Thursday, March 22, 2012

Different Racisms

An important essay, by an Asian adoptee, about racism affecting Asian-Americans:
My senior year in Chapel Hill, I finally got up the courage to take a course in Asian American literature. Stupidly, I treated it as a little experiment. As an adoptee, I had grown up with white parents in a white town in rural Connecticut. My only knowledge of Asian culture was Chinese food and, when I was growing up, a number of meetings of adopted children that still haunt me, though I realize that my parents had my best interests at heart. They had taken me to these meetings for connection, but what I remember was the disconnect: the awkwardness of forced interaction between children who thought of themselves as white and didn’t want to be shown otherwise. We hated being categorized as adoptees, or I did and I read those feelings into the others, who to me did not seem friendly, or familiar, only more strange for their yellow faces.

Those meetings made me feel classified by my parents as other. One of the things I most remember from that time (and from books like We Adopted You, Benjamin Koo) is the common experience that the adopted child has when one day he looks into the mirror and all of a sudden realizes that his skin color is not the same as his parents’. Up until that moment, he sees himself as white (in the case that the parents are white). I saw myself as white. When I closed my eyes, or when I was in a conversation and seemed to be watching from above, I was a skinny white boy, a combination of my parents, just like other kids. Sometimes, if I am being honest, I still catch myself looking down at my conversations with white people and picturing myself, in that strange ongoing record in my head, as no different from them.
The essay goes beyond memoir, as important as that is, addressing larger issues of racism against Asian Americans:
The truth is, racism toward Asians is treated differently in America than racism toward other ethnic groups. This is a truth all Asian Americans know. While the same racist may hold back terms he sees as off-limits toward other minorities, he will often not hesitate to call an Asian person a chink, as Jeremy Lin was referred to, or talk about that Asian person as if he must know karate, or call him Bruce Lee, or consider him weak or effeminate, or so on. Bullying against Asian Americans continues at the highest rate of any ethnic group.
A must read for adoptive parents of Asian kids -- actually, a must read for EVERYONE.  Please, read the whole thing.

1 comment:

Karen said...

So far, with our daughter (adopted from China as a baby) being almost 8 yrs old, she has not experienced racism, that I'm aware of. However, I have seen some posts on FB and other social formats, which are very racist. One was from a FB friend who regularly posts about God, and inspirational posts. I had to do a double take when I saw that he posted something that gave "Asian terms" for particular things...I don't recall the exact post now, but it was something along the lines of:
You smell bad = He du poo poo
and other horrid terms on the list.
I thought of only three things after reading this post
1. You really think that's funny?
2. You are a man "of God", how can you actually pass this post on?
3. If anyone were to post something like this about another ethnicity, it would be considered (at the very least) in bad taste, if not called out for being racist.

I completely agree with the author that for some reason, compared to other racist comments people seem to tolerate and even accept degrading comments about Asians.