Hey Schwarz, Are You Chinese?

Ruysch_map

When you grow in Arkansas with even a hint of a swarthy complexion, you’re going to get bullied and harassed.

When I entered fifth grade at Woods Elementary, my teacher asked me in front of the class if I was Chinese. When I replied, “I don’t think so,” Mr. Williams shrugged his shoulders.

“Dark hair, dark eyes, dark skin and good at math,” he said. “Seems like Chinese.”

The conversation at dinner that night was memorable.

When I made it to Chaffin Junior High School, I had my first brush with anti-Semitism. I’d get clipped in hallways with the wood “heeb” muttered under their breath. I had to honestly look up the word in the library.

There was only one Jewish family in our town, the Wilsons. I was bewildered by the abuse. We were Presbyterian.

At my second job, one of the senior editors kept pressing me on my ethnicity. One day, she declared: “Look, you’re Jewish. So I’m just going to treat you that way.”

So she began wishing me “Happy Hanukkah” and ascribing stereotypical (and racist) personality traits to my behavior. When I’d offer to split the check at lunch, she’d say: “Ha – cheap – just like a Jew.”

That also was the year I began growing a beard, which apparently made things worse. The editor of the magazine asked me to shave it off saying: “You look like an Arab terrorist.”

So to settle these sorts of questions (which also occasionally dog my daughters) I took the Ancestry DNA test earlier this year. All tests have their limits, but until they develop an instant pee test for Jewish, Arab or Chinese, this is what we’ve got.

Here are the results:

Great Britain: 43%
Europe West: 18%
Europe East: 17%
Ireland/Scotland/Wales: 6%
Iberian Peninsula: 7%
Scandinavia: 3%
Europe South: 2%
Caucasus: 1%
European Jewish: < 1%
Middle East: < 1%
Finland/Northwest Russia: < 1%

So you can pretty much insult me using almost any slur (except Chinese) and be correct. This also gives me carte blanche to use both English and Continental woodworking tools.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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39 Responses to Hey Schwarz, Are You Chinese?

  1. nbreidinger says:

    In your fifth grade teacher’s defense, Schwarz is a very Chinese-sounding name….

  2. johncashman73 says:

    Funny. You don’t look Caucasusian.

    Happy New Year to you all.

  3. amvolk says:

    Like many Americans, 57 varieties! So everyone, just chill.

    • hikerob says:

      Well said my brother.

    • reedwards says:

      Yep, I think so many of us are of multiple backgrounds. Only our genetic look can resolve all, but as you know, some do not want to know, but are brought up and buried in their prejudices.

  4. jfthomas70 says:

    Right on amvolk. My Dad always said we were heinz 57.

  5. cdccos says:

    I picture you laughing maniacally with a frame saw in one hand and a back saw in the other.

  6. Jeff Hanna says:

    Seems like a large part of the world is missing? Or do they just give you zeroes on Hispanic, Southan Asian, etc.?

  7. lol, Yeah you look a little chinese to me! Weird you did a DNA just to be sure! I always assumed i am german because that’s what my folks said & my last name is Conrad but the reality is, i have no idea, i could be chinese too!!!
    HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! a brand new year, a brand new deal, prosperity for everyone!

  8. leeboyz86 says:

    You’re good at math? Seems to me you do your absolute best to take the math out of woodworking as much as possible. 🙂

    • Ryan M says:

      That’s part of being being good at it, recognizing when its not needed 😉

      Or as you might put it, its often harder to subtract than it is to add… …

      • Adam Petersen says:

        For me it’s the constant quest to prove my math teachers wrong and that I was right when I said I’d never use this $h1t.

  9. Rob Hildebrand says:

    My father-in-law was born in what is now eastern Germany, then Poland. He didn’t fit the mold either. Dark hair, complexion, eyes. He moved to the Essen area of northwest Germany at 15 where he was often mistaken for Italian. People would speak Italian to him on the street and he wouldn’t answer, not knowing the language. They would often make remarks about him being snobbish for not returning their greeting.
    Sigh…

  10. Quercus Robur says:

    A Schwarz that is not only non-Jewish, but also barely German. Ha! I don’t think I’ll ever bother to check, but my children should have quite a nice variety of backgrounds, literally worlds apart.

  11. William W Teeple says:

    You rock, Chris. Go for the jugular.
    What is the big deal? Who cares what your ethnicity is or isn’t? I think you’re great! Really, it’s all about how you treat others, honesty, respect, ethics, etc.
    Best regards,
    Bill

  12. hikerob says:

    Where do assumptions get you?

  13. rons54 says:

    I thought for years (lived through the 50s, 60s & 70s) that we had put the whole issue of race behind us as a society, that only a tiny percentage of ignorant people considered it important. But it is too pervasive and ingrained in our culture; and too useful to some politicians. And it sells papers and airtime.

    What you do is important, don’t let the idiots wear you down.

  14. Jon Hershey says:

    What about Fiona the hippo?

  15. mike says:

    My wife is Korean-American. She was born in Chicago (well, actually Evanston).

    She spent about 8 years as a corporate HR manager and trainer. She would go to plants all over the country to administer EEOC training courses. The most common question she received:

    “Where are you from?”

    “Chicago,” she would reply.

    “No, I mean where are you really from?” (as an aside, people who are fixated on other people’s ethnic background also tend to dangle prepositions)

    “Well, before Chicago I took a trip through my mom’s birth canal, would you like to know how I got there?”

  16. Apparently these DNA tests are causing a certain amount of dismay among the White Power crowd who in some cases are turning out to be less than 100% European, to their great dismay. On the flip side, the African-American fellow that hosts the Finding Your Roots program on PBS was startled to find his Matrilineal DNA results came up “Irish.” For my test, that long rumored Spaniard that my French Great-Grandparents only whispered about turned up just as they feared.

  17. Dumont69 says:

    I knew there was some camel jockey in there brother.

  18. Brian Smith says:

    I have been a long time reader and customer of your (written/editorial) work and of Lost Art Press in general. I hope to continue to be in the future. You have been a beacon of light in a long dark time. Your very good humor aside, the idea that you felt it necessary to answer these questions by posting about a DNA test showing your ethnicity positively chills me. I’m not sure what conclusions to draw from this.
    Best wishes for the New Year to you and yours, and all who read this blog…
    B. Smith

  19. Are you allowed to use Scandinavian benches? 3%…I dunno.

  20. Simon Stucki says:

    so what does that mean? “Great Britain” from what time? (since originally we all came from Africa) I don’t get it. When were all people in France 100% french? Don’t get me wrong modern DNA analysis is very powerful (meaning you can get an insane amount of raw data quickly and cheap) and you can do pretty cool things (if you know what you are doing, definitely keep the raw data! I’m sure there will be more interesting stuff you can do with that in the future), but if I don’t know what “Europe east” exactly means in this context, I don’t know what these percentages are supposed to tell me. To me these percentages just look like very unnecessary and potentially dangerous labels.
    Even in the case of a white supremacist who discovers that he isn’t as pure “white” as he thought he was, it doesn’t really help, it just replaces one meaningless labeling system (skin color) with another equally meaningless system (regional percentages or whatever we should call it).
    Also unless you wear a t-shirt with these results all the time, they’re not going to stop anyone from calling you an “Arab terrorist”. Of course now you can correct her/him and say “Well actually I am a “Great Britain: 43%, Europe West: 18%, Europe East: 17%, Ireland/Scotland/Wales: 6%, Iberian Peninsula: 7%, Scandinavia: 3%, Europe South: 2%, Caucasus: 1%, European Jewish: < 1%, Middle East: < 1%, Finland/Northwest Russia: < 1% Terrorist", but I'm not sure if that is the most important point I would want to correct if I were confronted with such an accusation. I probably would want to focus more on the "terrorist" aspect.
    I'm not a big fan of labels for living things, of course they help a lot when talking about stuff, but they make it very easy to only see the label (which was created by humans for a certain purpose under certain circumstances) it is very important to see the difference between labels for designed stuff (like tools or furniture or whatever) and labels for living things.

  21. Larry says:

    I was going to ask your Neanderthal score, but they were mostly redheads, apparently…..

  22. Hmmm….. 0% American. You must be a Commie.

  23. Eric R says:

    I took the same test, thinking I was going to be about 95% German.
    Turned out 86% British/Irish, and a various smattering of the rest of the planet.
    In my book, you’re OK for a skinny Kentucky kid.
    And, you’re not too shabby in the shop either.
    We’ve only met a couple of times, but I think of you as my friend, whatever you are.

    Eric

  24. Bruce Lee says:

    I haven’t done one of those silly tests, but I can confuse lots of ethnic Chinese when I point out to them that the ideogram for “Lee” in Chinese is a child under a tree and in English the surname Lee (also Lea, Leigh, Attaleigh etc.) means a person who lives in clearing in a forest.

    Then I can point out that my maternal Great-great-grandfather came to Australia from Manchuria – he was one of the Manchurian Andersons – he had moved from Scotland to Manchuria and then moved to Australia with his family. I’m not sure what part of the family I get the ginger hair and freckled fair complexion from. (which also caused much amusement from my Chinese friends)

  25. Dave Reedy says:

    When you take a DNA test does the data go into a huge Government database? Just thinking.

  26. Bob Glenn says:

    My Dad always said he was Scotch, Irish and Bourbon!

  27. Fun (I suppose) fact for those that don’t speak German: Schwarz is the German word for the color black.

  28. Mike Cooper says:

    Shortly after I was born in 1947 my family moved from Chicago to San Miguel in Mexico (long story). My parents were second generation northern European and I was pure blond as a toddler, but my mothers hair was black and she had a dark complexion. American tourists would come through and see my mom with me in the town square, and she told me they would typically launch into a group discussion, in our presence, on where I came from, generally concluding that it must be a result of a dalliance with some American solder. Then someone would root through their English/Spanish dictionary and come up with a “donde su casa” (sic) to which she would reply “Chicago Illinois.” Yes, racism is occasionally funny – but mostly not.

  29. Don Joyner says:

    Being a little unfair to Mr. Williams, aren’t we? I’ll bet some of his best home furnishings were Chinese Chippendale.

  30. That teacher of yours…no words.

    I grew up in an Italian neighborhood. I’m Puerto Rican but most people think I’m Italian when they meet me. The stuff kids (and parents) would say not knowing I was one of those people they were disparaging.

    But the whole post reminds me one of my favorite scenes in The Simpsons. Krusty the Klown finds out he’s not Jewish and remarks: “I thought I was a self-hating Jew. Turns out I’m a plain old anti-Semite!”

  31. One…your all foreign barbarians to most of my family…(kidding…ha, ha)

    Second…I still think Chris is Asian in orgin someplace…Which I see as a good thing from my perspective…

    Besides If you take a mitochondrial DNA test, one can only barely understand one side of the equation…aka mom. That leaves a big picture of muddy water after only 50 to 100 generations as more bits of family history are not even seen on her side…Dad stuff ain’t there without a heck of a lot of research…So, all in all, its a crap shoot to be sure for 99.9% of us, and if your orgin is good old US of A for more than 3 generations, you can all dang well guaranty being MUTTS!!!

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