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!”
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