Do white parents become "less
white" when they have non-white kids? That question is burning up my Facebook
feed right now, thanks to an essay in the New York Times last week.
In the piece published in Motherlode, Jack Cheng (a Chinese American man married to a white woman) writes
of his wife:
"She became less white when our son, and then our daughter, were born. I think the first bit of doubt surfaced the day we were on the subway with our newborn and a woman came up to my wife and said: 'Oh, he's so cute! When did you adopt him?' I was livid: Did it not occur to this woman that the father was sitting right next to his wife and child?"
Is she being singled out for
random, invasive questions based on the way her family looks?
Do her children sometimes wish they
could look like the people they see on TV and in the movies?
Is she getting a sample of what non-white people go through on a regular basis?
Yes, to all of the above. Yet none
of that makes her less white.
It's eye-opening and sometimes
infuriating when you see how the world treats your loved ones differently than
it treats you. And for a mama bear (or papa bear), the claws instinctively come
out. I remember one time when I was walking around a trendy neighborhood after
a dinner out with my husband's family. Some drunk college students yelled a
racial slur at me. My white relatives were incensed, but I just kept on
walking. You learn to pick your battles.
It just seems disrespectful and offensive to proclaim yourself as Asian (or Latino or black) because you're married to someone who is or the parent of kids who are.
As an Asian American woman, I
experience that all the time.
And as a parent of mixed-race
children, I get the questions, too.
Is your husband Asian?
Is your husband white?
How did you meet your husband?
Why are there so many Asian women
married to white men?
Are you teaching your kids Chinese?
Why aren't you teaching your kids
Can you say something in Chinese?
Of course, it's not always that
way. We live in a diverse metropolitan area and most people around me are
racially tolerant—or sophisticated enough to act like they are. In fact, some
people might assume that because I'm married to a white person and my children
are part white, that I'm becoming less Asian. Sometimes, I sip Pinot Grigio and
discuss "Wolf Hall." Other times, I drink
boba and talk about the casting for the live-action version of "Mulan." Either way, I'm still Asian. Or
rather, I'm so AZN (^_^).
While I might be able to move
in different circles and enjoy a variety of cultures, that doesn't change the
fact that my skin is golden, my nose is wide and sometimes people assume I'm a
Tiger Mother. Or the manicurist. Or that I should be taking their General's
I think it's a good thing that white
parents are becoming more aware of the discrimination, self-hatred, and just generally
complicated experience of being American—but not white. But it just seems
disrespectful and offensive to proclaim yourself as Asian (or Latino or black)
because you're married to someone who is or the parent of kids who are.
I'm all for white parents being
allies to communities of color. Expose your mixed-race kids to role models who
look like them. Honor their culture. Speak up against injustice. Just don't say
you're not white.