lundi, janvier 23, 2006

a harsher than normal rant

Today I heard a comment (from someone whom I think meant no insult to me) that Asian Americans who become religious are doing so because they're "coconuts" or "twinkies" (wannabe whites) and they're selling out to the dominant white culture. I'm just sitting here mulling that over because I don't know what to make of it. Is it true? I'm sure that on some level being white has got to be easier and nicer in so many ways than being brown or yellow. I've certainly grown up with that thinking and I don't really know if it is true.

Even at the college level where I ran into a great deal many more people of varying non-white skin colors who were very intelligent and who demanded respect -- sometime in the past 11 years I met one white professor of psychology -(This professor is probably one of the reasons I consider psychology classes a waste of time and money. Everything you need to know you can read in books on your own.)- made an offhand comment to me that it is best if I stay out of the sun, because if my skin wouldn't be so brown, I would look a bit more normal and respectable. Perhaps she meant it in a different way and I certainly hope so. There were evaluations of Asian Americans by other Asian Americans based on who their friends were. If all of your friends were Asian you fit in and were good meet the parents material. If all of your friends were white you were self-hating. If you had a good mix of both, then you were well-adjusted. I failed that test miserably. All of my close friends were white.

One experience I could never quite find a way to reshape into a fashion that excuses the words and actions was something that I heard all throughout my K-12 schooling in Chesapeake, VA where I grew up. I can remember quite well the students at my elementary, junior high, and high schools who would call me a "chink" or walk by where I was sitting and say "ching chang chong" in whild and crazy voices. One student in particular would make comments to me about my body or the way I dressed, etc. and tell me if I changed those things he'd be willing to date me. As much as the comment hurt, I kept a retort that he was too stupid for me anyway to myself and would stay silent. I wondered to myself at one point several years ago whether the move in my own life towards being an observant Jew hadn't had more to do with wanting to hide who I am so that people wouldn't be able to hurt me than with a genuine desire to pursue a particular devotion to God. A heretical thought I thought then was maybe a devotion to God is a means of whitewashing one's identity regardless of what color one's skin is. One hopes that God doesn't judge one based on one's skin color. I never heard mention of prayers reaching god and being sorted by skin color. That idea almost sounds like a Bill Cosby skit: "Here, Lord, are all the white people prayers." "Put them in this box please." "Here, Lord, are all the yellow people prayers." "Place those in this bin please." With the apparent racism, why wouldn't one want to be white after all?

People who see me often can't tell whether I'm Filipino, Chinese, or some other form of Asian. I was travelling at the end of December and someone in line with me asked if I was Filipino. Another woman in line was speaking in Chinese and I was chuckling to myself listening to her conversation warning whomever she was talking to not to drive too fast. I suppose I've figured then that if people can't tell what ethnicity I am --my inherited identity shouldn't be that important to me either.

I'm not sure though that it could ever be even close to that simple, because I think it's inherent to any group to want to be something exotic and other. I see plenty of whites who wear "Chinese" outfits. These girls walk around in Chinese style dresses -the sort one expects to see on a waitress at a Chinese restaurant or the sort one figures is an American fantasy about what authentic and antique costume a Chinese woman would wear- or if faux Chinese blouses or jackets or slippers. I have admit to finding the Chinese slipper fad in the United States a bit interesting. Chinese people have these slippers because culturally we don't allow people to wear shoes into our homes. Sometime about a year or tow ago, women of all sorts around the US began sporting these slippers as the latest fashion accessory to their outfits and wardrobes. Something about that fad seems silly to someone who has been taught the those slippers are for indoor wear only. These women aren't necessarily imitating becuase they think it's good, but because they are immersed in a culture that sells material goods, pushes exoticism and individuality, and trains people to hide their self with a level of mediocrity in one's personal growth. A young woman mentioned to me that she dislikes or feels odd or feels somewhat intimidated by another woman's lack of fakery. She said that since this woman isn't fake at all, she's really intimidating. Why is that? Why is it that being true and honest is so fearsome? I suppose it is because society has bred a bunch of idiots who are afraid to know who they really are. so long as everyone else will play along with the fake game, no one need be exposed.

This past Saturday night I went to a lecture at a synagogue about the history of Jews in China. As I said to my friend Jeremy, events like that must bring out the Jewish freaks. It was worse than walking into the local Chabad house, which is potentially a means of experiencing the white middle-aged or older Jewish freak population depending on where the Chabad house is located. Everyone who had anything that looked Chinese -be it silky cloth with embroidered "Chinese style" patterns on it in the form of a yarmulke/kippa or shirts, vests, jackets, etc, was wearing their Chinese costume. Perhaps this is in support of the Jewish-Chinese relationship, but quite frankly, I don't see people wandering around in eighteenth or nineteenth century English outfits when they go to hear a Brit speak about the history of American and British relations.

A couple at the talk afterwards asked me if I was Jewish and cooed over how well I speak English. I wanted to hit them over the head and say --dumbass I was born and raised in an English-speaking country! My cousins talk about how marrying a white person is selling out and yet a great number of them have done so. There are people from both sides who will throw stones at a mixed-identity person. One may as well just learn that there are a lot of crazy nutcases out there.

I don't know what I think, I just know that somehow internally it makes me angry on some level. I wonder if I'm too sensitive.

No whitey is ever going to know what it is like to be looked at for the color of your skin and treated a certain way -as if you couldn't speak English properly- or to have your culture mimicked or mocked a certain way. How is anyone ever to understand? I wonder, too, how does anyone ever expect not to experience isolation if that is the case? Perhaps you can argue that Asian Americans who take on religion are those people who are spiritual who looked for an additonal means of connecting with the people around them based on shared values. Christian and Jewish values are very similar to Chinese values, so it isn't much of a stretch.

Perhaps then the answer is that in some realms one finds one's connections with people in beliefs or in a common cause. Beliefs and the common cause then offered by religion may be a means of bridging that gap and not a means of becoming "white." I certainly don't want or like to ditch my heritage, my foods, my roots, my traditions and rituals as a person of Chinese descent for what other peoplethink is normal and right. That bland Ashkenazi fare of things which are mostly sweet isn't ever going to be a staple of my existence. People often say, it's just food, but if you moved to a country where you could not longer eat anything you were used to eating -no bread, no cheese, no steaks, no potatoes, no salad, etc.- you might figure out why it's important and nice to have those things.

Perhaps though, people choose it genuinely because they care about God. I'm tired of people thinking that converts of non-white skin colors convert because they want to be white. The white converts convert to be closer to God. The non-white converts convert to be white. Where's the logic in that? Hah. Some Jews are just so stupid.

okay, end of rant. I may not believe all of this so wholeheartedly tomorrow, but I'm an angry cat right now and so I'm ripping on any piece of furniture that comes my way.