One White Face – Thoughts on Race

Colorblind – A glimpse into race in the U.S. and abroad is an API blog series that looks at racial issues and concerns faced by API students, colleagues, and staff abroad. This post is by Hilary Corna, motivational speaker and author of the critically acclaimed book One White Face.

“I hope you realize you’re the one white face of the company,” one of the top Toyota bosses said to me.

After buying a one-way ticket to Singapore to pursue a pipe dream of launching my career abroad, I’d just started working my first real job with Toyota in Singapore. We were in the middle of my first official meeting when he said this.

“Thank you,“ was all I could think to respond. Three years later, I would have just nodded in acceptance

Over the past four months, I’ve been on a college campus book and speaking tour promoting this story and my book, One White Face, quoted from the Toyota boss. One of the questions I get asked the most is, “Hilary, what was it like working as the only Caucasian?”

What a complex question, I always think. Working as the only Caucasian was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. Here are a few things I learned:

1) Everyone is in search for their identity

Whether you’re one Singaporean face, one sad face, one lonely face, one ambitious face…You can replace white with any adjective you wish to describe someone, internally or externally. The real significance of this phrase is not here though—it’s in “one face”. No matter who you are, we all have one face, one identity that we are trying to understand. We have one path we are all trying to find and live up to.

Yet we still continue to define people by these adjectives.

2) People are not defined by what you see on the outside

I may be white but often I felt I could relate more to Asians then my friends back home. Sometimes I was sad, sometimes I was happy. Sometimes my face was energetic, sometimes it was weary. Please don’t judge me for a moment in time. Judge me for who I am as a person. We should spend less time criticizing people and more time compassionately trying to understand them. Ultimately, by doing so, we help them on this journey to further discover their identity.

The truth is though…

3) We are all human

I even catch myself criticizing Asians based on stereotypes even though I know them well. When we get in ruts, we react. We get defensive and argumentative. However, it’s not our true selves. Deep down, at the end of the day, we all want the same thing. We all want to be able to support our family, to be a good friend and spouse, to love and be loved. We all want to be happy.

So let’s help each other despite our cultural differences. We are in this together.

Another question I frequently receive tour is, “Hilary, what do you think he really meant by that question?”

After the big boss coined me as the “one white face”, I took my seat again and tried to focus as the meeting continued, but his comment had put a splinter in my heart. What was I thinking, moving halfway across the world to work for a foreign car manufacturer?

As the meeting progressed, I plucked the splinter and attempted to think more positively. The big boss wasn’t telling me he didn’t want me there. He was making a statement to help me understand my situation. The company had taken a risk in hiring me; it was up to me to prove I was worth it. I would have to overcome the barriers of race, gender, and nationality.

Don’t we all?

If you are interested in purchasing One White Face please note that API Blog readers can receive a discount by ordering here and entering the following discount code “P554X5B4”

Hilary is half-way through her 2011-2012 book tour which you can learn more about here.  If you are interested in having Hilary come to your campus you can find additional information and contact information in the previous link.

You can also follow Hilary Corna / OneWhiteFace.com on Facebook, Twitter and on YouTube!

You can see Hilary speaking at a TEDxYouth event http://tedxcolumbus.com/events/tedxyouthcolumbus/ below:

Author, Speaker, & Kaizen Leader, Hilary Corna – @Hilarycorna

One White Face is Hilary’s first book. She is a Speaker and former Kaizen leader for Toyota in Singapore where a Toyota executive once claimed she “has the power to earn the trust of gemba (frontline staff).” Hilary is a 2003 Coca Cola Scholar, studied at Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka, Japan, graduated from Elon University with a BS in International Business, a BA in Asian/Pacific Studies and a minor in Japanese. She has been featured ForbesWoman, in Pearson’s 2011 Business Communication textbook, worked in six Asian countries, and traveled to even more. Hilary speaks conversational Japanese and resides in Columbus, Ohio.

E: [email protected]

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