July 14, 2015: Disclaimer: I’m no expert, but I’m a mom and teacher operating in my spaces situated in history. I’m not here to invalidate anyone truly willing to dialogue with me, because:
1. I am a real person.
2. My sons are real people.
3. My politics are personal and the personal is political. There’s context.
4. I work and exist in many spaces: Asian American, Toisan, Chinese, immigrant, feminist, straight, LGTBQ, brown, black, liberal, even some conservative, mostly post-colonial and my most new spaces are white spaces. because life… but I am not a cultural relativist. Nor am I an Anglo-phile or an imperialist sympathizer. Nor do I hate my Asian American brothers. Accusations of that nature will not get the light of day on this blog post. (Nor do I hate being Chinese American or Asian American or Asian and want to infect my sons with internalized racism and self-hatred.)
4.5 (and as for Asian American woman privilege, I do want to expand on that critique and also give space in my responses about my relationship with my kids’ white/Italian NYC type of father…but, why colonize my life with your presuppositions about me? And to respond to the many comments about my rejecting Asian men “all my life”; I have never dated a white dude prior to my kids’ father. I only dated Asian American men by choice (personal and political) and social geography helped–Yayy Area! Moving to NYC really changed my social geography and because LIFE! ) Please, complicate the shit! For those that have or have tried to, I appreciate it…honestly ( even if I may have incensed you with this post–I’m a blogger who posted like 3 posts prior to this one…so I know there’s room for growth. So, there is so much room for dialogue and context building if anyone is actually interested in that…I’m unsure as of right now.)
5. My time here is limited as I am off the summer running after my sons who are napping right now. I’m also new to this universe. My Android phone is like 2nd generation old and has no memory and I just learned about Reddit, like a few months ago.
6. So this blog post is definitely limited–so that’s why I’ll respond more in-depth in a later post if anyone actually cares–kids’ naps are almost up.
Thanks for reading thus far.
My biracial sons are turning out to be quite Asian looking. I can’t help but wonder what life would be like for them had they looked more white, like their dad. I won’t lie and say, while these babies were growing in my belly, that I hadn’t hoped that they would come out a racial melange. What if they looked straight Chinese, like me?
As they get bigger each day, it is becoming more and more apparent that they look like two cute little Asian boys.
Boy, did we miss something BIG here? Did my sons miss the chance to snag the coveted golden ticket of whiteness?! So close yet so far?! Did they win the ticket to the chocolate factory but forget to wake up in time for the tour?
Edit: If I ever imagined I’d be spitting such tragic colonial rhetoric, I would admit that I never knew fear until I had kids.
Do I think my kids’ will have an easier life as white men as opposed to being seen as Asian? Yes.
Is this fucked up? Yes. Racism is fucked up.
For instance, what if they grow up to be short but they LOVE playing basketball like their father did as a kid? Would I be blamed for this due to my 5’ 1” stature in their myopic adolescent tirades? Their Chinese grandfather barely clears 5’ 3”. And yes, their father is southern Italian, so not much of the tall genes there either, but we all know the Asian will be blamed for this genetic demerit. Man, my sons will be pissed once they realize they’ve inherited my physical stature, right? In due time, they will be reminded of this.
These were the common thoughts a subversive Asian American mommy like me pondered as other mothers-to-be were planning what sheets they wanted to buy for their babies’ cribs to match other window coverings.
Mothers of color worry about these things. We worry about crib sheets too, but we do not have the option to be colorblind in either case.
I’ve even uttered the common refrain that mixed Asian + white kids are just the cutest and always a winning combination to stay status quo. Now that I see my sons look more Asian, have I somehow upheld the racial status quo, or do I work consciously to subvert racial hierarchies?
So I pose the thought: how will perceptions of my biracial sons shape their experiences? What will they be asked throughout their lifetime as perceived Asian men as opposed to white men? The inspiration behind this post came when I read an account of this white father who shared (In light of the emerging mass protests against the murders of unarmed black men at the hands of police officers.) what he could do as a white man that his black son may not have so easily accessible to him. And this reporter who penned a letter to her daughter to prepare her for the inevitable experiences with discrimination, captured the melancholy of racism. Then what about these twin sisters, one white and one black but twinnies nonetheless!
Here are 7 things my biracial sons will be asked throughout their lifetime because they look more Asian than white:
- Being asked if they speak English.
This may not happen until they look old enough to know how to explain directions to someone. Furthermore, this will only need to happen once for them to realize that to some people, they don’t look like they belong here in America.
- Being asked if they speak Chinese or Japanese or Korean…
My two sons have an Asian-looking mom who speaks broken Chinese. Most people will think my sons are either Chinese, Japanese or Korean. At some point in their lives, they will be asked if they speak any of the trifecta of East Asian languages. It pays to be on safe side and have all bases covered when one makes cultural assumptions. I’m not sure if my sons will learn Chinese on their own, but I’m quite sure that they are not going to learn the language from me, as sorry as that may sound.
- Being asked to be the expert of all things Asian.
Since they look more Asian they are then by default the expert on all things Asian. They will be asked why people at “Chinese food” places don’t eat the food they cook. They will be asked what the weather is like in China and why Chinese people eat that weird shit. It won’t be a surprise to me if they’ll be asked if they are sympathetic to communists. They may be asked what snuff jars are or who Li Bo was. They may even be asked to quote Confucius, every Chinese person’s dad. Maybe they’ll even know the answers–which would be awesome, but it’s likely they may even be chastised for not knowing any of the answers to the questions for which they are being asked.
- Being asked if they eat cats, dogs, rhino’s, and dragons.
Okay, I’ll make a half-hearted concession. For the average American palate, Asian cuisine contains some weird shit. Stuff with bones it in, scales, eyes, necks, vegetables, creepy crawly things that you dry and mash up with a mortar and pestle and then drink it up in the name of health. And yes, there are regions in many parts of Asia where the consumption of what the average American treats solely as pets as opposed to food in the meat aisle, is rather normative. So, it is likely, my sons will be asked whether they’ve tried canines or cats because it is a joke so often echoed under the breath of the person ordering that sesame chicken or General Tso’s. Ha. Ha. It’s a knee-slapper. Racism is so funny! What my sons will have to learn; however, is that such questions are really just declarations confirming how otherworldly or unassimilable the people making the food or behind the counter, appears to the customer. My sons may be that person behind the counter or at least look a lot like him frying up that rat.
- Being asked if they have small penises.
We can measure (excuse the pun) the likelihood of this happening by the level of how “Asian” they look. The inheritance of the trope of the emasculated Asian man born with a small penis depends on what is on the surface more than what’s under those tighty whiteys (excuse the pun).
- Being asked if their penis size is attributed to their Italian side.
Say they are heavily endowed. Their partners may, by default, assume that their European genes gifted them with generous genitalia. That would explain it. End of story.
- Being asked where they are from (and they don’t mean what city).
The question that starts it all. They may develop a nervous tick because of this question. Again, being asked this is just confirmation that my sons’ facial features remind people that they look like they may be from somewhere else…like Shandong, China or Kamakura, Japan. My sons will have to develop creative responses to this question like, “New York City.”