The Biracial Bind Of Not Being __ Enough
Our issues of having a hard time with gray areas, and needing to label people into simple boxes for our comfort, politically socially or emotionally.
The Biracial Bind Of Not Being Asian Enough
There's a photo of my great-grandmother I look at often. She is small, wearing thick black frames, with my grandmother, my aunts, and my mother huddled around her like she's queen of the hive. My great-grandmother was a widow and a landowner in China who lost everything during the Communist Revolution. She was punished for her wealth, and tortured and robbed before she fled to Hong Kong with her daughter to survive. For a long time, that's all they did: survive.
My mom tells me this story late one night over a cup of tea. She whispers, like she's afraid that if she talks too loudly, history will barge through the front door and repeat itself. "The people in our family are very strong," my mom says. "Especially the women." When I look at the photo, I'm reminded of my family's resilience. I'm fascinated by the women who came before me. I feel proud of my lineage when I look at that photo.
But somehow, I also feel like a fraud. I become very aware of my whiteness.
I oftentimes get the feeling that I don't belong to my own racial group (in fact, it's common among multiracial people; NPR even coined it racial imposter syndrome). When I talk about my history, share photos of my family, or speak Cantonese, I vaguely feel like I'm appropriating my own culture.
It wasn't always this way. As a small child growing up in Alief, an Asian neighborhood in Houston, I spoke Toisan with my grandmother, went to the Chinese grocery store with my mom, tore apart chicken feet at dim sum, and never thought anything of it. Perhaps because I never knew my biological father, it never occurred to me that I was anything but Chinese.
But then my mom remarried another white man, we moved to a more rural town outside of the city, bacon replaced chicken feet for breakfast, and I started speaking more English at home. My identity has become more a grab-bag of customs. And it's not just what I do. It's what I look like as well: Random strangers feel comfortable telling me "You don't look super Chinese" or even "Nah, you're just white." When you're multiracial, people feel like they can pick your identity for you. They try to pin down your background like it's a wine tasting tour — I'm detecting notes of Italian. Ooh ooh! Don't tell me, just let me stare at you harder until I get it right.
A Liar Shall Not Tarry In My Presence
What's the matter with your life
Is poverty bringing U down?
Is the mailman jerking U 'round?
Did he put your million dollar check
In someone else's box?
Tell me, what's the m
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