Ignorance and racism are intertwined. I have had faced some mild form of racism so many times in my life and I think it has left me traumatised. But I’m working through my issues with my therapist but here is a list of some silly things people have said to me that sometimes pop up in my mind – they are not made up and I remember all the incidents vividly. I don’t hate these people but I must admit it’s a struggle for me to have productive conversations with them. I want to rise above their derogatory or maybe somewhat questionable responses and be mature but I am not successful every time. I am clueless as how to handle it and some of these responses are what I have said directly to their faces and some I bit my tongue. I think the times I held back are the times that have left me more traumatised and frustrated than the times I did not. I know some of these responses might sound innocent enough but it’s the combination of the tone, the context and the speaker themselves that made all these incidents rather unpleasant for me. I also doubt myself more than ever because I don’t know if they are really as negative as they appear to be in my mind. They probably do not remember saying these things but they stuck with me all these years, especially when more than one person from a certain geographic area have similar responses. So here goes the list and I hope maybe people will be more careful about what they say to people next time.

“Wow… my maid is also from Burma.” ( There is nothing wrong with being a maid but why would you say this to me? Do you want me to make friends with your maid? I can’t clean but I hope she cleans well.)

“Oh.. really? I never knew Burmese women can be beautiful.” (Well, now you should know Burmese women can be beautiful and smart and they will never ever go out with someone as dumb as you.)

My personal favourite from people introducing me to others: “Oh ….yeah ..she’s from Burma but she studied in the UK” (Yes, please can I please be worthy of your time and your friendship now that you know I did not spend my entire life in Burma, please please please? )

“I don’t believe you are from Burma. You are lying. Khon Phama – they are migrant workers – not knowledge workers.” -from one of the old dudes in my class in Thailand (Well, I am here standing in front of you telling you that I am indeed from Burma and believe it or not, we are able to speak English and also able to read and teach! )

“You are from Burma but your English is amazing…” – someone after they have been told I am an assistant professor of TESOL in Japan (So have you been to Burma? Do you know anything about my country? No? Have you ever met anyone from Burma? No? So why would you presume that Burmese people can’t speak English well? If I can’t speak English really well, how could I have gotten this job? Why is me being a Burmese who can speak English a surprising thing to you?)

Just laughing… laughing … (Why? Is being from your country a joke too?)

How did you get a job teaching English as a Burmese person? (What do you mean exactly by that question? OR Well, there’s this thing called universities and one can attend them and one get qualifications to teach English … it’s just like magic …. )

So you hate muslims? (So you’re from America – you hate Mexicans? So you’re from the UK- you must hate all Europeans?)

Burmese people stole our gold. (Well, the British empire stole our gold, and dignity and also left our last king of Burma to rot in India in a tiny little house in an unknown little town…also your country stole from another country…but you don’t see us hating on every English person and I won’t be holding one person solely accountable for what their forefathers did. Also you should read some more history books – not the ones where your government asked you to read as propaganda… )

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