‘You All Look The Same’: WOC Are Still Being Mistaken For One Another & I Thought We Were Beyond This

The #WrongAsian hashtag has been getting some attention in the past 24 hours after Liberal MP Fiona Martin denied confusing her Labor opponent, Sally Sitou with another Asian Australian woman during a radio segment.
During an on-air debate on 2GB on Wednesday, Martin claimed "Kristina Keneally kicked you out of Fowler too". It appeared to refer to Vietnamese Australian lawyer Tu Le being sidelined for Labor pre-selection in Fowler after the political party's decision to parachute Senator Kristina Keneally into the safe seat last September.
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Following the exchange, Chinese Australian Sitou clarified on Twitter that she'd "never sought to run for Fowler".
"Earlier today in a candidates’ debate, my opponent Fiona Martin accused me of having previously contested preselection in Fowler. I have never sought to run for Fowler. I live in Reid, my son goes to school in Reid, and I am excited by the opportunity to represent my community," she tweeted.
"My opponent either has me confused for a different Asian-Australian, or she is deliberately misleading people. Either way, she should apologise."
While Martin has since denied she mixed up two Asian Australian candidates, the incident reminds us that there are scenarios — even outside of politics — where women of colour are often mistaken for one another.
As a South Asian Australian woman, I recall attending a red carpet event a few years ago where I was mistaken by a publicist for the one other female brown journalist who worked in my department. "You must be Karishma?" they asked. "No, I'm Alicia," I responded. As much as they were overcome with embarrassment while delivering a grovelling apology at the time, it's I who feels triggered all these years later.
R29 producer and writer, Maggie Zhou can relate, saying, "Throughout my life, I've constantly been mistaken for other Asian women.
"It feels a bit humiliating and exasperating; a reminder that to others, I'm replaceable, forgettable and not unique. I know that it's usually an honest mistake but I wish people would think twice before making these comments."
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Asian Australian comedian, Lizzy Hoo has previously spoken about being mistaken for Asian American actor, Ali Wong.
"What’s not so inspiring, and I joke about this in my stand-up, is how some people at gigs have thought that I am actually Ali Wong," she wrote for SBS in 2019. "When an audience member asked me once if I was, I said 'Do you really think Netflix, sell-out stadium comedian Ali Wong would be playing the Padstow RSL for a $10 drink voucher? I don’t think so'."
It's an ongoing issue for Hoo, and her official description for her Sydney Comedy Festival show cheekily reminds us: "PS you have not seen her on Netflix – she is not Ali Wong. There are other female Asian comedians."
Speaking of Wong, when the US standup queen announced her separation from her husband of eight years, Justin Hakuta last month, her Always Be My Maybe co-star and on-screen love interest Randall Park was mistaken for Hakuta by some media publications.
In Australia, Who magazine magazine published a photo in 2019 of Ugandan Australian model Flavia Lazarus and incorrectly identified her as Sudanese Australian model Adut Akech alongside an interview with Akech.
"This has upset me, has made me angry, it has made me feel very disrespected and to me is unacceptable and inexcusable under any circumstances," Akech wrote on Instagram at the time.
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"Not only do I personally feel insulted and disrespected but I feel like my entire race has been disrespected too and it is why I feel it is important that I address this issue. Whoever did this clearly the thought that was me in that picture and that’s not okay.
"It goes to show that people are very ignorant and narrow minded that they think every black girl or African people looks the same."
Who magazine later apologised, explaining "the agency that set up our interview with Adut Akech supplied us with the wrong photograph to accompany the piece".
But this doesn't just happen in politics or the media — the #WrongAsian hashtag for starters demonstrates how rampant this is in workplaces and social settings across the board.
As Labor senator Penny Wong put it when responding to the incident between Martin and Sitou: "Seriously, how is this still happening in 2022? I thought we were beyond 'you all look the same'."
It's 2022, and while we're having more mainstream conversations about addressing overt racism like derogatory slurs and hate crimes, it's important to remember theses microaggressions play just as great a role in making us feel like the 'other'.
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