A reader named Robin, who is Japanese American and born in Iowa and bakes apple pies, sent me this email:
“I was wincing yesterday when Martha Stewart asked an asian american woman in the audience (Sumi somethingorother, who baked an apple pie for Martha’s contest) “Where are you from?” and the woman said with no accent “Oh I’m from here…New York City.”. Martha continued with the (stereo)typical line of questioning something like ‘where are you really from because if you are from Asia it’s unusual to make an apple pie’. I don’t have it verbatim but it was painful. Just another “What ARE you?” type of conversation. I really don’t think Martha is a bigot but as she is the standard bearer of suburban white women I think it was totally disappointing for her to go down that path as if it were totally fine to question someone with Asian features about where they really come from.”
She sent a link to Martha Stewart’s page for the pie show, but there isn’t a video of the entire program, at least not yet. It looks like they only upload excerpts instead of entire shows, but I’ll keep an eye out for YouTube postings of this segment.
UPDATED: Today, Robin commented below on this blog post with a clarification:
“The video is up, check at the 2:00 minute mark:
“Verbatim it’s :
‘Where do you come from?’ (answer Here NYC)
‘Oh you do, oh, okay, because if you came from Asia this would not a typical pie, right?’ (answer ‘right…right…’ you can kind of hear the ‘what the heck!?’ in her tone)
“So it’s not as blatant as it struck me the first time but still the question and that type of follow up would be seen as really bizarre if she asked it of someone with a German name.”
It may not be as obnoxious as it could have been (I agree with Robin that Martha’s probably not a racist), but it still betrayed Stewart’s expectation that the audience member with an Asian face was a foreigner. She even sounded disappointed when the woman said she’s from New York, because Stewart wanted so badly to make her point about Asians not baking pies.