June 13, 2009

ni hao, ma!

My twin girls would be considered Caucasian. If you glanced at them you would see the characteristic light brown hair, blue eyes, and light skin. If you look a little harder you will see that one has almond-shaped eyes and the other olive colored skin. We live in central Wyoming, the state that is least populated and probably one of the least ethnically diverse.

It is difficult to raise children. It is even harder when your children are one-quarter Asian decent. What will they claim as ethnicity on their college application? Being half Asian myself, I always claimed Caucasian – however I don’t have a solid explanation behind the definite check mark on the forms. Nowadays I am able to select a variety of ethnicities, so today I appear as veritable smorgasbord.

My girls often spend time with their maternal grandmother and at times they blurt out Filipino words casually. Then at other times they will say xie xie (pronounced ‘sheh sheh’) in response to receiving an item. While my mother is very much Filipino, she and my father spent over 5 years living in Beijing, China and developed a love for the people, the culture, and the language.

I have a love of travel, which I hope passes onto my girls. At the age of two my girls traveled to the Philippines to meet the Asian side of the family. In a few years we will take them to Australia to meet their extended family on my father’s side. We also have plans for travel to Ireland – a place with roots for my father and my husband. We want our children to be exposed to a wide variety of cultures and respect each of the differences.

I encourage their multicultural linguistics and use the words they are already familiar with but I don’t know how their preschool teacher will respond when they start school in August. I am confident that they will try to communicate with words in Chinese and Filipino. More than likely he/she won’t recognize that the words are from a different language and they may be corrected with the English-form. After all, who would expect Asian languages from my clearly Caucasian looking-children?

Comments

  1. Brendan O'Reilly says:

    Ni hao ma? Wo heng hao! Great article, would like to see more.

  2. mike collins says:

    Loved it.
    No one could of written it any better.

  3. Mary Groves says:

    Loved reading this Michelle. A very interesting topic and you wrote it very well.

  4. maryellen says:

    interesting post. I am part asian (my mom is Indonesian) my dad is Caucasian. I always selected white and thought of myself as white…until an african american co-worker pointed out I wasn’t white but bi-racial. I was 25. I never thought of myself as anything but white, although I loved my asian side and was proud. Just weird I guess. We have 3 kids, on who is from China. I worry about her ethnic identity. Lots to consider.

    ps
    like your girls I look white. Growing up I got “what are you??” a lot.

  5. Alicia says:

    This was a very interesting and thought-provoking article! I am Taiwanese-American, which means my parents were born in Taiwan but I was born in the USA. A lot of people assume that I am Chinese, and when I tell them I’m not, they keep guessing: Japan? Korea? Vietnam? Nope, I’m Taiwanese and proud to be it! Also, there is a stereotype that I am often irked by. I have come across many people who think all Asian people have squinty eyes, straight black hair, YELLOW skin, and speak in absolute jibberish. While the eye part tends to be true, it isn’t always the case. And come on, don’t you know better than to call someone YELLOW!? Also, I don’t mean to be rude because this was extremely well-written, but wouldn’t it be “Ni hao ma?” with a question mark, because it is a question?

    1. Priscilla says:

      Hi Alicia,

      Thanks for stopping by and reading!

      We think the author took a bit of poetic license and decided to use an exclamation point. Thank you for noticing and sharing though.

      Thoughtfully,
      Priscilla