TheThai-brid Blind Sexagenarian
My parents did something nobody else did in 1960. They got married even though there were miscegenation laws in place at the time that prohibited people of different races from marrying one another and making mutt babies like me. “Charlie” and Joann were a scandalous pairing in the small Texas town where they lived, and I was a social pariah throughout most of my school years because of it. I was the only brown face in a sea of white. My parents failed to explain what racism against Asian people really looked like when it raised its ugly head in Amarillo, Texas.
I was in my twenties before I was able to decipher what exactly had happened in my social connections through the years and stamp it with what it was.
One of the blinking neon lights that separated me from the others was my name. Prajinta Sthapitanonda was always and without exception, butchered. And to make matters worse, there was no attempt to ever get it right. Most Asians create a one-syllable “American” name. Maybe a “white” name would be more appropriate since I was an American holding dual citizenship. So names like Ping, Pong, Kit, Kat, Ding, Dong and other even more ridiculous variations were common to make it easy for them to make no effort to honor my actual name. I got attempts like StopItNoNo, Snuffleupagus, StopHoppyTonda, and my favorite. . . SloppyTaco. Later, I had Asian students with names like Phouc Ngo and Phouc Nguyen. Say that out loud and see what you get. No wonder they chose names like Jim and Bill. The other kids made up cute and fun monikers like NoNo, P-Dog, and Weiner (which started off as winner for Nguyen pronounced win and evolved into weiner, accompanied by the Oscar Meyer song when he entered the room).
Being a half-breed in the ultra-conservative Bible Belt was no church picnic, but I have also suffered from discrimination because I have a disability. Actually, the word “disabled” itself implies that I am not able to do what others can do which is offensive.