A friend of mine reblogged this post (http://jasonandtjpoon.wordpress.com/2012/02/21/my-ethnical-dilemma/) and I have to say, it ruined my morning. I’ve been trying to wrap my head around a response for some time now. The short summary is that this guy hoped that his mixed race daughter would look white because it would make her life easier , even though he wants her to embrace both sides of her heritage, Asian and white. I felt quite literally sick as I tried to wrap my head around the implications of the post– did he think that the racism and prejudice that she faces as an Asian American aren’t worth the awesomeness of being Asian American? Or does he want her to pass, but only outside of her home?
I don’t want to vomit up a bunch of nonsensical ramblings. But I don’t want to put up nothing for the next week because I’m wrestling with this. This is what I know so far:
Reading the post hurt me on a personal level. I don’t know the guy who wrote it, I’m sure he’s very well meaning and nice, but it brought up so many bad memories for me. Of trying to convince people that I am Asian and I am white. And having people decide my identity for me, based on how I look. I’m not white looking enough to pass for white, but from other friends’ experiences I know that its an uphill battle trying to convince people you’re not white when you look white. Passing may spare you the pain of being a person of color, but it’s at the price of all the good things that come with being a person of color, like a sense of community and belonging.
Not sharing race with your parents hurts. I have always very much wanted to look like my parents. I think if you look close enough, you can see the resemblance. But that doesn’t stop some people from from assuming that we’re strangers. Questions like “which one is your dad?” take on extra importance. It negates a sense of belonging.
Being mixed is a unique consciousness, one that varies a lot depending on how people treat you. And how people treat you depends on how you look. As a grown woman, with the ability to make my own decisions, I can clearly say that I would never want to pass. Not for fully Asian, not for fully white. Standing on the boundaries means taking some dirt and hurt from both communities, but to negate that experience would make me a different person. And I don’t think that person would be better.
And if I have a child, I don’t want them to be able to pass for something they’re not. The answer isn’t hiding. The answer is something like recognizing prejudice and doing something about it. And certainly not letting it control you.