This is not a piece of artwork, but a personal story about me and my biracial cousin. There’s no pressure to publish this if you don’t want to, but it’s too long for an ask… so here it is.
I’m East Asian and as a little kid, I was never comfortable with this fact. When I started actively participating in online communities when I was 14, I NEVER admitted that I was Asian. Because of my English first name, people assumed I was white and I liked it that way.
It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I started being able to openly admit that yes, I’m a POC. It took me longer to be comfortable with it. Now, a recent conversation with my young cousin is bringing all those feelings of shame and insecurity back.
My aunt’s husband is white, so their kids are biracial. The elder, a boy, looks clearly mixed. His younger sister is more white passing. We recently went on a big family vacation to Chicago where we visited some museums. We were looking at an exhibit of Chinese artifacts when the following conversation took place (this is a condensed version):
Him: “This is boring.”
Me, teasingly: “But this is your heritage!”
“No, it’s not. I’m German.”
“You’re half German. Your other half is Chinese.”
“No, it’s not. I’m not Chinese.”
“… You’re half. Your mom is Chinese. So am I.”
“But I’m not Chinese, I’m German.”
I try teasing him again: “Is there something wrong with being Chinese?”
He has no answer. His dad jumps in: “She’s right. You’re half Chinese.”
Him: “… Fine, but I’m mostly German.”
I can’t describe how much it hurts that this kid is so against the idea of being even partially Asian that he just outright denies something that we’ve never hidden from him. He’s nine years old; more than old enough to know his racial background. His school has a high population of Chinese kids, he sees our grandmother (who speaks minimal English) on a regular basis, he receives the customary gifts on Chinese New Year and he enjoys other parts of our culture (like homemade Chinese food).
Yet the idea of being anything but fully white is repulsive to him.
He’s reminding me of myself at that age except the difference is that he has a white half that he thinks he can hide behind. I don’t want him to hide. I don’t want him to feel ashamed of an undeniably important part of him like I did… and sometimes still do. I want him to be proud of both halves.
And this is not an isolated case. I have two other half white cousins who have outwardly expressed shame when our grandmother picked them up from school. They tried to deny being half Chinese to their friends who saw her.
So fuck anyone who says we live in a “post-racial” world or that we shouldn’t be talking about these issues. The racism that is practically sewn into every stitch of society, especially the media, gets absorbed by children so early and so quietly that no one even realizes until shit like this happens. Not speaking out against it just tells these kids that hey, nothing’s wrong. And that’s bullshit.