Kat Chow

Kat Chow is a journalist covering race, ethnicity, and culture for NPR's new Code Switch team. In this role, Chow is responsible for reporting and telling stories using social media, sparking conversations online, and blogging.

Prior to coming to NPR, Chow worked with WGBH in Boston and was a reporting fellow for The Cambodia Daily, an English-language newspaper in Phnom Penh.

While a student at the University of Washington in Seattle, Chow was a founding member of a newsmagazine television show and freelanced for the Seattle Weekly. She also interned with the Seattle Times and worked on NBC's Winter Olympics coverage in Vancouver, B.C. You can find her tweeting away for Code Switch at @NPRCodeSwitch, and sharing her thoughts at @katchow.

For this week's episode, I sat down with my Code Switch teammate Gene Demby to dig into one of our favorite topics: rep sweats. It's the feeling of anxiety that can come with watching TV shows or movies starring people who look like you, especially when People Who Look Like You tend not to get a lot of screen time.

My dad, who came to the U.S. in 1969 from Hong Kong, who speaks English-lilted-with-Taishanese, who has lived in Connecticut for two-thirds of his life — three times the length of his time in Asia — still uses the word "Oriental."

It's always a casual reference. "This place used to be a Oriental restaurant," he'll say, as we drive by a boarded-up storefront that once was a Chinese take-out joint.

He doesn't use it in a derogatory way. It's just his go-to term for anything Asian, whether that's food, a business, a person, an idea. But I keep trying to get him to stop.

So you walk into the new Korean joint around the corner and discover that (gasp) the head chef is a white guy from Des Moines. What's your gut reaction? Do you want to walk out? Why?

The question of who gets to cook other people's food can be squishy — just like the question of who gets to tell other people's stories. (See: the whole controversy over the casting of the new Nina Simone biopic.)

Jeremy Arambulo, a Filipino-American comic artist who lives in Los Angeles, says he basically came out of the womb knowing the legend of Bruce Lee, the kung fu king. "He's like our Elvis," says Arambulo. "If we didn't have him, geez, who would we have? Charlie Chan? I don't know. Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's?"

Early one morning last weekend, Amrik Singh Bal, 68, was standing along a stretch of highway in Fresno, Calif., waiting for a ride to work. Two white men pulled up beside him, hollering obscenities out their window.

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