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August Issue: Randall Park Chases The Dragon

Long lost son?

They Call Me Bruce

by Randall Park

EVERY NOW AND THEN, I get recognized on the street.

Here’s an example of a recent encounter:

Stranger: Excuse me, but are you on Hawaii Five-O?
Me: No, I’m not Daniel Dae Kim.
Stranger: No, the other one.
Me: No, ma’am, I am not Grace Park.

As Asian Americans, many of us can identify with being mistaken for other Asians. The whole “all Asians look alike” stereotype is one I believe many Americans secretly hold on to. Does it bother me? Not really. Let me tell you why …

Many years ago, a tattered, dreadlocked man approached me as I was walking out of a Hollywood bar with friends late one night.

Stranger: Man, I just had to tell you. You look like Bruce Lee!

While it’s true that I exude a certain charm and charisma and can kill a man with my bare hands, I don’t claim to look anything like Bruce Lee. I took offense. How unoriginal can you get? Bruce Lee? I grew up with that taunt. Update your racism, vagrant! Tipsy from a night of drinking, I decided to mess with the guy.

Me: Yeah, I look like him because I’m related to him. In fact, I’m Bruce Lee’s son. And he taught me everything he knows.

As I improvised some karate moves, my friends struggled to suppress their laughter. But the man stood there. Frozen. Eyes glazed over. He could barely speak.

Stranger: Are you serious? You’re his son? Oh, my God. You gotta come with me. Please.

The stranger ushered me down the block. Though weirded out, I felt compelled to follow him. My antics had somehow touched a nerve. I told my friends to wait for me and followed the man into an alley. There, under a dim lamp, was a run-down station wagon. I started to second-guess my decision to follow him.

Me: You know what, I should really get back to my friends—

The man started yelling.

Stranger: Hey! It’s Bruce Lee’s son! Bruce Lee’s son!

Suddenly, three tiny sleepy-eyed faces popped up from the backseat. They looked just like him. They were his children. And they all lived in this car.

Stranger: My kids are the biggest Bruce Lee fans in the world! It means so much to me for them to meet you.

The kids were beaming. Like their dad, they were star-struck. They started asking me questions about my “father” and his movies. One even asked about my “brother” Brandon. They were clearly fans. I felt like an asshole.

But I couldn’t turn back. I told them what little I actually knew of the man. I started to backtrack, explaining that I wasn’t really that close to him because he was always “so busy.” I didn’t even go to his funeral. Brandon was only a half-brother. I was an illegitimate child from another relationship. Lies, lies, lies …

The whole time I was thinking that if anybody had a great father, it was these kids. He probably knew I was a phony but didn’t care. He just wanted to make his kids happy. He wanted to inspire them, if only for a moment.

There was a time when being mistaken for another Asian person might have offended me. But the intentions are not always rooted in racism. Sometimes, people just want to make a connection. And come to think of it, being mistaken for Bruce Lee, Daniel Dae Kim or Grace Park isn’t so bad. They’re all extremely talented and super good-looking.

On the other hand, if you mistake me for, say, William Hung, then you’re a racist. And I may have to kill you with my bare hands.

To enjoy more of Randall’s work, visit randallparkplace.com.

This article appeared in the August 2011 issue of KoreAm.

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  • Not Offended

    Actually, I’m not offended when people think all Asians look alike because I think all Caucasians look alike. When I first learned that Europeans can tell which European country other Europeans are from. I was surprised. They look different depending on what country they’re from?! Talk about my ignorance. I can mostly tell the Asians apart, I didn’t realize Europeans could do the same.

    Even amongst white Americans, I have a hard time distinguishing them when I first meet them, even if they look nothing alike. I think most people are just more familiar with the people of the culture they’re use to. Of course, it is ignorant of them not to realize that but I was the same way until it was pointed out to me. I guess it just needs to be pointed out to them too. Nothing to be offended by unless they refuse to listen even after you point it out to them.

  • Bruce Lee’s Daughter

    i’m 1/2 Japanese, and as a schoolkid, i was called every Asian racist slur imaginable, from Chink and Gook to Fu Man Chu and Zipperhead (seriously people? WTF.)

    anyway, one name i got called frequently was “Bruce Lee’s Daughter.”

    it used to make me cry until i was old enough to figure out how fucking awesome and badass Bruce Lee really was. then i was like DAMN RIGHT YOU HONKY MOTHERFUCKER!

    then i got older and the racial comments from randos tapered off, until i became a Buddhist nun. i shave my head and wear samue, which really looks NOTHING LIKE martial arts gi, but people still think it’s an invitation to come up to me and tell me that they took Tae Kwon Do classes in like, the 5th grade, and then proceed to brag about their sensei, who, this one time, trained with some master in Japan or something, and have i ever heard of him, ’cause he’s famous?

    why do people think this is okay, and why is it so common with Asians? if white people went around stopping every black person they saw and telling them that they like rap music and fried chicken, “oh and i love the soundtrack to The Big Chill ’cause of all those awesome Motown songs” . . . or approaching random Latinos and going on about how much they love the new Doritos Locos Taco at Taco Bell, “and this one time, my uncle got drunk and sang La Bamba at the family reunion,” etc. they’d get their ass kicked.

    interestingly, it’s not just white people who do this to Asians . . . i get approached with this kinda shit from people of all colours . . . (and ALL men!)

    i feel like i should make a t-shirt that says “I DON’T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT YOUR SENSEI.”

    when will this stop? and do other (non-black, non-Latino) minorities in America experience it, too? like, do random strangers approach Middle Eastern people all “I LOVE FALAFEL!!! oh, and this one time, my sister and i took a belly-dancing workout class at the gym, it was SO MUCH FUN . . .”

    it’s not like i live in a small rural town where i’m all “exotic,” either. this is in New York City for Christ’s sake.

    . . . can anyone else relate?

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