Today I Learn… I make a point of learning something new everyday. This is what I learn each day

1, Jul 7, 2008

“I want to be white” Growing up Among White Americans

Filed under: children — admin @ 8:10 pm

My son said this when he was in a Methodist church daycare in Bowling Green, Ohio. He was the only Chinese there and there was a black girl called Amber. One day my three-year-old son came back asking me,
“Mom, am I white or black?”
“Why do you ask?”
“I don’t want to be black,” he said.
“Nobody plays with Amber,” he told me.
Now I understood what was on his mind. Keen observer but a sad observation for a three-year-old. I had not expected people in this small town behaved differently from this, yet I was truely amazed at his choice. I told him he was a Chinese, neither black nor white. He said “I wanted to be white, not anything else.” Oh-Oh, identity crisis, self-rejection in this melting pot, I said to myself. It was hard to explain all this to him at this age. I wished I had a magic wand and transform him into a white boy and then transformed him back to Chinese when he was ready to accept himself as a Chinese. So I promised him I would try some magic and do the transformation. He was happy with this and forgot the whole thing the next second, but to a mom with a worried bone, the incident left me thinking for a long time about many big sociological concepts, which I just learned.

When my son was little and I was at school, my family in China sent us a lot of clothes to help us out. Also because clothes cost a lot less in China than there. He never complained about it until he entered primary school in Fort Wayne, IN. He refused to wear any clothes that had Chinese characters or that did not look like American clothes. One day he came back with an unhappy face and talked with a whining tone because his classmates called him Chinese. So sad. We had many talks on self-acceptance, self-esteem, diversity, etc. But no radical transformation in his soul ever took place. I thought it took certain level of maturity to really accept yourself. Look at me, a century passed before I became a little bit mature. With that, I really needed to give him more time and let him mature at his own pace.

As I observed, he slowly started accepting himself and became proud of his cultural heritage. By high school he had traveled to China many times, read or been read about China, watched Chinese movies and TV shows, listened to Chinese stories, and learned about famous Chinese people.

The cumulative dose of Chinese cultural essences must have worked its magic. Also, he met some other Asian students in high school and during his national competitions, some of who have become his best friends. Here’s a telling evidence proving knowledge is not only power but also key to self-acceptance and feeling on the top of the world. With that, everybody is happy ever after.

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