Friday, August 20, 2010

"Mom, do you have an ethnic group?"

While doing her Social Studies homework last night, Zoe was copying definitions from the glossary of the book onto index cards.  After finishing the card for "ethnic group," she asked, "Mom, do you have an ethnic group?"

I had't seen the definition, so I asked her first to read it to me so I'd better understand what she was asking.  It was something like "people whose ancestors came from the same place."  OK, now I know what I'm dealing with (sort of!).

I answered, "Well, I'm half French and half I'm-not-sure, since we're not exactly sure where Grandpa's ancestors came from -- probably Scotts/Irish/English."

And then I returned the question -- "How about you -- do you have an ethnic group?"

Her answer, "Well, I'm half Chinese and I'm half you, so I guess I'm part French and 'I don't know,' too."

Hmmm.  So we talked about whether ancestors in this context means biological relationships, in which case she is fully Chinese.  Zoe was adamant that Mimi is her ancestor, and Mimi's mom is her ancestor, so clearly her ancestors are French. 

And then, good Catholic school girl that she is, she decided that she and Jesus share an ethnic group since we call him the Father!

It's interesting watching Zoe try to define her identity -- last year, her answer to a similar question was, "No, I'm Chinese. But I know some French culture."

I blogged before about ancestry and adoption -- I'm not sure that my ambivalence on the issue has really changed, but I did enjoy re-reading the comments to that post.  Go take a look, and let me know what you think -- are Zoe and Maya French?  And since we're related, am I Chinese?

7 comments:

Elizabeth@Romans8:15 said...

this is totally unrelated, but did you hear the interview on NPR this morning with Scott Simon (host of morning edition on Saturdays)? He wrote a book called, "baby we were meant for each other" or something like that about his adoption of 2 girls from China.

He told a story about getting asked by a "very well learned woman" if he didn't feel badly for taking the girls away from their culture. He seemed pretty indignant that anyone would even dare to go there with him which surprised me since I feel that guilt all the time...and openly. Interesting.

kantmakm said...

I heard that interview and was pretty surprised by the following line:
"best not to invest too much of one's identity in ethnicity."

I'm guessing his oldest has not yet gotten to the Social Studies assignment that Zoe was working on...

I also found it interesting that he included the "fact" that his daughter's first mother loved her and wanted to keep her in her abandonment story. I guess it is possible that they have birthfamily contact and know this to be true *shrug*

I'm thinking perhaps he should be reading more books on IA rather than writing them...

Elizabeth@Romans8:15 said...

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129301982

this is the link to the story....

Mei Ling said...

You aren't Chinese just because you legally adopted them. :\

JBH said...

Interesting dialogue all around...

I'm kind of stumped on the questions you raise.

I think there is a definite distinction between genetic ancestry and cultural heritage. Zoe may come to her own realization later in life about this.

But the Assignment's definition seems to address the genetic ancestry only.

I'll write more about my personal experience on my blog...in answer to your questions...

P.S. I'll also comment about Scott Simon's NPR clip, too...my mom told me about it!

YoonSeon said...

I can totally relate to Zoe's saying she's part French. Although I don't think now that I'm Italian, Maltese, Irish and... whatever else my adoptive parents are, that's what I considered myself to be when I was a child because that's what I saw. Just by being the people we always see, you APs have a lot of power in the creation of your child's identity... it's amazing how much we pick up just from SEEING instead of BEING.

LisaLew said...

Agree with Mei-Ling, you ain't Chinese. I say that lovingly, since I know you threw it out only for discussion.

Sydney knows she has ancestors in China and ancestors in the United States. Ethnicity: Chinese American.
Zoe and Maya are from a family that has Chinese ancestors, French ancestors, etc. Zoe totally gets the biological clarification, and it's obvious this is all about identity (as you stated).

We are all ancestors of Adam and Eve, so doesn't that make us all distantly biologically related?
To those who disagree: telling our girls that they are not part of us, our family that was formed by adoption, is dishonest.