Thursday, March 11, 2010

More on racism (and appropriation?!)

I've found a bunch of anti-racism blogs and have been reading up on racism issues. My conclusion? I don't get it. I don't get it like some 8th graders don't get algebra. I know why it's important (because the teacher says so), and I know some of the cultural context (I'm familiar with numbers 0-9 and the letter x), but I'm missing some basic methodology of thought, or something. And I don't think I can get any of the answers right.

I considered leaving a comment or two, but I demurred. I'm halfway confident that I'd be laughed right off the blog for not understanding what I'm talking about.

Learning about racism is important, though. Someday AwesomeCloud is going to face racism, and I'll need to know what to say to him about it. I have some ideas, but none of them are very good:

"You're not weird. Most people in the world look like you! If anyone's funny-looking, it's them."

"They just envy you because Asian-Americans are doubly cool. First, Asians are the coolest people on the planet. Second, Americans are the coolest culture. You win twice - they wish they could be you."

"Chinese people can't do what? That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Who decides what Chinese people can do - Chinese people or some stupid white middle schoolers?"

"Okay, statistically Asians are not inherently smarter than everyone else, but go ahead and perpetuate the stereotype."

"We're all just glorified apes. All these cultural divisions are false constructs and there are no good reasons to believe they actually exist."

"The idea that all colored people are on welfare is horribly racist and unfair, and anyway it doesn't apply to you."

"You slugged him back, right? Those kung fu lessons aren't cheap - don't let them go to waste."

"Who cares? You know you're awesome. I know you're awesome. That's why I named you AwesomeCloud. Okay, I didn't name you AwesomeCloud, but whoever did, I approve."

See? I can make a good point in the short run, but my lack of nuanced understanding shows through.

I don't want him to wish he were blue-eyed and pale-skinned, and I don't want him to roll his eyes at me and secretly wish he were white in spite of my best attempts. But I really don't know what to say.

I guess nobody does, really. Another thing I've learned about racism is that there are an awful lot of people accusing other people of having it. I've even read statements such as "All people are racist." There's a ton of hyperbole out there, but that hyperbole drowns out the nuances that would lead to true understanding. Also, there is a lot of opportunity for perceived racial injury because... because...

I guess it's because our society is in a state of flux. We're scrambling to get out of a time in which racism was ingrained in every aspect of the culture, but with this many millions of people participating all at once, egos are going to get stepped on left and right. We know what direction to head in - the direction that allows people of any race or mixed races to have the same amount of respect and opportunity in life - but we're not all moving at the same pace. The people at the back of the privilege line are pushing the people in front to get a move on and get to the equality part already. The people at the front may be in no hurry to share and may feel like they're being rushed.

Maybe they are being rushed.

I'd want to rush them too, if they were standing in my way... which... they are. I'm a woman. I've been condescended to countless times.

My response has been to block people out, stop wondering what they think of me, and stop pursuing life's opportunities that would pose a challenge due to my gender.

That's not what I want for my kid. I don't want him to box himself in and avoid confrontation due to other people's prejudice. I want him to push back, and say, "Yes, I can do it, and I'm about to. Nyeah!"

(Maybe he can leave out the 'nyeah' when he gets to college.)

He can knock the Establishment's socks off, but only if he's not too intimidated by them to try. THAT'S why I have to wrap my mind around this whole racism thing. I can hope he'll figure it all out for himself and go full steam ahead without my help. But if he needs me to build up his fragile young self-esteem first, I gotta.


In other news, I registered for ACONE's adoption conference this May. I'm going by myself this year - they don't allow children to attend, ironically, and Husband'o'Mine volunteered to be the one who stays with the kid. (I suppose we could get a babysitter. But I'm not ready for that yet.)

I signed up for one seminar about culture and the internationally adopted child. The description said something about warning parents not to appropriate the child's culture.


I won't comment about that until I learn what it means at the seminar. At the moment, though, it sounds a little, um, odd.

There's a backlash against the idea of parents paying lots of attention to their children's ethnicity, isn't there? I read that article by the Korean adoptee that was published in Time or Newsweek or somesuch. Since then, I've heard other people mention ethnicity in a cautious way - being self-conscious about having cultural artifacts in their houses, for instance, or being cynical about culture camps. Several times, people have said to me, "Don't do too much."

How much is too much? Can a non-Chinese white American such as me even begin to approach too much? I'm learning to speak Mandarin at an average of one word every two weeks - this whole "too much" concept feels very far away.

How small does your world have to be if "too much of your child's foreign culture" is a foremost concern of yours?

By the way, I was a wiz at algebra. My 7th grade teacher uttered the words, "X stands for the number you're trying to find." Something immediately clicked, and I was off and running. I really never struggled with math again until trig.


  1. Sometimes I feel like we are darned if do and darned if we don't.

  2. But only if we give weight to other people's opinions, which, maybe, I'll stop doing.

    I figure that whatever I do, it's better than nothing. And if my son disagrees, he can show me how it's done. I'll gladly learn from him!