Blood Quantum and the Politics of Looking

In the realm of mixed race, what you look like matters a lot. No matter who you are on the inside, culturally or linguistically or politically, people treat you the way you look. This isn’t news, but it still matters. Generally I’m all for preserving culture and self identifying, and I know this sounds bad, but is there a point at which a person should stop trying to make their children Asian American?

The question goes back to the problem with defining Asian America. Asian America is a loose definition, originally designed to unite different ethnic groups into one powerful political group. That means that we can define who’s in and who’s out to preserve that political power and sense of community.

Does cultural identity fade as visible ethnic markers fade? There might not be a reliable formula for it, but I would say yes. If you have three white grandparents and one Asian grandparent, it goes to reason that the influence of the Asian grandparent might be less than the other three combined. Things get more complicated when the mixes get more complicated, and if you have a mixed race parent who strongly identifies with their Asian (American)ness. But I don’t think its an unreasonable expectation.

But should we consciously let go of cultural markers when our children stop looking Asian? If a woman who’s a quarter Asian has a child who’s an eighth Asian, should she let that child assimilate into white America?

No. I don’t think the kid should only identify as Asian American, that seems a bit disingenuous to his/her white heritage, but why let other peoples’ perceptions rob you of a unique cultural heritage?


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