I enjoy reading Mama Nabi’s blog. Although Mama Nabi is Asian and I’m not, her family, like mine, is a blend of races and cultures. She writes of many of the cultural and racial issues that are important to me.
Recently, Mama Nabi wrote of an experience her little daughter had with some nasty children who teased her because she is Asian. Think racism is a thing of the past? Think again. My opinion is that when kids make the kind of racial comments that were directed at Mama Nabi's daughter, they aren’t being kids – they’re being their their racist or racially insensitive parents.
At the end of the post, Mama Nabi included a meme, and tagged those interested in “not just APA but other cultural/ethnic/social issues“ to do the meme, too. So I’m taking the liberty of answering as the white parent of APA children. I pass on the invitation to others who are also interested in these issues.
And so – the meme:
1. I am: Slovenian and Croatian (a little more Croatian); my husband is German.
2. My children are: Korean
3. I first realized what my ethnicity was, started thinking more about race, culture, and identity when: I was in elementary school. Because our area was devoid of diversity, those that looked like me (short, dark, high cheekbones) were perceived to be “foreigners.” I’m not making this up: while standing at a drinking fountain one day when I was a freshman in high school, another girl came up, looked at me intensely, and asked, “Are you Chinese?” THAT is the definition of the quintessential lily white environment. Maybe because I was seen to be outside of the ethnic makeup of my community, I took an early interest in the world and people in it.
4. People think my name is: People have absolutely no idea what my married name is, unless they are German. Where I grew up in Ohio, there were enough Croatians around to recognize my maiden name as Croatian. Outside of that area, though, it was often mistaken to be French.
5. The family traditions I most want to pass on are: Celebrating with family. My family has always been close, and we take every opportunity to get together and be together. We talk and laugh a lot, and genuinely like being around each other. I hope my children see this for the treasure it is, and continue to do it throughout their lives.
6. The family tradition I least want to pass on is: We also get angry quickly – there are a lot of Balkans with short tempers, as recent and not-so-recent history bears out.
7. My child's first word in English was: Our son’s first English word was “mama,” and our daughter’s was “dada.”
8. My child's first non-English word was: I honestly don’t know. But I think it would have been one of a couple of things: perhaps a German word they heard at home (my husband is a native speaker of German and I speak it fluently); or perhaps a word of Spanish or French learned in pre-school; or a word of Korean learned in taekwondo, which our son started at six and our daughter at five.
9. The non-English word/phrase most used in my home is: “Hola!” from our daughter, who spent most of elementary school in a Spanish-emersion program. Or, an unprintable German phrase delivered lovingly, of course, from me to my husband when he ticks me off.
10. One thing I love about being an APA parent (in my case, a white parent of APA children) is: I just love my kids, everything about my kids.
11. One thing I hate about being an APA parent (in my case, a white parent of APA children) is: That through this experience I’ve come to understand just how entitled white people are without recognizing it; I see this in white attitudes toward race and adoption. I’ve also come to understand – and this is the part I really hate – that even though I speak out against inequities, I’m ultimately a part of the problem by simple virtue of my race. For a much more articulate expression of what I’m trying to say, read Peggy McIntosh’s White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.
12. The best things about being part of an APA family are: Being part of a family that is ethnically greater than the little corner of northeastern Ohio that I grew up in. Next to parenting my children, having been welcomed (and I have truly been welcomed) into the Korean community is one of the greatest privileges I’ve had. I hope my children continued to be welcomed in the same way, although I know this isn’t always the case for KADs. I also know that the experience I’m having is not the one my children are having, and that they might view our family makeup as more of a burden than a blessing, if not now, then perhaps in the future.
13. The worst thing about being part of an APA family is: Although I consider our family to be an APA family, I know that because we are an adoptive family, society doesn’t see us in the same way it sees a non-adoptive APA family. Instead, we are seen as a white family with Asian children, which may seem only subtly different to someone who is white, but which is a very different experience for our children. For me, it means that no one takes our family seriously – we’re the perpetual oddity. And for our children, it means they may have the feeling that they don’t belong to our family in the same way our other family members who were born into the family do. My husband and I have done all we can to make sure that’s not the case, but ultimately what our children feel is what counts.
14. To me, being Asian Pacific American means: This is one I simply can’t answer because I’m white. I can only hope I'm on the right track helping my children to develop a sense of identity as Asian Pacific Americans, Korean Americans and Koreans.