Sunday, May 8, 2011

Once You Go Black, You Can't Ever Go Back (Home)

Growing up in the United States, I have constantly been taught to be tolerant of other cultures and ethnicities. In fact, I have been constantly taught to not only be tolerant but even to be respectful and even embrace other cultures and ethnicities. That said, all this teaching of tolerance and respect mainly came from public school.

At home, it was a different story. Now, I'm not saying my parents are racists or bigots by any means, but there were certain... "ideas" that I noticed was different from what I was taught in school.

I've learned from the time I was young that the Asian community was a very tight and closed clique. My parents are immigrants from China, and that meant they mostly kept to the Chinese community in the community of  the University of Chicago. Because it was Chicago, Chinese families were far and few in between. But my parents eventually found themselves befriending a group of other Chinese immigrant families. I found myself surrounded with Chinese family friends. Christmases, Chinese New Years, birthdays, Thanksgivings, every possible holiday I found myself in the midst of a party hosted by a different Chinese family.

Figure 1: A typical birthday party

And all the Chinese family had similar ideals and ideologies. The same beliefs, traditions, what have you. But the one thing that has always been in the back of my mind was this: we were very exclusive of other cultures. I understand why. There was a language barrier and Chinese customs are not easily understood.

But this exclusivity was carried on through the years, after my parents and I moved to California. The Chinese community in Los Angeles was mind-boggling... but they were still quite an exclusive group. Which brings me to what I really wanted to discuss in this blog post: Why I Can't Date Black People. Or Hispanic people.

In my family, we just never talked about dating. It rarely came up in conversation, and if it did, it was fleeting and I was usually very embarrassed. But the one implied issue that I grew up with was: do not bring home a guy who is not Asian or White.

As much as I love my mother, she has been more vocal in her opposition of me dating someone of another culture. And I think the reason is just the stereotypes of non-Caucasians that unfortunately circulate within the Asian community. You can be as disgusted at my mother as you want. but keep this in mind: every culture is racist to some degree. Does my mother want me to end up with a gangster? No. Does she want me to end up with a street cleaner/gardener? No. And I understand why. It just happens that these specific jobs are stereotypically assigned to certain cultures that instead of saying "I don't want you to date a gangster", it comes out as "I don't want you to date a black guy".

Although this is all speculation on my part, I still think of the day I have to bring home a boy to meet my parents. And honestly, that day (if it ever comes), is probably going to be the scariest day of his life.

I apologize to this boy in advance.