Monday, September 8, 2008

Are Chinese Adoptees "Chinese"?

The Frank Wu video made me think of our experience in China, and the girls standing out as "not quite Chinese." I posted this on May 15, 2007 (a conversation when I was invited to speak at an American Intellectual History seminar:

In the midst of all of this talking, I was explaining my last article to them – about the natural-born citizen clause of the U.S. Constitution – and the concept of “perpetual foreigner” in America (the fact that we tend to see people as belonging to their country of origin or perceived country of origin, rather than to America, even if they are American citizens). I used my mother as an example – the fact that she is perceived as French, rather than American, because of her French accent, despite the fact that she has been an American citizen over twice as long as she was a French citizen. And I said that my children are marked as foreign because of their appearance. But, I said, their appearance also marks them as foreign in China. People seem to be able to tell that they are not Chinese, but are American, even if I’m not around. So I asked HOW they can tell when someone is overseas Chinese. The students immediately said it was the clothes and the hair. And the professor, who has seen me walking through campus with the girls, said, “And your girls are too skinny to be Chinese children!” I said, “I know, but I promise I do feed them – despite what it looks like,” gesturing to my body, “I don’t eat ALL the food in the house myself!” The class roared with laughter, and the professor said, “You’ve just
seen a great example of American humor!”

Read more at Xiamen Adventure!

1 comment:

Wendy said...

Just think, you will always have a back-up career in comedy in China! lol

I agree, Madeline sees herself as Chinese and American and when I introduced the idea to her that when we visit the Chinese people will ask her where she is from, she was quite confused. I then explained that she will speak English and have different outfits and things from America and they will see her as American. She didn't like it one bit that she would not be Chinese! I then told her that she is a part of both and that was good, but also that she maybe seen as just one or the other. She now says when she is President she will change that; if attitude changing was only that easy.