Thursday, July 31, 2008

On "Hellboy" as a Vehicle for Race Relations

I just got home from watching "Hellboy II: the Golden Army," and - oddly enough - I find myself thinking about race. I find myself thinking about this fantasy/scifi/action movie as an allegory for race relations in the United States. Do I think that was the intention? Not likely.* But does it work? Absolutely.

This may seem like a pretty strange post to have on this particular blog, but you'll see where I'm going with this soon enough.

For those out there with no idea what this movie is about, I will give as brief of a synopsis as I can (without ruining the film).

In a nutshell, "Hellboy" is the offspring of the devil. He was found as a baby by the U.S. army (to prevent Nazis from getting him) in World War II. Since that time, he has become a "good guy" and serves the FBI as a member of an elite (and non-human, or super-human) task force charged with saving humankind from all things alien or fantastical. On this task force are his girlfriend (a human woman who catches fire when angry) and "Abe," a sort of fish-man with psychic abilities.

Whoo! Wondering where race is going to come in yet? Soon. In "Hellboy II," the basic plot is that there was a battle thousands of years ago between humans and non-humans (elves, trolls, and beyond). It was brutal (human-caused), but it ended with a truce, where humans promised to take care of the natural earth as part of the deal.

Okay - truce violated, there's about to be another war by the - until now - pride-swallowing non-humans vs. the humans. Hellboy and his gang find themselves protecting the human side.

Right right. Now here comes the racial undertones (to me). Throughout the film, Hellboy and his friends keep finding themselves the subject of random hate and disrespect from the "normal" humans that they are trying to protect. At one point, Hellboy saves a baby and all sorts of random New Yorkers from a nature-god, only to have the people accuse him of trying to hurt the baby, the police try to arrest him, etc.

Later, when Hellboy is with his crew in the secret underworld of non-humans - where all sorts of strange creatures abound - he tells his girlfriend, "You would love it here - nobody stares at us at all, we just blend right in."

Now you see where I'm going with the race thing? Throughout, Hellboy is constantly reminded by the (ambiguously) bad guy that he's playing for the wrong side (the humans) - that they don't even like him. And the movie is gray enough that there's no point where - as an audience member - I found myself overwhelmingly rooting for the human side. In fact, the movie is set up in a way such that - basically - humans kind of deserve annihilation.

It was interesting, especially for an action movie - a sort of family movie, really - a genre that doesn't really specify in ambiguity and gray areas.

The scene with the baby made me think of how often non-white folks (black, especially) find themselves in a position where their good intentions are mistaken, in fear, by white folks. How easily cops will assume that they are the "bad guys." The regular references to how out of place the heroes feel amongst the people they are trying to help. How good it feels for them when they no longer stand out. And the whole concept of "race-traitors" - fighting for the side that would hold them down. And the flip - those on the non-majority side that feel cornered, with no other option but violence (or war) to set things straight.

Of course, I imagine few people came out of this fun, sometimes funny, action-adventure with racial struggle on their mind. The "hero-as-loner/outsider" subplot is not new to movies (or any other sort of story). But something about this one struck me differently than others. It just seems that superhero movies are such a great vehicle for addressing human intolerance for each other. How fear and the unknown turn to hatred so easily (and predictably). And it was nice to see that angle pursued in a blockbuster summer movie without it being tied up in a neat little bow at the end.

Because, at the end of the film - let's just say it doesn't leave us with a final message of "the human side is right." We are very intentionally guided to feel for the "bad guy" at the end. And we are also left with a bad taste for the full humans on the heroes' "side."

And I appreciate that. Again - I don't know how many people will take what I did from this film - but I find it hopeful that a director (Guillermo del Toro, of "Pan's Labyrinth" fame) of clout in Hollywood was able to sneak this message into his film. Maybe it will latch on to its viewers' sub-consciousnesses and wreak some thoughtful havoc.

Now wouldn't that be something? The media brainwashing us to think more.

Here's to future big-budget movies taking their audiences into the gray area - and to the interesting changes that could come as a result.

* Off the top of my head, there is no obvious actor of color in the entire film, so maybe I give the director far too much credit.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

On Being a Bridge

(I am currently working at a summer arts camp, so my posts will be coming infrequently - I'll be back at it for real in another three weeks)

With all the racial politics going around, Obama's speeches and analysis thereof, we've all heard it a million times now - that multi-racial folks like me (and Obama) are a "bridge between the races." We are a "step towards racial understanding." In another 50 years, everybody is going to look like us, and nobody is going to care about race. Some day, we'll all just be "a shade of brown."

Well, I just wanted to put my two cents in on this one, and I call bullsh**.

That's right. I'm not buying it for a second. But, as the polite blogger that I am, I shall tell you why I feel that way.

First of all, I don't really buy into the statistics. Over the course of the last couple decades, there has been an increase in population of people who identify as multiracial. A large increase. If you want specifics, it shouldn't be hard to find, but I'm feeling lazy, so we'll just leave it at that. My first issue with the numbers is the semantics - "people who identify as multiracial." That's well-put. Because it has only been recently that we have been able to even claim a multiracial background on most official documentation (and still - not all). Therefore, I think a large part of this increase in reportage is simply a reflection of the ability to choose anything other than monoracial.

Documentation aside, I think there is also more of a feeling these days that identifying as "mixed" is acceptable. We come from a history of one-drop and Jim Crow and - up until recently - people just had to go with their darkest blood. Any of us who were bi-racial white and anything else would have just claimed the non-white race not too long ago. Hell - I bet my parents would have claimed me as simply "Asian-American" when I was a child.

And it's still not fully acceptable for some folks to claim "mixed" or "biracial" as their racial category. In no community is this more clear than in the American black community. First off, it's largely because there may be zero "black" folks in the entire United States that aren't mixed to some degree or another. However, in no other community have I seen such a feeling of betrayal when a bi-racial person claims "mixed" over "black." This debate has raged all over the place, and - for now - I don't mean to discuss it,* but it still isn't "okay" to claim to be "mixed" in many communities.**

So I think the statistics are a bit iffy. I don't really believe that there's this huge increase in interracial coupling going on that's going to make us all be mixed by 2060. Sure, there's likely an increase - but I think it's hardly exaggerated.

However, even if the numbers are increasing at an incredible rate, I don't think that's necessarily going to do anything at all to change perceptions on race. Why? Because I know it won't.

I agree that being bi-racial increases my racial understanding and makes me have more of a compassionate perspective on both sides. It really does. But is anybody else willing to hear it? Hell no. Mono-racial people (white and otherwise) absolutely love to discount those experiences and that perspective. Mono-racial people don't want to listen. It is so difficult for them to understand the mixed experience that they do what all humans like to do with things they don't understand - ignore it. And that's what they do. And it works quite nicely.

We all saw everybody's reactions to Obama's speech that included his white side and black side. People on both sides called him a "traitor" and distrusted him. Everybody thought he was trying to "play both sides," and so everybody doubted him. When, really, Obama probably does understand both sides. But there are very few people out there (that aren't mixed, themselves) willing to accept that.

So what if people can learn to get over that, and finally come to grips that being mixed really is a distinct experience? Well, we just get one more racial category. Look at Brazil. People really are all shades down there, and there are classifications for all those shades. And, still, lighter is treated as better than darker skin. It's just a more variegated racial hierarchy - not an end to racism or prejudice. So why do people think it would be any different here in the States? It wouldn't be.

Human beings group each other. We want to know who is with "us" and who with "them." And that's not something that's ever going to change. If people are more varied in their skin-tones and physical features, we'll just get more discriminating in our categories. We're already ridiculously varied - but only the few are able to realize that, like wine connoisseurs able to distinguish subtleties that the average consumer cannot. If everybody becomes a regular wine-drinker (or is mixed), that will just increase people's abilities to distinguish based on subtler nuances. The separation will continue, just the same.

And so I tell you - I am not a bridge. I could be, to a certain extent, if people were willing to listen, but we all know that that is an unreasonable request. I shall do what I can - mostly just to keep myself sane - but I will not risk high expectations in that. This blog is an effort to reach people (and teach people) in some way, but I'll be content with two readers that get something from it. Because I've been "mixed" too long to think that many more are going to be willing to hear it.

* Don't worry - I certainly will.

** I don't know how many times people have argued with me about whether I'm "mixed" or "Asian-American." I just love it when people tell me my own experience.

Friday, July 11, 2008

On the Gray Area in Between

And so we continue to slug away at the identity of this particular mixed kid.* So we've knocked off the white side. Took care of the Chinese side. So that leaves us right here: somewhere in between. Somewhere hazy and non-concrete. Somewhere with no easily-attributable label. Somewhere that makes A LOT of people (generally mono-racial folks) uncomfortable.

For me, though? This is just the path I walk.

So what is this "gray area" all about? The first aspect of it is this strange situation where I find myself coming from two races - white and Chinese - without really being part of either of them. My life and experiences have not been truly either one. So that leaves confusion in its wake. At least to those that have never walked this path. It's the path of a permanent "other." The path of somebody who knows that there is nobody out there (racially, at least) waiting to claim him.

It gets lonely, sure. Hawaii has the largest population of mixed folks, at 24%. That's the largest population. So the best I could hope for in my life is to walk around and have one out of four people share my general physical appearance. To me, that actually seems like a ridiculously high number, but the fact that it feels that way is equally ridiculous.** And a bit sad.

I had a black friend who went on a trip to Senegal. When he came back, he was just beaming. Telling everybody about it, showing pictures, and urging all his friends of color to go visit a place where "everybody looks like them" because it was the best feeling imaginable. It's also a feeling I can't have.

So is the gray area just a place of self-pity and loneliness? Not at all.

No. Because walking the gray area of race has given me a perspective on race that other people can never have. I have seen race, smelled it, heard it, tasted it, and felt it from all angles. Primarily white and Asian, of course, but also - due to my ambiguous features - a bit of Native American, Latino, Pacific Islander. A few times, I even was thought to be (and treated as) part-black.

And that range of experience has led me to lay claim to a wider swathe of humanity. I think it's made it easier for me to actually listen to people. To connect with people of all different types, persuasions, and experiences. I don't get as caught up in one singular issue of oppression at the expense of all others - because I live in the gray area. In the gray area, it all affects me. In the gray area lie connections - and I sit here, following all these strings to see how everything is tied together.

Other people haven't been blessed with the opportunity to see it this way - and so I often see people of color who only know, and care about, the experience of their own race. They talk about fighting oppression, but what they mean is that they want to fight against oppression against THEM. Not everybody. They accept allies as long as the allies will fight the battles they choose for them. And they are closed to taking on their allies' battles, as well. It makes sense to me. I get it. But I just wish they could walk in the gray area for a minute to see why they should just cut that out. And if white people could walk in the gray area? Celebrate the end of white privilege and institutional racism.

And I have been lucky to walk in a gray area that includes two different nationalities and cultures. From childhood, I have known how to walk respectfully in two very different cultural worlds. I have had the opportunity to take the good from each and bring them together in myself. I have respect for my elders - and the wisdom experience has brought them. But I also do not fear to actively make my life happen. I understand what it is to be a foreigner - from two sides.

It is the gray area and my comfort with being of two cultures that made me get along so well living in Tanzania. It was so easy for me to figure out "how it is" there, and people were telling me that I had "become Tanzanian" long before I had to leave. That seemed like a result of immersion alone until I started opening my eyes to other expats in the country. Even those that were trying so hard (all white folks, but I think that was not necessarily a reflection of race - just who happened to go there) had hang-ups. Had struggles with concepts and cultural norms that they just "couldn't get."

The gray area helps me as a teacher. Again - it is easy for me to connect to people, to find a level of ground that we share, so my kids trust me. They don't consider me as taking any particular side. My racial "otherness" enables kids of every race to connect to me on that level, as well. And regarding middle schoolers, in general, my life of being an "outsider" to some level or other helps me easily understand their constant insecurity.

So is this gray area a universal place for mixed people? I doubt it. That's the other interesting thing about being mixed. Although there are plenty of shared experiences between myself and other bi-racial people, it ranges wide, depending on the races involved, our coloring and appearance, etc. And then there are the multi-racial folks who walk in an even broader gray area than we limited bi-racial 'tweeners.

Who else walks in the gray area? My answer will rely a bit on conjecture, but American immigrants are definitely here. I have bonded with many non-white immigrants over the bi-cultural experience and not fully identifying with either side (once they've been here for a while). My mom is very Americanized, and that has had her step a bit in the gray area. I would imagine homosexual folks (both genders) walk in the gray area at times - as they likely do not gain full acceptance (often) from people of their own race because of their choice of partners. American Jews also walk that gray area a bit - being accorded levels of white privilege, yet still being mindlessly stereotyped, hated, and left out of Christian America. I'm sure there are others (and I would like to hear stories of my readers' "gray areas"), but I'll leave it at that for now.***

So - I'm not truly alone here. In fact, in a way, walking the gray area expands my world to be more inclusive. And I kind of like that. It gives me a quiet confidence in the company of strangers. It enables me to walk in the world with my head held high. Because I know exactly where I stand:

Right here. In the gray area between racial understanding. I hope you all get to join me sometime.

* For some reason, I still tend to refer to myself as a "kid," even though I'm - what some have called - a "grown-ass man." That's probably some psychological fodder for some people to play with.

** When I spent a week in Honolulu last spring, I felt like I could relax and blend IN for the first time in years. I can't even begin to explain that feeling.

*** I know there's all sorts of you readers out there - but you're not commenting! Come on - join in the fun. Get your piece in and start a conversation. I'd love to hear some outside takes on all this.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

On Not Being Chinese

So. We've established that I am not white. Good for me, right? Which brings the follow-up question for a bi-racial (white/Chinese) guy - then am I Chinese?

The short answer? No.

Now let's get into the long answer.

We'll start off by handling semantics real quick. Obviously, being born in the U.S., I can't possibly be literally Chinese. Therefore, for the sake of expedience, when I say "Chinese," I actually mean "Chinese-American."

By blood, then, I am Chinese. My mom was born in China. That makes my blood (half of it) Chinese. But, as I argued with my "Not White" post, we all know that blood doesn't really have that much say in regards to race in this country. A large part of it is experience, and that's where my answer lies.

Granted, I grew up with some Chinese influence. My grandmother tried to teach my brother and I to read and write Chinese (to my knowledge - it was a long time ago - Mandarin, although my family is from Shanghai). For most of my conscious life, my grandparents lived in Oakland Chinatown, where we would visit them somewhat regularly. My grandmother taught Tai-Chi and I was given her sword after her death. As she got older, my grandma would forget that I didn't speak Chinese and would hold "conversations" with me in Chinese (I think Shanghai-ese). At home, we ate tons of rice and used chopsticks relatively often. I got somewhat used to seeing "strange" things eaten around me (although, I was mostly picky about eating the same).

There's a little bit more to it, but not a whole lot. Because I mainly grew up in white American culture. My schools were largely white (although, being the Bay Area, there was still a decent number of Asian - mostly Chinese - folks around). My friends - when I was little - were mostly white. It wasn't until I grew older that my circle of friends stopped being so dominated by white kids. My home life was mostly a white way of life with a dash of rice, soy sauce, and chopsticks. I failed to learn to read or write Chinese characters, and I never learned the language (any dialect thereof).

So many of the experiences that tend to connect a person to some sort of true "Chinese-ness" were denied me. My appearance didn't really help, either, as - to full-blood Chinese folks - I didn't look "Chinese" at all. My grandmother's friends would often question her about me and my brother when we were in Chinatown. I always felt tall and white while visiting her. Early on (this was before my conscious memories), my grandmother referred to me and my brother as "the shame of the family" because of our mix.*

Due to this, I have never felt fully connected to my Chinese blood. I have found myself trying, in recent years, to bridge that gap, but it is difficult.** Because of my ambiguous look (I'm just as likely to be thought of as a number of other races other than Asian - let alone Chinese), I've never been fully accepted by "real" Chinese. Sure, I can connect on some levels, but there are a number of ways that I am the "third-rate Asian sell-out" that some Asian kids at my high school accused me of being. I'm working to remedy that, but it's not so easy to do, considering my background.

And so, when thinking about my Chinese-ness, it really comes to the culture. I am not white from experiences generally based on my physical traits and how that makes people interact with me. But, with my Chinese side, I feel "not Chinese" because of my limited connection to Chinese (and now I'm talking more of "true" Chinese and not just "Chinese-American") culture. I think the lack of language plays a HUGE part of that (as I strongly believe no true understanding of a people can take place without being able to speak their language fluently).***

I also think my visual disconnect in appearance greatly contributed to my internal disconnect. Since I felt like I didn't "look Chinese,"**** since I so often was mistaken for something else, since I received numerous messages telling me I wasn't "really Chinese" - it all led to me not embracing it as my own. To keeping distance between myself and a full effort to incorporate Chinese culture into my way of being. And that created a "vicious circle" situation that fed upon itself.

And so only after my Chinese grandmother's death (she was the last of my grandparents) did I make the conscious decision to start becoming "more Chinese." To start really making Chinese culture part of who I am on a more "real" level. Now, I actually know a little bit of what Chinese New Year is about - and I celebrate it in a way I never did as a kid. Again - I'm learning the language and planning on living in China sometime soon (within the next year or two). I've considered learning a Chinese martial art.***** And I believe that if I follow through on all these things, I may actually become more Chinese. Not fully - not ever can I be fully Chinese, due to my mix - but much more than I am now.

And I am excited for that prospect. To understand that half of myself and my family in a way that I never have before. To honor that side. And, as I am somebody who follows through on things once I've made a decision, it will happen.

But - until then - I'm not quite Chinese, either. More Chinese than white, for sure - but still with a lot further to go.

* She got over it, becoming fiercely proud of our accomplishments in later life. I think the fact that all of my married cousins have white spouses contributed to that.

** Finally trying to learn Chinese (Mandarin, simply because that makes the most sense), planning a long-term visit to China, etc.

*** When living in Tanzania, it was the mastery of Swahili that made my mind switch into "Tanzania-mode." Automatically using various turns-of-phrase and expressions and exclamations changed not only how I spoke, but how I looked out into the world. I still find myself slipping back into a "Tanzania mind-set" when I speak (or, much more often) write or read Swahili. And yes, I am fully aware of the irony that I speak Swahili fluently, but am barely a beginner in Chinese - that's for another day.

**** Personally, I feel like I look more Japanese in terms of body-build and overall facial appearance (especially when I have my quasi-facial hair going).

***** I told Ah-Boo (my grandmother) once that I was going to start learning Tai-Chi, and she responded with shock, "Why would you do that!? Tai-Chi is for old people!" And that effectively ended my Tai-Chi drive (once I'm much older, though, I plan on returning to it).

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

On Not Being White

I am not white.* Nope. Not so much. This is something I've known (to some degree or another) since early childhood. Something that I am glad for (not trying to bash white folks here, just saying) and something that has caused some grief, at times.

However, I recently got involved in an online discussion about bi-racial folks (in the context of Obama) not "claiming" their white side - and there were those that argued that mixed (white and non-white) kids are "just as much white" as the race of their non-white parent. I would like to, respectfully, disagree.

Now, obviously, my inheritance - literally - is as equally white (from my father) as Chinese (from my mother).** No question there, and I'm not going to argue against that. So, if we're talking about blood, then - sure - that's the case.

Problem is, blood doesn't really have a lot to do with race in America (or outside, either). Plenty of science refuting claims of "race" being genetically traceable is out there, so most of us won't argue that blood and genetics don't physically make up race. When we talk about "race," we're talking about what somebody looks like, and that is not strictly linked to genetic background.

More importantly, race in America is an experience. Although it's great to say "other people should have no say in how a person identifies," that is not realistic. My EXPERIENCES (not me, personally, but my specific experiences) are based on how people perceive me. If somebody treats me as Latino, for instance, it really doesn't matter what my actual background is - because, for the duration of that EXPERIENCE, I will bear the brunt of Latino stereotypes (for good or bad). Now, those experiences certainly don't MAKE ME Latino (and give me no right to claim that heritage), but they give me a taste - one moment - of Latino racial experience, which then goes on to color (literally) how I walk in the world.

So -as somebody who has never been treated as white by other people - I have had little of the white racial experience. Thus, that part of the world has been largely locked out from me, in spite of my father's background.

Of course, racial experience is also built on a continuum of privilege in this country, which is more of a cultural phenomenon than anything else. All those arguing that there is no white American "culture" are deluded - white American culture is walking through the world with the privilege that comes with it. Class plays into it, of course - few poor white Americans are going to feel very "privileged," but they still have the privilege of physical representation. They don't have to seek out white faces in the media, in power. White folks will never have to try to find "their channel" or "their radio station" and fall short, frustrated. They won't ask why the books they read and the movies they watch don't have major characters that look like them. They may not be represented in a number of other ways, but - racially, physically - that's one major source of stress that won't hit them on a nation-wide level.

So, as far as white culture goes, where do I fall? To some extent, I have been a recipient of the pleasures of white privilege. My parents met in college, a bastion of white privilege (no matter what people argue). My father's successes in life were helped along by the fact of white privilege (sure, he worked hard as Hell, but he got higher than he may have otherwise without white privilege), and those successes trickled down to me in terms of (relative) financial stability. That stability gained me entrance into the white privilege of being college-educated. My steady exposure to white culture growing up enabled me to be able to master standardized tests to be academically successful, etc.

However, my experience was one of a fish-out-of-water, racially. One of my first real fights in school was with a white kid who told me to "go back to where you came from." As a child, kids told me to "speak Asian".*** When I was good at math, it wasn't because I worked hard, it was because "I was Asian." Playing football, I watched other Asian teammates stop playing; when I was really good at it, it was as a racial exception. In college, people assumed that I must be an Engineer or math major. People constantly asked me, "what are you?"

I was lucky enough to grow up in the SF Bay Area, so - although my high school was predominantly white - I was able to surround myself with a racially diverse group of friends (RIDICULOUSLY so, as I mentioned before - almost every skin-tone represented). I was comfortable in that social group in my school not because I "felt white" but because I didn't stand out, racially, with them.

When I lived in Tanzania for a year and a half, I was called out as "Mchina" ("Chinaman," more or less) in distinct counterpoint to the other ex-pats, who were called "Mzungu" ("white person"). I had to explain that I was still American, even though I was so obviously "Chinese" to them.****

And then I moved to Portland, Oregon. At last count (2003, I think), Portland was the whitest city in the U.S. (in terms of "major" U.S. cities). And it's pretty obvious if you stay here for a little bit. It's also ridiculously segregated. So here, above all other places I've been, my non-white-ness has stood out. I am ALWAYS the only mixed person in a room. Generally, the only person with Asian blood. Mostly, the only non-white person.

And Portland is so "liberal," so it stands out even more. When I hear people talk about "diversity" and see no other non-white people around. When I watch liberal white folks appropriate all sorts of different aspects of different non-white cultures without even thinking about it. When, working at a "liberal, progressive" non-profit, I have been mistaken for the other Asian employee multiple times.

And, oddly enough, I am thought to be Latino (specifically, Mexican) here more often than any other race or ethnicity. I have had random (white) strangers speak to me slowly in English, asking if I speak Spanish (and if you ever saw me in person, you would immediately understand how ridiculous this is). I've had Latin@ students bond and connect with me and then become shocked when they hear my actual racial background.

So here, more than any other place, my non-white racial identity has grown. Grown to encompass more than Chinese and Asian culture, but a more generalized "mixed," and - sometimes - "brown." This is where my politicized racial self has been mostly formed - in direct response to the naive, "liberal" whiteness I see all around me.

I can walk into a room of people of color (of any racial background) and relax my shoulders, instantly understood on a certain level - no matter the other variables that would have us be different. When I walk in a room of white people, no matter other commonalities, I don't fully belong. I get ready to hear something that's going to make me cringe.

And so - I am not equally "white" and "Chinese." In fact, I am more "non-white" than I am Chinese, in some ways (that's for another post). That is the fact of this particular bi-racial experience. And it may not be other people's experiences, but I have a feeling that - in this country - it largely is for other mixed folks with white blood.

So - what does it all mean? Where do we go from here? Nowhere specific. Just a place of better understanding. Somewhere where white folks will be able to understand why there's an automatic barrier between us (at the beginning) even though my father is white. And why my lack of claim to "whiteness" is neither self-hate nor some sort of "reverse-racism." Nor is it a denial.

For I fully acknowledge my white inheritance. I rooted for Russia in EuroCup this year. I celebrate St. Patrick's Day. And I love my father and would accept no substitute.

I'm just "not white."

* My skin-tone is closer to "russet" (bordering on "henna") in the summer months, fading to "sweet honey" or "creme caramel" in the dark winters, for those interested.

** A simplistic look, but we don't need a genetics discussion here.

*** I had a routine with one white friend in elementary school where I would make up all sorts of sounds and tell him I was speaking Chinese (although I knew almost none), and he totally bought it. I would say something in my made up language, and then translate it into English for him. When he had me do it for his mom, I thought my cover was about to be blown . . . but she bought it, too.

**** Interestingly enough - in Tanzania I showed some kids a National Geographic that had an article on Mexico. When the kids saw the pictures, they shouted out "Mchina" and pointed at a photo of a Mexican man. Since they had no experience with Latin@ people, non-white folks with black hair were automatically "Chinese" (which more or less stood in for all Asians).

Monday, July 7, 2008

Chinese is the new "Black" (in South Africa)

By now, many of you out there will have heard the news from about a week or so ago: Chinese South Africans now qualify as legally "black." That's right. To allow Chinese people to benefit from anti-apartheid laws that are currently in effect to help restore balance for black, Indian, and "coloured" (mixed) South Africans, the South African government decided to define Chinese as "black."

Couldn't they have just added "Chinese" to the list, you may ask? Probably. But they didn't. Instead - Chinese South Africans are black South Africans (incidentally, Japanese people are still "white").

Let's say that one more time: Chinese South Africans are now black South Africans.

Obviously, I have a million tongue-in-cheek responses to this news (and so did a number of other people). I could talk about how I now connect on an even deeper level to Barack Obama and am proud to have somebody that so directly represents me running for president. I can talk about how it may now be easier for me to get people to listen to some of the hip hop I write/record. I could ask philosophical questions: so, does China now count as an "African" country? Or, are black folks now Asian?

It would probably be pretty amusing, I'm sure. However, this news actually struck me in a different way - it made me think to myself: what if Chinese people really WERE universally considered black (by themselves and all those outside looking in, including black people)? And that's what I want to speak to (especially in light of some recent comments/discussion regarding my interracial dating posts).

Let's start this out from the Chinese perspective (since that's the closest to what I've got).

First of all, imagine the sudden squashing of so much racism and stereotypes between Chinese and black people. And, since Chinese stereotypes tend to be extended to all other Asian people - for them, too. All those stand-up routines by black comedians imitating Asian shop-keepers? Done. "Norbit" and other pre-dominantly black movies that get their licks in on Asian stereotypes? Finished.

And for the Asians - no longer would Asian parents across the world forbid their children to marry black men/women. No longer would they hold up their own horrid racial hierarchies with black people at or near the bottom. Imagine the joy in seeing a wrinkled Chinese grandmother exhorting her grandchildren to "find a good black man/woman to marry."

Suddenly, China would have a lot less interest in flooding African countries with health-risk chemicals and products. Instead of trying to take advantage of these countries as a stepping-stone in their own attempt at rising as an economic power, the Chinese government would be in a position to pass on their skills and lessons learned as a poverty-stricken nation on the rise. Suddenly - we may see somebody with a little bit of money and power actually start CARING about helping the African continent - not for greed and influence, but to bring up their ethnic family.

If Chinese were considered black, the NAACP would actually care when wrongdoing affected Asian folks. And Chinese (and, again, by proxy other Asian) Americans would get a sudden huge lift in strength regarding civil rights. No longer would people talk about how Asian-Americans have no power or power movement -as they would become part of the strongest movement in America.

Suddenly, there would be one BILLION more black people for the world to contend with - how that would make a lot of national leaders piss themselves . . .

Suddenly, ancient "black" civilizations would be responsible for an overwhelming portion of later western success and educational history. Black people would have not only been the first people, in general, but the first to write their history, as well.

Alternatives to Euro-centric education wouldn't be at the cost of either African OR Chinese history. Liberal white folks the world over would be appropriating the best of "traditional" black philosophy and religion (Zen Buddhism, Taoism, etc.).

"Pan-Asian" cuisine would be a hell of a selection. And Chinese New Year would be a hell of a party.

So many changes would sweep this world. And so many of them positive.

Because I think one of the biggest problems facing civil rights movements of today is humanity's inherent lack of appreciation and acknowledgment of the "other side." Obviously, that is highlighted between black and white, but it's the separation between various oppressed peoples that hurts the most. Asian from Arab. Latin@ from black. Native American from Pacific Islander. Immigrants from citizens. And everything in between.

People tend to focus on their own experiences and problems - and either ignore or discount those of other people. Asian folks don't do the work to understand how the black experience differs from their own and how their own prejudices roll over into - and contribute negatively towards - that experience. Black folks don't take a step back to realize that their mistrust of foreigners increases their obstacles to equality. EVERYBODY ignores or forgets about Native Americans (unless taking a jaunt down stereotyped lanes of idealistic "memory").

How can people expect to be taken seriously when fighting for their own rights while they ignorantly trample others in the meantime? How can I admire and/or fight for somebody not of my own race if they don't take the time to honor my own? How can men of color expect to end their struggle for understanding while they push their own women down?

It makes no sense, logically. And yet we all do it - all the time. Because we are naturally self-centered, and it takes so much to be able to break that down.

So imagine if one huge barrier got knocked down with Chinese and black becoming one? What would be the repercussions? I see it as race-barrier dominoes falling against each other, slowing picking up speed until there truly was just ONE movement - for everybody to have a shot on an even playing field. Period. No qualifiers needed.

And I know this sounds frighteningly similar to the idea of "color-blindness," but it is absolutely NOT. I am dreaming of a situation in which everyone is equally interested in knowing the other side and respecting it. If Chinese were black, Chinese would actually care about African history - black people would want to learn about Chinese culture. Fully investigating the differences in experience and point of view and coming to grips with that. Not IGNORING race or other differences, but truly caring enough to go there (perhaps, painfully) to get some insight.

And the only way I see that ever truly happening is if something like this really occurred: if Chinese became the new black. Can't really happen, I know, but isn't it such a wonderful idea? So here's to South Africa and their strange experiment and the dreams that may come as a result:

I may not be half-black (or Latin@, Native American, Arab, or otherwise), but that should never stop me from doing everything in my power to learn what it would mean if that was, indeed, the case. And I hope it doesn't stop any of you. So - wherever you're at - and whoever you are - raise up your fist with me and pledge to actually ask somebody else about their experiences without trying to talk about your own (on this blog, sure, but also in real life). Because that's when knowledge becomes power.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Mixed, Triumphant

Mixed, Triumphant,

This blog and my posts are young, yet, but I felt that it was important that I have some all-positive posts thrown in as often as possible because I have a tendency to focus on and criticize all that's wrong without acknowledging - enough - all that's right (I also tend to write long sentences).

So, in that light, I want to celebrate a wonderfully, positively mixed 24 hours that began on the evening of July 3rd and went on through last night.

My July 3rd evening began with me hanging out with some folks: my mixed (black/white) friend and two of her friends (a black woman, and a white man). I'm not going to go into a lot of detail there, but it was a good time, in general, but it also stood out as a nice combination of races just having a good time in mostly-white (and more-than-that-segregated) Portland. I also got a chance to bond with T. about how - since South Africa has now made Chinese folks legally "black"* - we now had the same background and should be able to understand each other and connect much more. We pondered the new strength blacks and Chinese alike would now have as one single identity (and more, but I digress).

Anyway, I then slipped away from that group to head to an Open Mic** where I was going to make my debut (secretly, because my friend and the other woman are a professional spoken-word duo, and I didn't feel ready for them to watch me this first time, just in case I fell flat).

So a quick explanation: I dabble in some hip hop and spoken word for my own personal entertainment (and therapeutic release), and so I had determined that it was finally time to bring it public (I've been doing this for quite a while, but never for a large, public audience). So there's a venue here in Portland (so far, the ONLY one I've found) that does a weekly Open Mic that sort of caters to the political, more colorful folks of this town. It's probably the only place here where the performers are pre-dominantly people of color (and - I would add, with bias - talented), and it thus has a much more welcoming feel for me. I scouted out the scene a few times in advance before signing on to perform, but I finally felt ready.

Now, the emcee had already told me that I was probably going to go first. That wasn't the best news, because - usually - when the first person goes, a lot of people haven't shown up yet, and the energy is a bit dead. So I planned to start with a lighter, tongue-in-cheek piece about "nobody listening," and then to drop some fire after I had their attention. The second piece was one I had done for some people before - basically a tribute to my Chinese side, while touching on the "mixed" experience.

So I'm all set, a little bit nervous, got in some last-second practicing, when I walk in the door. And, heading in before me was this whole group of people (looked like a family) that were clearly Asian (to some degree), and I couldn't help but feel good about my luck that they'd be in the audience when I went (not so many Asian audience members, usually). And, better yet, that group ended up sitting right up front, so that they would be the people I could see best during my performance.

My luck held out even stronger when the host for the night ended up arriving late - meaning by the time we actually started, the place was almost full, and I was going to have myself an AUDIENCE.

So I got up there and did my thing. I was wearing my China national team soccer jersey (for obvious reasons), and - before I even started - I got a "CHIN-A!" cheer from the front row. Things were looking good. My first piece was relatively well-received (got the little chuckles I was looking for), and then I laid into them with my fire.

And - holy sh$$ - did it go over. The whole crowd was listening as I spoke, cheering at certain parts - it felt GOOD. And then, as I finished off my little climb to the climax (a litany of Asian stereotypes that don't pertain to me, ending with "but I'm STILL Chinese") everybody just went nuts (especially the first row). People yelling, clapping (apparently, some stood up, but I couldn't see that). I mean - CRAZY. It felt so damn good. And, as I walked off the stage, the group in the front grabbed me and told me that EVERYBODY in that row (about 10 of them) was mixed. Absolutely perfect.

I was finished, but it wasn't over, either. Because, a couple acts after me, one of the regulars (a guy, "Don Juan," who I knew was Asian, but didn't generally mention that in his poetry) got up there and - saying I had inspired him - spit fire, as well - with his own piece blasting Asian stereotypes and our "role" in society. Needless to say, we all went crazy for that one, too. And then - after THAT - one of the mixed ladies of the front row got up to sing and blew the top off the whole place. I mean, she had the most soulful, amazing voice I have heard live in a LONG time - and the host acknowledged the same when she was finished.

It was like "Asian Pride Night" in Portland. And - damn - did it feel good. Hell - just to even know that there were that many other mixed folks IN Portland, let alone to have them hear me do my thing and then rock the house afterwards.

And then - about 24 hours later - was the 4th of July fireworks display. For brevity's sake, I'll just get to the point: all of Portland, downtown. Not just all of white Portland. Not just all of middle-class Portland. ALL of Portland. Every race, from poor to rich and everything in between. Families. Kids. Old. Young. All downtown to watch the fireworks.

As I said before - Portland is a very white town. It's also very segregated, so even though there ARE people of color in Portland, they don't exactly mix in large numbers. If there are a bunch of people of color around, that probably means you're in an area where there are few white folks. Or if there are a lot of Asian folks, few black or Latin@. You get the picture.

But last night, waiting by the river for the fireworks - EVERYBODY. In one place. All mixed up and excited. All equally eager with anticipation. Kids of all colors (I saw a lot of mixed ones, as well) running around, getting impatient for the show. And when that show came - DAMN. It was one for the ages - a great display. And - better yet - everybody in that huge crowd around me had the same happy expression on their faces. Awe. Joy. Innocence. Excitement. Nobody there was thinking about race or stereotypes or prejudice for those 15-20 minutes. They were just giving in to their child-like wonder and joy as they universally appreciated brightly-colored explosions*** in the sky above Portland.

And that's when I had one of those cheesy, Hallmark moments when I thought to myself, "America just isn't THAT bad." No, we're not a "melting pot." Portland will go back to how it has been starting today. But last night happened. And I don't think it could happen like that in many other places in the world. And the night before happened - where I could get political and spit fire at "the establishment" to applause, without any threat of censure or arrest.

Portland is mostly white - but it isn't ALL white. And this country can have its issues - but there is a lot right. And, for that, I hope everybody had a very happy Independence Day.

I know I did.

* I shall likely post in the future about what it will mean for the world that Chinese is the new black (in South Africa).

** For anybody in the Northwest (or headed here someday), the Open Mic is called "Harlem Nights" and happens every night at the Ohm, in downtown Portland. Click on the link above to learn more.

*** Fireworks, as we all know, were created by the Chinese - so that felt like some nice cross-over, as well.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

On Interracial Relationships: Part II (From the Outside)

On Interracial Relationships: Part II (From the Outside),

So now that I've laid out my opinions (and personal demons) about how race falls out in my own personal romantic life, it's time to move on to the fun part: stating my opinion on OTHER people's relationships. That's right - I don't consider myself a gossip-y type of person, but I sure seem to enjoy talking about what I think other people should or shouldn't do.

Anyway. We'll start with the basics and then move on to the juicier stuff. First of all, I am a result of an interracial conception (as I stated before), and I am very happy with the distinct experience that has brought me. I believe it has made me better able to understand racial dynamics (on all sides) in this country, and I would never ask to change that (even on the days when it causes some grief). Therefore, I am obviously all for interracial relationships, on a very general level. I think this world could use some more mixed progeny out there.

That said, it's not so simple as that.

I think about racial fetishes a lot (NOT in that way - damn). My mother is Asian (Chinese). My father is white. That's not a very shocking combination for an interracial relationship (for those familiar with any of the statistics or just the common debates). So, accordingly, I often wonder if my father has (or had) an "Asian fetish." His first wife was also Asian. She went on to be with another white man later on. There seems to be a lot of circumstantial evidence here.

However, one thing has always stood out to me about my parents' relationship - they love each other. Truly. I'm very cynical when it comes to love and marriage in general, but I have always held my own parents as the exception to the rule. So - can it be a fetish when they are very much in love? Or - if it actually STARTED as a fetish, but then led to a loving relationship, does it really matter? Arranged marriages can end up in love, so can they be all that bad? That's the question.

And I go back and forth on my answer. Because I definitely find myself mentally tsk-tsk-ing when I see an Asian woman out and about with what I perceive to be a white boyfriend. I find myself automatically assuming that the guy has an Asian fetish, and that the woman isn't attracted to Asian men. I condescendingly nod to the couple and tell whoever is with me, "See? White man and Asian girl - again."

So why do I do this? It seems so ridiculously hypocritical. Because I'm definitely not one of those Asian men who feels like the white guy is stealing "my" women or my chances to get that particular girl. I've found that my mixed-ness has made me relatively "accessible" in terms of interracial dating (I have pretty much been the "first" Asian and/or mixed guy that ANY of my past romantic interests have been involved with - aren't I just "breaking down barriers" one woman at a time?).

So - what bothers me? Mostly - and this can be applied to any white man/non-white girl couple - it's my assumptions about the man's respect for the woman. I assume that the man just thinks "Asian women are hot" - that whole exotification thing - without being able to see beyond that. I had a friend who had a definite Asian fetish (he told me so) to the point where he LITERALLY thought EVERY Asian woman he saw was hot (linking to the "they all look the same" theory). I assume that the woman lets that happen because she has (consciously or no) bought into the mainstream distaste for Asian men.

And I don't think that that is a stretch, every time. I've known plenty of white guys who tell me how they are just attracted to "exotic women."* And I don't think they mean that in terms of cultural respect and without stereotypical assumptions.

Then there are the guys (and girls) who say things like, "I can't be racist, my girlfriend/boyfriend is - fill in blank with non-white race." My dad even said that once. And that makes me sicker than any of the rest. The perceived use of an "exotic" trophy-girlfriend to carry as a banner to prove the white partner's "open-mindedness."

These are my hang-ups. They pop into my head almost every time I see an interracial couple. And I know it's ridiculous (because I've known couples that are nothing like this, I've been PART of couples that are not like this), but it's still there. I don't necessarily ACT on these split-second reactions, thoughts, and assumptions, but they hit me every time.

So then - how does this particular bi-racial boy want to see interracial relationships fall out? Based on my own experiences, from how my parents have done it right (and wrong), this is what I've come up with:

First - there HAS to be respect, and a true, full desire to bring things equal. What I mean is that there must be a leveling of racial understanding - and a lot of that is going to fall on the white partner (if there is one - if it's an interracial relationship with no white partners, though, these rules still apply). Both partners need to be willing to both share their backgrounds and experiences fully, while simultaneously giving up some of that access in order to try to better understand where the other person is coming from - and their experiences and culture.

That means that if your partner is Chinese, for instance, you best be fully willing and wanting to go to China with them. To study up on Chinese history. To be uncomfortably non-Chinese amongst your partner's all-Chinese family (or friends). It means that both partners need to be willing to carve out a social existence on their partner's cultural terms (which is generally harder for the white folks). BOTH people need to embrace the uncomfortable exclusion from the other side - because that's how shared understanding is going to happen.

And that's how it's going to be for the kids. This, of course, is where it gets super-personal for me. Both parents of a mixed child need to be fully involved in the OTHER side's experience. For instance (to continue using myself as an example), it can't be "the job" of the Chinese parent to initiate Chinese-language lessons. It can't just be the Chinese parent that brings the kid into Chinatown to see relatives. There are certain levels where the non-Chinese parent obviously cannot share experience with the mixed kid, but they have to BE THERE. They have to be willing to give themselves over to half of their child's life and experience - no matter how uncomfortable or out of place that makes them feel. And neither parent can simply "give in" to the other's culture, keeping one half (or more) from the child).

And both parents need to understand that their child will never be able to fully walk in either side's racial world. No matter how hard the parent tries, the kid is going to be left out, in some way. They are going to be treated differently. And - unless both parents acknowledge that - the child is going to be largely on her/his own in building their racial understanding of themselves and the world around them. Parents need to ask the child questions about how they feel and are experiencing certain situations - and they must encourage questions from the child.

At least - that's what I THINK would work (judging from what did/did not work in my case). At least, it would seem like the best chance at working and being fully respectful and truly equal. Again, I stress that these are mostly things that are/would be difficult for a white partner in a relationship. Automatically, a non-white American knows what it is to be uncomfortably out of place and on somebody else's terms. White Americans do not (in general) and are often VERY hesitant about being in that situation.** And that's something that both sides need to be fully cognizant of and communicating about.

So there are the CVT's rules (and judgements) on interracial relationships and parenting. Take it with a grain of salt, and feel free to set the record straight on any number of areas I stomped on.

* Side note - I had one "friend" who asked me if I was into "exotic" women - to which I answered, "I don't know - am I exotic?"

** This is why white folks are always arguing against all-black fraternities as "racist." Claiming how "unfair" it is if they go to a party that is pre-dominantly black and "everybody is staring at them just because -gasp- they're white." White people out there - see how uncomfortable that makes you? Use a little bit of logic, then, and see that that is EXACTLY why there ARE all-black fraternities (and people of color like to hang out in crowds that look mostly like them, at times).

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

On Interracial Relationships: Part I (My Own)

On Interracial Relationships: Part I (My Own),

It has come to my attention that the following passage I put into my previous (first) post is a bit problematic:

I have pondered long and hard how the racial identity of the mother of my future children would affect my ability to connect to them. I have also thought about how that mother's racial identity would either let down or make proud my grandparents.

I don't want my children to be whiter than me.

It's problematic on a number of levels (not all of which I will get into), of course, but the main one is this: as the product of an interracial conception, how can I - more so than anybody - be okay with race as a possible pre-requisite in a future wife?

Me - a "bridge between races" - trying to build that bridge up with thoughts of specifically avoiding a particular race (white) to date. How can that even be mildly acceptable?

I'm not sure if it is. Because, of course, my exposure to race has caused me to realize that race guarantees little in this life (other than how prejudice and stereotypes will be experienced). Truly. Sure, white folks are less likely to be aware of how white privilege works or all the little things that keep the racial hierarchy in order, but that's not everything. Because black folks are equally likely to be unaware of the Asian racial experience and to say ignorant things about it. Everybody is ignorant of Native American experience, etc.

So how can I possibly make such a statement as the one above? What is my opinion of interracial relationships?

The simple answer? I really have no idea. As with many of my thoughts on race, due to my experience, I'm mixed. I go back and forth. So let's start at the beginning (disclaimer, I'm going to stick to the heterosexual experience, because that's all I have, and I feel in no position to comment on a situation I have no personal insight on):

By definition, almost every romantic relationship I've ever been in has been "interracial." Only one time have I ever been quasi-involved with a mixed Asian/white girl - and that never made it to full-blown "relationship" status. In terms of mono-racial ladies, I have been involved with white, Jewish (it IS different than just "white"), Asian, and black women (to varying degrees of seriousness). I have also gotten mixed up with Asian/white, Mexican/white, and black/white bi-racial ladies.

So. What have these varying experiments in interracial dating taught me? Not a whole lot.

In my outside life, in terms of friendships, I have found myself most easily able to immediately connect to mixed folks. There's some sort of mystical bond going on there that causes us to be drawn together in casual friendship, all things being equal (i.e. in a room full of people I don't know, it's easiest to get along with the mixed folks - of course, there are seldom rooms of strangers with ANY mixed folks other than me, so it might just be an outlying statistic that cannot be treated with any real significance).

In relationships, being with another mixed person definitely opened up a level of unspoken understanding that was pretty nice. Being with someone that I knew could understand a way of being that so few people I ever talk to can understand was like snuggling into a warm downy comforter on a winter day. However, that's the only constant through those relationships. I'm not with any of those ladies now (and I don't think about going back), so - obviously - that wasn't enough.

So what about the other races? One of the white girls told me she "didn't even think of me as Chinese" - NEXT! One Asian (Korean) girl my friends tried to set me up with in college was probably the most annoying girl I've ever (and may ever) meet. I've had a black woman friend (granted, not somebody I was dating) argue with me about my experience of race (trying to tell me that I was wrong in what I was saying about other people's perception of my racial background).

My Jewish ex is/was probably the only non-mixed lady that seemed to get the closest grasp of it all. I think that's due to the ambiguous "other"-ness of Jews in America: sort of blending in at times, but then being completely left out of "standard" white culture during Christmas and other co-opted Christian Hallmark holidays. The (un-asked-for) ability to be a "spy" to people spouting anti-semitic speech thinking "they aren't around." It's not a coincidence that a bunch of my cousins ended up marrying Jewish guys. And that was the closest relationship (by far) of all of them. Of course, it was due to a lot of different things (she certainly listened the best of all of them). In the end, she dumped me, though, so . . . (just messing with you, A - sort of).

Right. So the overwhelming message? Race doesn't really mean anything at all in relationships. It's no guarantee of compatibility, understanding, communication, or anything else. Yeah - a lot of white women are ridiculously ignorant about race, but I wouldn't end up talking to any of them, anyway (let alone dating them). I'm commitment-phobic enough to be scared off of most women of any race, so anybody who made it through that particular set of defenses would be impressive enough for race to be the least important factor.

And yet I still think about it. Why?

Because of my future child.

I know, first-hand, what it is like to not look my parents. To have this strange racial barrier hanging between myself and them. To know that there are a lot of things about how I've walked through this world that they just cannot understand. It's not so looming with my mother (the forced bi-cultural immigrant experience echoing the mixed experience in America). With my dad? It's HUGE.

And I don't want that to be the case with my child. I don't want that barrier. And I know some of that can be alleviated (no matter what he/she looks like) by honest communication, but communication cannot fully make up for a disconnect in shared experience.

The other (bigger) part? I am a middle school teacher. I work with an interesting population of kids. One day, one of those kids (who is 1/4th Japanese - biracial mother, white father) came up to me. He told me how he had been walking down the street while some "chink" was following him, saying something, and he wanted to know if I knew what the word she kept repeating meant (he knew my background). I, of course, backed up a step and asked him if he knew what he just said was, and he responded, "No - that's why I'm asking you."

I was surprised for a minute until I realized that he thought I was talking about the "Asian" word he had asked me to define. He had NO IDEA that I was referring to his use of the word "chink." So I explained to him what that meant, why it was an issue, etc. And he got it (he even apologized).

But this is what I took from that experience - this kid, with a quarter Asian blood, was already so far removed from that part of himself (due to "looking white") that he didn't even know that "chink" wasn't okay to say. And that hit me so hard, and has sat in the pit of my stomach since. If I don't have a kid with a full-Asian or mixed woman, would that happen with my kid? Sure, I would make sure s/he knew what those words meant, but that couldn't avoid the disconnect with the race and culture. How people perceive us is largely how we experience the world, and I don't want my kid to lose that.

Especially knowing how important it was to my (Chinese) grandparents. My family has quickly faded towards white in three short generations. I may be the "last chance" to keep the Chinese blood flowing.

This is what it means to be mixed in America. To be torn both ways, never knowing which one is right.

For myself, on a personal level? The race won't make a difference. It's going to come down to the distinct personality and make-up of the woman that works for me. I DO know that whoever it is would have to be well-rounded and have a large range of interests. Racially? The quality of my relationship will have nothing to do with the race.

For my kids and ancestors? History and posterity? Race looms large. But if it's not the best relationship, won't that still screw up my racially-matching, possibly proudly-Chinese children? Absolutely.

So I end up back where I began it all. Mixed-up, confused, expecting that neither choice will end up feeling 100% right. Intuition telling me I have to just go for the best RELATIONSHIP, regardless of race, but knowing that that will leave me feeling that I let down my grandparents.*

Isn't race a wonderful thing?

And that's where I lie on interracial relationships as they pertain to me, directly. Next: my judgement on others.

*An interesting side-note: funny how I worry about letting down my Chinese grandparents (and ancestors) but don't worry about letting down my white (Russian/Irish) grandparents and ancestors. I'll just leave that at that for now - if you'd like to comment and ask for more about that, be my guest.