Tag Archives: chink

A Hard Look

Two days ago, my husband posted something that was painfully honest, and beautiful. I read and re-read his post and each time became more emotional over it. I am brought to tears by the pain that he has experienced, yet I’m so impressed with his resilience. That Jason desires not to shield our daughter, but to raise her to see injustice and to fight against apathy puts an appreciation in my heart that I cannot describe.

It also shames me.

Just five days ago, ESPN came under fire for a seemingly-racist headline on its mobile site. The outcry against them was swift, and it was strong. When I woke up on Saturday morning and came down to join Jason and Eden in the kitchen, he caught me up on what had happened and I viewed it for myself.

“Maybe he didn’t mean it that way.”

What?

“Well, it seems like a pretty commonly used expression. It does have a literal meaning. Maybe he wasn’t actually referring to Jeremy Lin as the ‘chink’… maybe it just describes the Knicks.”

There’s a picture of Jeremy Lin right above the headline.

“Yeah, but who knows if the same person even chooses that. I mean, the author of the article could’ve written about the Knicks having a chink in their armor, meaning they lost, and then someone else could’ve chosen the picture without realizing it.”

*long pause*… Why are you so determined to defend this?

I wish I could say that I stopped there, but I was actually pretty annoyed. It seemed like maybe he was jumping to conclusions, and that maybe there was nothing to it after all. I tried to soothe my husband by insisting that I believed it was horrible either way, and that even if it was two different people who wrote the article and chose the picture, the editor certainly should have caught it. I wasn’t saying it shouldn’t mean anything, but I wasn’t sure it should mean everything.

I’m so embarrassed by my response.

I didn’t get it.

It took me a few hours, actually, until Jason’s words lodged themselves firmly in my conscience: why are you so determined to defend this?

For my personal life, the intentions of the people at ESPN are completely irrelevant. Rather, the incident served to show me what is true about me, and this is what I saw:

I wanted it to be unintentional.

I assumed it to be unintentional.

I am quick to defend other Caucasians, and to explain away their seemingly-racist actions as innocuous.

And now that I see it, I am horrified by this.

Yes, I believe that we should, as a general rule, assume the best in people. But we should also take a close, hard look at why and when and especially who we are most inclined to believe the best about.

Why was I more determined to defend a stranger than I was willing to put myself in my husband’s shoes and try to see the situation through his lens? More importantly, how does my “default” setting to defend perpetuate the marginalization and silencing of ethnic minority voices, despite what my intentions are?

I am slow to interpret things as “racist” because, as a white person, I can be. This is sobering realization. Once again, I see how easy it is for myself, as a Caucasian person, to remain oblivious to the bias of my perceptions. Without the mirror of Jason and other friends, I would never have to call into question my motives or assumptions, and I most likely would never be able to see the prejudices therein.

This showed me that, while I have made much progress in my own journey of understanding cultural identity (most because of my involvement with Epic Movement), I still have much further to go. I am only beginning to understand the story of my Asian-American brothers and sisters, and to be able to enter it in a way that brings understanding and healing, instead of further damage.

I am so saddened when I think of how my assumptions and reactions have caused further pain to my husband. (The above incident, sadly, is not the first time something like this has happened.) Yet, Jason is a gracious person, as are all my ethnic minority friends, and they are patient with me and show me undeserved grace and compassion even when I blow it. As I reflect upon it, I am overwhelmed with thankfulness toward the people in my life who have invited me into their stories, even when I haven’t made a very good visitor there.

Eden is beyond blessed to be surrounded by people who will be able to mentor and guide her in her “unique opportunity in bridging two worlds together bringing forth healing, reconciliation and understanding.

Maybe she can teach her mother, too.


My Ethnical Dilemma

Before Eden was born, I looked TJ in the eyes and told her in all seriousness that I hoped our daughter would look white because her life would be easier. Her response will always be with me. There was no shock. No laughter. Just sadness in her eyes because she knew. She knew I was serious and she knew that my comment came from a place of suffering and past experience.

Fast forward a year and wouldn’t you know it, my daughter is indeed very white looking. I am both amused and shocked by how much she resembles me and that she reflects a completely different ethnicity too. But despite her appearance fulfilling a wish of mine, I’m not oblivious to the fact that she’ll still face some hardships over her ethnicity.

Back in college, when I was dating my former girlfriend, her father directed a comment about me that I’ll never forget. We were both 20, still a few years off from graduating and marriage wasn’t even a remote possibility. He sat his daughter down and told her his concerns about any future children we might have. How they’ll be half. How they’ll grow up with identity issues because of it. When we broke up, she relayed that information to me but I was too young and naive to realize what had really happened.

When my friends heard about it, they were immediately outraged, horrified and even stunned by what he had said about me for they saw what I couldn’t see. I cannot even imagine how my parents felt when I told them what happened and their sense of confusion when I wasn’t angry about it.

My parents met in England, spending over a decade of their lives away from Hong Kong, trying to make a better living out there. I recently learned that they moved back to Hong Kong before I was born because my father’s career as a doctor had reached a dead end. He had been passed over for several jobs. Jobs which he was well qualified for, but wasn’t even considered because he was Chinese. The jobs all went to Caucasians, most of them didn’t even have the proper credentials. The final straw was when he was filling in for a friend and a patient refused his service because of his “black hair”.

Being a parent myself, I can imagine the horrible feeling of hearing my child face a racist situation. The recent Jeremy Lin and “Chink in the Armor” incident has surfaced for me all the times I had been called a “Chink”. I can recall the many times I had someone reference my “squinty” eyes, even though my eyes are actually pretty round. The one that hurt the most was when someone in a mocking accent tried to converse with me with “Ching Chong Ling Long Ting Tong”. The act of making fun of my language wasn’t entirely that hurtful, but that it mostly happened in the company of people and nobody would come to my defense. Nobody would say anything. The most recent episode occurred when I had dinner at a friend’s house. Even after conversing with his family for over two hours at this point, my friend’s step elementary age brother blurted out “Wait, what’s your name again? Ching Chong Wong Wang?” My friend stepped in as much as he could, but his parents just sat there, silent and slowly kept eating.

The message from these stories is clear to me: it’s better to be white. You get the job even if you didn’t work for it. You are marriage material. You don’t get called names. So when I told TJ my hope for our daughter’s appearance, I was wishing she wouldn’t experience the same pains I did growing up.

Eden is unique. She comes from two cultures and two worlds. It has started to become more and more evident as I begin to show pictures of her deceased grandparents and teach her how to address them in Cantonese. Eden is not half. She is fully Chinese and she is fully American. But despite her outward appearance, she will not have that “easy” life that I wish for, partly because I won’t allow it.

Eden cannot grow up in this world turning a cold shoulder to my, no… her story. To the best of my abilities, I will raise her to know her Chinese heritage and her American heritage too. She will know of the plight towards her people as immigrants in this country. As TJ put it, we cannot allow her to grow up with apathy. Because she is both Chinese and American, she has a unique opportunity in bridging two worlds together bringing forth healing, reconciliation and understanding. But to do that she needs to have empathy for both cultures and that cannot happen without some pain and suffering in her life.

It pains me to say that, and while my role as her father is to protect her, I cannot shelter her from certain experiences in life even if it means it’ll hurt her. My natural instinct is to keep her from harm, but I would rob her of far more if I did.