Dumb Questions

It’s often exhorted that there’s no such thing as a dumb question, but that’s just dumb advice. (better advice: ask good questions!) Browse Quora for examples.

There’s a special category of dumb questions, related to race. A twitter thread started by Rachel Swarns on Asian American experiences reminded me of some I’ve received.

“Are you Korean? I’m thinking of buying a Hyundai, so maybe you can give me some tips.”

That’s from a museum staffer in Manhattan.

“Is my order ready?”

Asked of me while I’m waiting for my order at a Chinese restaurant in Jersey City. To be fair, the proprietors did offer me a delivery job.

“Are you still open?”

Vietnamese restaurant in California. I’ve got to stop going out for Asian food.

“Your baby is beautiful.”

OK, that’s not a question, and it is a good-looking baby, but it’s not mine.

“Welcome to America! Want to buy some weed?”


“What nationality are you?”

American. And you should probably look up the definition of nationality.

“How long have you been in this country?”

I give my age, but then they say gosh, that’s a long time, and now I feel old.

“Where are you from?”


“I mean before that.”


“Before that…”

That other place.

“You know what I mean.”

Unfortunately, I do.

“What’s your background?”

Lisp, Unix. Wait, this isn’t a programming interview?

“Are you Chinese? I had a trip to China last summer. They are such a polite people!”

Good to know, stranger at Denny’s who just approached my table, since I’ve never been to China. However, I did visit Europe, and let me say, they are so civilized over there. Kudos.

“Can you participate in a speech study? We need a sample of non-native English speakers.”

Coworker at a Boston tech company. Dude, just because I don’t have a Boston accent…

“You guys don’t like Koreans, right?”

Nope, but they make great cars.

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