As a kid I got shamed for appropriating Italian culture

by Jyan Zárate on Thursday February 01, 2018 at 12:01 AM


This was originally on my old site, but on Feb. 03 2021 I re-published it on my new platform.


When I was a young child at a friend's house, I was wrapping up a quick conversation on the phone with my parents when I said chau. I forgot who it was, and I'm sure I can conjure up an almost certainly false image of who it was in my head, but instead I'll just say it was a generic adult. They heard me say chau which exclusively means bye (derived from ciao), but they heard ciao because they said "isn't ciao an Italian word? and weren't you speaking Spanish?" I didn't know how to respond.

In hindsight, they were most likely expression genuine curiosity. However, as a child it seemed snarky. It felt like they were claiming that I was wrong to have used that word, except that I had always used this word--and so had everyone else when I was growing up. It was the word to use when ending a conversation or leaving. There was no word like it, well, I guess there was adiós but no one ever said it. You would understand when someone said it but you'd never personally say it. Just like you would never say "you're sister's outfit is very provocative today" if their sister was wearing a meat dress and you were a vegan who knew this was a deliberate act to annoy you. So here was my livelihood, my way of life, being challenged on an unsuspecting Tuesday. And so I just shrugged, and she returned a very specific look. A facial expression that to this very day I remember as the "quit appropriating Italian culture" look.


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