When I think Lexington, I think of the crazily dedicated guys dressing up and reenacting revolutionary battles, you know, like the battle of Lexington. Not that I went to watch them, but I pictured a field of Benjamin Franklin reenactors running at each other with fake muskets and blunted bayonets. So I totally admit, when I saw a headline for a Chinese American reenactor my first though was “Hey, I wonder if I know him? Because then the only Minute Man I know would be an Asian American one!”
Mourn the day, I do not know Henry Liu. Still, his story on PRI is a pretty cute story about a history buff who dresses up like a colonial captain. Here’s a guy who thought that a group of guys playing colonial dress up wouldn’t want him because a Chinese guy wouldn’t look very historical. But then they totally did! Because inclusion shouldn’t be a big deal.
Does that post-ironic combination of spelled-out # and nineties catchphrase adequately identify me as part of the “post-racial” millennial generation that the New York Times is identifying as decidedly non-post-racial? Might we simply say that we, like our American ancestors are still a racialized society? One student in the articles says that colorblind would be a nice goal, even if its unrealistic. Personally, I am not a fan of colorblind. Colorblind leads to weekends like the one I had recently:
Saturday– at a local museum, an older, African American woman came up to me and my friend and asked if we had tried the interactive part of the exhibit. We looked at each other and replied “No, not yet. Etc., etc.” She seemed a confused. Maybe we looked confused? Nope. She tried again slowly and loudly “No English?” Didn’t we just reply to her in English? We tried again. “Yes, but we just got here. We’ll take a look at it later.” Instead of replying, she walked away.
That’s an uncomfortable situation, no doubt. Unfortunately, things like that do happen. How we respond matters.
Monday– I told a few people about the woman at the museum. To my disappointment, reactions broke into two camps: white people and people of color. White people, in my small and unscientific sample, recognized the situation as uncomfortable and confusing. People of color identified the situation with racial assumptions– the woman connected my physical features with those of a foreigner rather than an American. So when I spoke American English, this woman treated me like a foreigner. Despite my mixed heritage, she saw me as an Asian, not a mixed race American.
So, no, we’re not post racial. And pretending that we are doesn’t make make it so.
That’s a long, descriptive, and yet totally boring title, isn’t it?
But I shouldn’t hate on such an encouraging and potentially useful project. Native Hawaiian and PI populations are considered to small to be “statistically significant” and are overlooked in national surveys (or lumped in with Asian American, which can be good, bad, or both, depending on the situation and the person giving you their opinion). Data collection begins this February (2014) and should be available in the summer of 2015. Read the whole press release and give three cheers for disaggregated data that may lead to more targeted information/services for NH and PI communities. From the press release:
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders comprise just 0.4 percent of the total U.S. population, which makes it difficult to include them in sufficient numbers in most national population-based health surveys. The lack of reliable health data for this population has made it difficult to assess their health status and health care utilization. However, the available data for this population indicates that they experience significant health disparities when compared to other groups.
“CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics regards this project as a major step forward in providing much needed health data about the ethnically and culturally diverse U.S. population,” said Charles Rothwell, NCHS director.
Listening to Obama eulogize Nelson Mandela, I thought about what an extraordinary man Mandela was. It’s a common theme this week. For me, I’m struck by his commitment to love and forgiveness. Its quite a man who’s able to forgive his jailers and oppressors, and try to convince an entire country to do the same. Love. In the wake of our loss of Nelson Mandela I’ve been thinking about how powerful, how amazingly revolutionary love can be. Not just for our personal relationships but also as a strategy in our work towards social justice and equality.
Then, as if by serendipity, I read this from The Last Word on Nothing in an article about a prototype incubator for premie babies:
But when Chen began her field studies of the technology in action, she found that doctors had thousands of patients and couldn’t spare the time to ensure the bags were being used correctly. The people to reach, realized Chen, were the mothers. Love was a great motivator for compliance. (Italics mine)
Love is a great motivator.
Those Beautiful Children
As a member of the mixed race club, I deal with people’s reactions to my appearance all the time. When I came across Callahan’s ruminations on rude/insensitive/ignorant remarks from a parent’s perspective, I thought “How wonderful it is to know that parents think about these things. That they want to help their children navigate their racial identity with honesty and self affirmation.
Here comes the big however.
A study (1) published in the June issue of the Journal of Asian American Studies suggests that the racial identity of children carried more weight/worry for Asian American mothers of mixed race children than it does for white fathers. It’s a small-sample, qualitative study of dual-professional mixed marriages. I’d love to read more about different permutations of interracial marriages, across class lines, and with a wider geographic dispersion. Because its an interesting conversation. Let’s continue that conversation, asking questions like:
How does my personal racial identity affect my choice of life partners?
How does my personal racial identity, and that of my partner, affect my children’s identity?
What are the compounding factors that make this conversation even more complex?
1. Chong, K. H.(2013). Relevance of Race: Children and the Shifting Engagement with Racial/Ethnic Identity among Second-Generation Interracially Married Asian Americans. Journal of Asian American Studies 16(2), 189-221. The Johns Hopkins University Press. Retrieved August 20, 2013, from Project MUSE database.
About a year ago, Private Danny Chen of the United States Army committed suicide. His higher ups and peers used his race to single him out–calling him racial slurs, throwing rocks at him, and forcing him to shout orders to his “American” platoon in Chinese. Some felt that this racialized hazing was uncalled for and something should have been done before he killed himself (myself included). Others felt that if Chin wanted to be in the Army that badly, he should have toughened up.
Now seven of the eight soldiers involved in his case have been sentenced. The staff sergeant (who gave the orders to haze Chin) and sergeant (who did nothing to stop the hazing) involved have both been sentenced to 60 days of hard labor, minus 45 for days already served and a reduction in rank.
Talk about good journalism, and getting people to read your story, check out this headline:
CORNEL WEST PLANS TO VOTE FOR OBAMA IN NOVEMBER AND PROTEST HIS POLICIES IN FEBRUARY
Bam. Of course I read the article! A headline like that, on one level it’s hilarious and ridiculous (Come on, Cornel, make up your mind! Do you support him or don’t you? What a bad stereotype of activism–no one’s ever so good that there isn’t a reason for outrage, huh?). But if there’s one thing I can say about Cornel West, he can make himself understood. He can turn a phrase. This is how he explained his position (as opposed to the headline’s):
A Romney administration would be a catastrophic response to an already catastrophic condition. I still get in a lot of trouble with my left-wing comrades on this—that I would still support Obama winning while continuing to tell the truth about drones dropping bombs on innocent people, which I consider war crimes, about the Wall Street government, about the refusal to close Guantanamo, about [section] 1021 of the National Authorization Act where you can detain citizens without trial or even assassinate citizens based on the decisions of the executive branch. All of those things to me are morally obscene. It’s a matter of telling that truth, strategically. I think we have to ensure that we don’t have a takeover by conservative right-wing or we’re in a world of trouble.
Amid a frothing sea of election related information overload, a good headline is un-ignore-able.