before anyone gets into a hissy fit over the word "coloured", please understand that this is not the colored that Americans think of. It's a legitimate ethic group in SA. Since there has been so much intermingling of ethnicities, there now exists what is essentially a large number of mixed-race people, who have come to identify themselves as part of a larger group. And that group is Coloured. Typically a mix of any or all of the following: White, Black, Indian, Asian, etc. I, for example, am Black-Indian-Scottish-French-Malaysian. Seriously. I'm a veritable stew of ethnicities.

My point? Try to picture what a Black-Indian-Scottish-French-Malaysian person would look like. Good luck. Let me know what you come up with. So when I moved here, I really didn't look like anyone. I didn't look like the white kids, I didn't look like the black kids, and we didn't have too many Indian or Malaysian kids, so that was moot. As long as I have lived here, I've never looked like anyone. No one's ever come up to me and said, "you know who you look like?". I've been mistaken for Hispanic, Native American, Inuit (seriously), pretty much everything. I get great service in Indian restaurants, and on more than one occasion waitresses in Mexican restaurants have called me "Papi".

Anyway, it was somewhat strange. It's weird to go through life with no real identifiable ethnic group. Most people may not think about it much, because you're used to knowing a lot of people that you can, ethnically speaking, associate yourself with. Me? Not so much. Also, I get asked. A LOT. Which is also weird. Particularly since I don't have a simple answer. I can't just say, "I'm Brazilian" or "I'm Norwiegian". I can say, "I'm South African", but I know that's not really what people are asking. What's equally interesting is that on the rare occasion when, in the USA, I come across another South African, they will instantly recognize where I'm from.

Which is part of why going back to SA is so wonderful, yet odd for me. I've lived in the US since 1985, so the majority of my life has been here. And when I go back, to visit my vast and crazy family? Everyone looks like me. While my family still has a sizable diversity of appearance (light/dark skin, huge differences in height), there's no chance you'd be surprised to learn they're my family. I love it. But it's weird. We're all varying degrees of tan, we all have black hair, and most of us have freckles. It used to drive my wife crazy, because she was sure she'd never remember who was who. It also doesn't help that my family has names like Clive, Agnes, Noble, Ashley and Robin (both boys), Avril and Yvonne.

(Incidentally: Tan, black hair, freckles. I know, your first thought was Paul Walker, right? Fuck myheritage.com)

Where am I going with this long-winded rambling? I have absolutely no idea. And I don't want anyone to think that I'm some pathetic loner because I can't find someone who looks similar to me and spends his time planning to blow a hole in the world. I honestly don't care - I've got a great circle of friends, and I'm perfectly happy here. But I thought you might find it interesting.

By the way, I married a lovely, lily-white Irish-American girl. My plan? The slow, inexorable mongrelization of the human race. Muhahahaha!

Look upon me, and tremble.


A Bowl Of Stupid said...

That thing just told me I look like Mare Winningham. Should I be concerned?

Chez said...

I of course realize that it's more than likely weasn't the artist's intention, but that little drawing of the black man made me laugh my ass off.

Hey, funny's funny.

Chez said...

And sorry for the typos. It's five in the morning.

TK said...

Matt - Mare Winningham is a lovely girl. You should be flattered. And maybe you should lay off the estrogen treatments. Just sayin'.

Chez - Christ, get some sleep. As for the little cartoon, one of my (non-black) friends sent it to me in the midst of an email war, and I consistently look at it and giggle.

Maxine Dangerous said...

"The slow, inexorable mongrelization of the human race. Muhahahaha!"

BWHAHAHAHAHAHA! As a not-entirely-white person myself, I look at procreation as a chance to fuck with genetics. Is that wrong?

Myheritage told me I look like Gloria Estefan. And Heath Ledger. I'm going to go drink now.