“I have seen something else under the sun:
The race is not to the swift
or the battle to the strong,
nor does food come to the wise
or wealth to the brilliant
or favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all.”
Before our son was born, my husband and I had a conversation on our porch, following the election. At first, I thought things would be fine, being that I wasn’t a fan of what was going to happen under either candidate. All I could do at the end of it was to hope for the best, regardless of who won.
Then the week went by, and I watched the chaos and unrest from the left, and I saw the emboldened hatred of those on the far/alt-right. I saw racism take a sharp peak across the board towards minorities, black, Hispanic, Middle-Eastern, and Asian. I was called a “brownie” by an old white man crossing my path, in broad daylight when I was traveling alone(side note: I might easily be one of the lightest skinned Asians to have been called a “brownie” before.)
My husband is white, and I am Asian.
My son’s mixed heritage made me worry about his well-being and future in this world.
As a young girl, I grew up not understanding why I was called a “chink” or a “gook”. I didn’t even know what a “gook” was until my older siblings informed me. Eventually, I sort of understood the whole “chink” thing, something about slanted or small eyes… neither of which I have, but the association was that it was derogatory for Asian.
Understanding how genetics work, I knew that our son would not have my husband’s dirty blonde, light brown hair, or his blue eyes. Although, because of my own features, light skin, large eyes, ambiguously Western and Eastern features, I wasn’t sure how Asian our son would look either. All I knew was that I had some trepidation about how he would be treated if he looked any bit foreign at all.
The problem is, for some people, one does not have to appear overtly ethnic to be considered different, or “other”, enough to be looked down upon.
So I had some real concerns for our son, that he might grow up dealing with some of the same things I did as a kid, and not understanding why I was being treated differently or like a lesser person, just because I was Asian. Now, with people feeling more emboldened by a President who failed to condemn this sort of behavior from his supporters during his campaign, I had some fears that my son’s experience would be worse than my own.
Though Trump did come out and tell his supporters to, “STOP IT!” I didn’t feel entirely assuaged. It felt like something along the lines of the floodgates being opened, and what I’ve learned is that it’s oft easier to prevent a mess than to clean it up.
But when our son was born, these trepidations were put aside for new ones.
Because our son is white. He has brown eyes and brown hair, but this very white skinned baby has his father’s nose, and very large eyes. I am almost certain, this boy will likely never be confused for anything but a different kind of Anglo-Saxon or European(French/German).
So, now, instead of having to help my son navigate through the waters of racism in America and dealing with being treated unfairly or differently because of the color of our skin? I have to somehow help him navigate through a place of both racial and socioeconomic privilege, both things that I did not grow up with, nor did his father recognize that he had until much later in life.
Yet my understanding and acknowledgment of both racial and socioeconomic privilege does not undercut anyone’s ability to be subject to a challenging position in life, or to offer a valid opinion on something that they have not necessarily experienced first-hand.
Imagine my horror, watching far leftist pundits dismiss questions or critique from a person purely for being a “white man”. I understand that for centuries, in Europe and North America, as well as parts of Africa, the white man has been a figure of dominance and power, but I do believe we are in an age where one should be judged based on the merits of their character and not the color of their skin.
The way I am treated by those ignorant and unable to reconcile that character and skin color are not inherently linked, I do not wish upon my child. In fact, I do not wish that upon anyone, or anyone else’s child. So why would I be okay with this sort of discrimination in any way, shape, or form, whether its toward myself, or a white, or black, or Hispanic person?
My child is now this hybrid, that can be hated for his mother’s heritage, of which he had no control, or can be hated for his appearance, because years of oppression somehow justify this “eye for an eye” behavior, that which he also could not control.
I’m not really sure what to do about all of this, as a mother. I think the only things I can do is to raise my son to be kind, do the right thing, and stand where he needs to.
The Bible verse at the top of this post, Ecc. 9:11 is one of my favorites, and one of the most humbling. It reminds me that life happens to us all, and we should take heed to do well with whatever it is that we do have control over, in the time that we have.
Maybe it’s just important that we all learn to see color for what it is, and disallow it from veiling the character of the person beneath that. Because I see it everyday, that my son is the future: a world where “colored” is too ambiguous a term to label anyone, because it encompasses everyone. That’s the important thing about race, that we must acknowledge the role it played in our history, and how that impacts us as a society now, so that we might do better for the future.