Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Two Halves: the Challenges, the Sacrifices, and the Rewards

Throughout history, multiracial children have come about when different racial groups come together during war, migration, exploration, trade, and even forced servitude.  Some of these children may have been born into families, but lets agree that historically, most grew up in disadvantaged situations.   Their visible presence were a constant reminder of their society's plight, rarely their society's fortune.  In some cases, enough of these children were born that they became their own groups (or sometimes their own caste) within their society.

I would like to think that today, the situations that surround multiracial children are more positive and involve two consenting adults that came together because of love, or at least some form of attraction.  A lot of these couples came together despite opposition from society and family.  I feel we must acknowledge our parents and what they went through to bring us into this world.

My mom and dad met after the Vietnam War era.  My dad was in the military, my mom was a cute Taiwanese girl that spoke English.   They met, fell in love, and were married.  My maternal grandfather refused to go to the wedding ceremony.  Thus begins the first challenge of their joined lives.  

Then, the children came.  And from then on, it had been a fun little trip through life.  Both of my parents have had challenges.  My mom had to move to a western country with different customs, a different language, and the people had very little knowledge of her native culture.  

My dad's challenges perhaps were more internal.  He felt the weight of bringing his wife to the new country, felt the weight of providing for her and protecting her from the part of society that didn't condone their marriage.  

As a couple, one of the hardest challenges would have been socially.  Most of my parent's friends are couples like them, American husbands with Taiwanese wives (mostly my mom's friends and their husbands).  There have been a few all American couples and a few all Taiwanese/Chinese couples that they have been able to befriend, but in general, the social group has been like them, and there aren't very many couples like that.  Perhaps this would not be a challenge to couples that were both raised in the same country but different racial backgrounds.

Other challenges involve the children.  My mother came from a traditional chinese background.  The role of parent and child are very different than in America.  She came into motherhood with her childhood experiences, but she was now raising American children.  I remember growing up and she would tell me, "I would NEVER talk to my mom that way," or "I always did whatever my mother asked right away, no questions."  My young American brain would constantly reply, "Whatever, mom."  

Then, I went to Taiwan.  I saw parent-child relationships.  There were some things I liked about it, and some things I didn't like about it.  But, I learned that my mom was right.  She probably didn't ever speak to her mom like I spoke to her.  She had to deal with these outspoken rebellious children in an outspoken and rebellious society.  She was a Taiwanese woman that had to raise American kids.  

My dad's challenge with the kids was similar to his challenge with his wife.  Making sure they felt secure, felt loved, and helping them navigate through society with self esteem and identity.  Sometimes, I think that in his challenge to help us find our identity, he had to lose his, just a little.  

There are still sacrifices.  There are still trials.  But, there are also the rewards.

"Recent research has shown that multiracial children do not differ from other children in self-esteem, comfort with themselves, or number of psychiatric problems.  Also, they tend to be high achievers with a strong sense of self and tolerance of diversity."

(See Mom and Dad? Your sacrifice has created greater sense of self and tolerance of diversity in your children, in your children's children, in those that know you, and in those that know them.  And doesn't stop here.  That will continue for generations and generations.  I know your sacrifice and the trials you faced, and I hope you feel in your hearts that it was worth it, because I know it was.) 

What challenges did your parents face?  What is the legacy of their sacrifice?  What reward (if any) do you feel your parents gained from living as a bi-racial couple?  

1 comment:

  1. Hmm, I both agree and disagree with AACAP. I definitely did not have high self-esteem when I was young and wondered where I belonged. To the caucasian kids, I was the "brown girl" and people didn't want to sit by me. Yet I feel like I didn't have enough culture to fit in with either the Japanese or Hawaiian groups (not that there were any where I grew up, anyway).

    But, I definitely agree with the last part of what they said. As I've grown up, that is me to a tee.

    My upbringing was good for me. I wouldn't change who I am for a second (except maybe I went a teeny bit overboard with the Type A personality).

    I've definitely got an interesting story for you, but much, much too extreme to post here.