Sunday, September 7, 2008

Open Thread

Comment on the video clips in the Why We Go To Chinese School post -- or on anything else you feel like talking about!


mimifrancoise said...

The comments that Frank Wu makes hit home with me. When I go to France, I look like the French (whatever that is!) but people there look at me as "you are not from around here", as my clothes are different, the space I occupy is different, and my lack of regional accent pegs me as a foreigner. By the same token, even though I have been in this country for over 50 years, as soon as I open my mouth, it is obvious I am a foreigner and I get many questions, the mildest one being " where are you from?"
The one question I have been asked, after a few minutes conversation is " What language are you speaking?" to which I answered ? "I was hoping I was speaking English." Grrrr. So I know what it feels like to not belong in France and not belong in the US. When I was younger it did bother me, but now it really does not. I , in fact, feel sorry for the poor ignorant schnook who has never been anywhere and feels so superior to the " damn furner". I should make a list of the stupid questions/comments I have been asked over the years. Malinda, you do remember once when you were 16 y/o and we were given a tour of the hospital at Sheppard AFB. The young ignorant airman made a comment and you looked at me. (I sensed you saying please mother don't make a scene.) I was good and did not say a word. It was a derogatory comment about foreigners. I laugh about it now, but I did not laugh then.

malinda said...

I don't remember the event you're talking about -- and I wish I could say that my look was "please mother make a BIG scene!" But given my preference for being invisible at 16, I'm sure you read it right. I do remember Lisa Honey's mother saying she couldn't come over to our house any more because my mother was a "damn foreigner." I was angry about that for years.

Wendy said...

Thank you for sharing your stories and I would have been damn mad too!

I couldn't hear much of what the last guy said over the sound of my laptop and fan, no speakers for me; however, I do agree that we cannot "give" a complete culture to our kids. I do think that it is important to surround them with people who share their experience and those of the same ethnic heritage. They will never be "Chinese" in respect to those who are raised in China and as things stand today, they will receive the comments as mentioned (where are you from?) and will encounter people who treat them as second class Americans because they were not born here (irritating!).
Madeline started Chinese school yesterday and loved it! You could see that she was proud to be a part of her surrounding and ready to be the majority in the room. We give her Chinese traditions, but we also try to keep her current with what her peers in China are doing, and popular music among Asian Americans (which we will increase as she ages with cool magazines, music, movies, etc.) We are not plugged in to the "cool" among Asian kids so Chinese school will help her with that as well when she is older--there are kids who were born here, immigrated at different times, and who were adopted.
I am something is better than nothing, but for us just parading around an FCC event or two at CNY or the Moon Festival does not giving culture make. It is an effort for those of us who do not have a large Asian population around, but one that is important. I was raised with diversity and making friends of every ethnicity was easy, we didn't chose our friends that way, but living here it makes for awkward moments since when we find a family we try to befriend them (strange) and hope we would be friends anyway. Finding the Chinese school (although over an hour away) has eased much of the strangeness, again we can be friends for more than making sure our daughter has people who look like her to turn too. We, of course, have more friends than that and find friendships from many backgrounds! I know it sounds bizarre as written, but I hope my point is coming across in a not so one-sided way.

Anonymous said...

I've been pondering the comments in the videos along with thinking about my own experience growing up, and trying to project to my two Chinese daughters' future.

I was born in Asia to Caucasian-American parents who were missionaries. We lived in several countries where people were in extreme poverty and for my growing up years I was a (priveleged) minority. Most of the population had brown skin and eyes and black hair. I had blonde hair and blue eyes. I knew I stood out in Asia because I looked different, but I did not fit when we would return to the United States, even though I looked "American". My experience was so different - I didn't understand the affluence I saw here, or the cultural cues I encountered. I dressed differently, I didn't know the TV shows, the foods, the music, etc. I felt like a fish out of water most of the time. It was painful when I was young. Now, as an adult, I am grateful. I know I have a range of experiences and perspectives that most people who grow up in one place and one culture don't have. On the other hand, I connect on the deepest level only with other children of missionaries. They are my "culture." This is such a common phenomenon that we have been labeled "Third culture kids." I believe this is also the case among children raised in military families who travel.

The reason I'm sharing all this is that I wonder if it will be similar for our Chinese-American daughters. They might not fit comfortably into Caucasion-American culture, or Chinese culture, or even Chinese-American culture (children born into Chinese-American families), but they will create a culture of their own as Chinese adoptees. They will share that experience with each other and it can be a source of rich connection and comfort, as my shared experiences with other Americans raised overseas are to me. Because of this, I believe that organizations such as FCC are extremely important, so that our kids can get together with others who share their "culture." Hardly a week goes by here in the DFW area that I don't meet someone else who has adopted from China. Our kids will have quite a few peers who share their experience. I have tried to expose my two daughters (age 8 &5)to Chinese culture and language through books, travel, language classes, attending a Chinese church, and making Chinese and Chinese-American friends. My daughters have been either indifferent or downright resistant to my efforts. I have decided I'm not going to force it - they will never be culturally Chinese. They will need to find their own comfort level with their background, and I will follow their lead and support any effort they make. I think they might find that comfort more with other adoptees than with anything else I can provide for them. I'm sure there will be things they encounter that will be painful, but I hope they will eventually feel that they have a unique and valuable perspective on the world because of their experience as adoptees, just as I have a unique perspective on the world because of my unusual upbringing.

Sorry this is so long - couldn't stop once I got going...