Friday, March 25, 2011

one race, two ethnicities: an explanation of ethnic identity in biracialism

[my daughter n posted this to her facebook recently, and sent me a copy in e-mail lest i miss it because of my lenten facebook fast. i liked it so much that i asked for her permission to publish it here, and she graciously granted it. these are some of her thoughts on the challenges and blessing of being biracial. -b]as a minority among minorities, i understand that there is a certain amount of ignorance in every people group. people organize the world into neat little categories. to simplify their own lives, they assign people to the category into which they seem to fit best. and usually, this system works. however, like every system, it has its flaws.

here, i present the issues of racial and ethnic identity in biracialism. i have since given up on the idea that i am racially fully both black and chinese for one very important reason: when the world looks at me, they do not see a full-blooded black or chinese person and do not treat me as they would a full-blooded black or chinese. therefore, i have not had the experiences of either black or chinese people. i have had the experiences of a blasian, which makes me (racially anyway) a blasian... chilack specifically.

it is important to be able to distinguish racial identity from ethnic identity. they are often related, especially in a world of full-bloods whose ethnic identity is usually the same as their racial identity. such is not the case with most biracials. the fusion of two races creates one race, which shares two ethnicities. that is to say, a blasian person is ... blasian, but shares the cultures, traditions, histories, and heritages of her black and asian parents.

i identify with both black and chinese-american cultures. and how could i not? i was raised in a home with a black mother and a chinese father. i grew up being exposed to black and chinese culture and traditions, and never once was i prompted (by my parents) to choose a side. it was only outside of my home that i experienced people who had this notion that i could never be both.

so, in case anyone is confused, let me clear this up once and for all.

long ago, MY people were shipped as slaves to the united states. MY people immigrated by choice to the deep south and worked hard to overcome racist attitudes. MY people worked in the cotton fields and MY people endangered their lives helping to develop the railroads. MY people saw a great victory thanks to the work of rev. dr. martin luther king jr. and MY people make up over a sixth of the world's population. MY people dominate both the academic and athletic worlds (yao ming, hollaaaaa!!!).

these are my people. we share common biological ancestry, but we also share something so much more meaningful: our heritage. we share our history and our culture. this is difficult for my people to accept. how can someone have two heritages? yet here i stand. just because i have two heritages does not mean that either is any less my own.

these are my people: i am descended from a slave who was set free by her master (and father of her children) and i am descended from chinese immigrants who carved out a place in society for themselves by running a grocery store. i may not be black or chinese racially, but i do share their heritages. they are my people and will always be my people. they may not receive me as their own, but i will continue to forgive them for that till the day i die. their joy is my joy, and their suffering is my suffering. i have no other choice.

my people are ignorant and they do not understand. we shouldn't be too hard on them, you know. they were brought up to see the world as a place where ethnicity and race were the same thing. i hope they catch on soon, though, because there is no turning back now. multiracialism is on the rise. new races are emerging every day, and with their appearance comes not the extinction of their parents' races, but the continuation of their heritages and cultures.

*** thanks for reading! check out my chilack group on facebook. feel free to talk to me (or message me) if you have any questions. :)


Kathy Tuan-MacLean said...

Hi Barry:

Thanks for sending me your posts--I loved your daughter's writing--makes me want to cry. I will definitely show it to my oldest to continue the conversation

gr8god said...

thanks for your kind comment, kathy. i loved this piece as well.

i'll be interested to hear how your own daughter responds. typically, i think the experience of half white-half asian children in quite different from half black-half asians. they seem more readily accepted in asian circles, from what i've been able to tell. but there's nothing like a first-hand report!