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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I'm Chinese, So Why Is My Daughter White?

Growing up in East Texas, mine was the only Chinese family for miles around.  As a matter of fact, I didn't even know I was Chinese until I was in the first grade and another kid pointed at me while laughing and called me "chink."  I had no idea what that meant.  So when I went home that day I asked my mother what did "chink" mean.  She frowned, but did not make me feel bad about it.  She merely told me it meant I was Chinese.   I was "What?  What's Chinese"?  She told me people could tell I was Chinese because of my slanted eyes.  I quickly ran to look in the mirror in our bathroom and studied my eyes.  What was so different with them?  They were slanted?  I never noticed (and I still don't notice).

Anyway, yes, I am Chinese.  Okay, actually I am American, but my ancestry is Chinese. So that would mean my children are only half Chinese ethnically.  Because my husband, their father, is of European descent.  So what does that make my children? 

I learned that my middle daughter has been classified as "white."  We did not check off any box that would have stated that, so I wondered, "How did that happen?"  If you don't choose to check off a box, does it default to "white?"  If I mistakenly checked off "African-American," would she now be black?

Perhaps where we live, in a very heavily Asian populated area, "white" could be an advantage at her school. It would show more diversity, ironically.  Should I protest and tell the school my daughter isn't "white?" Or is she?  Should I check off the "Asian" box next time? Or the "Pacific Islander" box because we love the islands? But what if she doesn't get straight "A's," would that bring the national bell curve down?

This all made me wonder, why does it matter, why do these boxes even exist on forms? Does it bring more money to the school district if more whites (or less whites) attend?  If the box exists for someone to check off, what subconscious system are we supporting?  If these boxes did not exist on any form ever again, would we just stop thinking about our background and who we are or where we came from?

All I know is, I had no idea I was Chinese until someone else literally pointed it out to me when I was six years old.  That experience shifted my way of thinking and opened my eyes to see diversity.  I was never just a girl after that, I was always a Chinese girl from then on.

Interestingly enough, when I ask my three girls what they think of themselves as, they all three said, "Chinese".


  1. Great post! While my parents and husband's parents are from China, my husband and I were were born here and so were my kids. We knew we were Chinese American growing up, but my kids went through the same thing you did. It wasn't until very recently that my oldest (who is in high school) started thinking about his ethnicity. We live in a very non diverse community, and my kids have never thought of themselves as anything but American.


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