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post #21 of 28

Ah, this is such an interesting challenge for me, trying to understand that line between harmless, genuine, non-fetishizing curiosity, and, well, the other kind. I'm still figuring it out. Also, when I do get "the other kind" (think, "I just love how exotic your baby is" - this in spite of the fact that I live in a place where my Chinese-Swedish-English baby is totally not exotic, the San Francisco Bay Area), I can't figure out how to articulate my problem with it. How do you explain to someone who thinks they're being nice that, in fact, the implications of what they're saying is not so great? How much do you even invest in that? And what's the best example to set for your child? Because, let's face it, on the one hand I don't want my son to see his crazy little Chinese mama with her fists up all the time, ready to do battle. But on the other hand, I also don't want my son to get the message that he has to simply accept the tacit prejudices that are imposed on him, I want him to see that it's okay to challenge those perspectives and to stand up for himself. And if I had a third hand, I would say that I don't really want to have to play race cop all my life, it just sounds exhausting! faint.gif

post #22 of 28

Well, I think exoticism can go both ways actually.  I'm also in the Bay Area and as I mentioned upthread my (whitey white white) kid gets tons of comments on his blue eyes.  The most insistant comments, the ones where the commentator just.won't.stop. come from older Asian women.  I assume because he is exotic to them.  And, yeah, I find it just as bothersome...because blue eyes have a cultural capital that disturbs me.

post #23 of 28

"Wal-Mart." orngbiggrin.gif

 

I am white and I find it incredibly rude to be quizzed about my ethnic heritage, let alone my son who is biracial. When I was in college a few years ago (older student), a young lady asked me what  my heritage was very baldly. It stunned me that she would be so audacious as to inquire after it and my immediate response was, "American." I'm from the Midwest and had never been asked that before, despite living in a multicultural area (Detroit.)

 

I have had several people ask about my son's heritage, usually with some variation of the question, "What is he mixed with?" I find this incredibly rude and tacky so my usual response is that he's not a smoothie. Said with a gentle tone and smile, it subtly lets people know that is an inappropriate phrasing. After answering such, I usually explain that is a disrespectful way to address his heritage and we prefer the term biracial or multiracial as opposed to "mixed."

post #24 of 28

Hey, Chamomile Girl! Oakland here. Yeah, you're totally right in saying that it can go in all directions (and I apologize if it sounded like I was implying otherwise). It's a really sad fact, I think, of a lot of non-white cultures to place a high value on light skin and eyes, and I can see how it'd be troubling for you as well to have to endure a lot of questions just based on the way your child looks. 

 

I don't know. I'm aware that people usually "mean well," but I don't think that necessarily makes their assumptions/objectification/invasiveness "okay." It's at the very least uncomfortable and awkward to have someone look at your child or yourself and be so obviously fixated upon your race. 

post #25 of 28

I wouldn't take "Where did you get your.........from?" as a question about race/ethnicity.  I'm just plain old White, but I constantly got "Where did you get the red hair from?" growing up.  I think it's just a standard phrase people pull out when they try to engage kids in conversation, and they just pick the first feature that strikes them.

 

It is pretty annoying though.  There are plenty of better standards to pull out, like "how old are you?"  At least with how old are you, you get to change your answer each year even if it is asked over and over.

post #26 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by patecake View Post

Hey, Chamomile Girl! Oakland here. Yeah, you're totally right in saying that it can go in all directions (and I apologize if it sounded like I was implying otherwise). It's a really sad fact, I think, of a lot of non-white cultures to place a high value on light skin and eyes, and I can see how it'd be troubling for you as well to have to endure a lot of questions just based on the way your child looks. 

 

I don't know. I'm aware that people usually "mean well," but I don't think that necessarily makes their assumptions/objectification/invasiveness "okay." It's at the very least uncomfortable and awkward to have someone look at your child or yourself and be so obviously fixated upon your race. 



Here in China we get a LOAD of comments from people all the time about how cute/beautiful/awesome/smart my child must be because he's mixed. He has blonde-ish hair and so people say stuff like "oh he looks just like his mom" when actually, he looks more like DH, he just has lighter hair. People actually comment on his "blue eyes" too, when in fact he has dark brown eyes -- it is clear they're not even really looking at him, they're just seeing what they want to see, a "foreign baby." It bugs me to no end that my son gets called a "xiao yang ren" (a little foreigner) and gets complimented on his Chinese when he was born in China and Chinese is his first and, at this point, pretty much only language. There aren't quite as many comments about my daughter, even though she has the exact same heritage, perhaps because she's still little but mostly I think because she has more "typical" Chinese coloring, namely darker hair, which makes her, in their most people's eyes, more ordinary. Of course I think both my kids are beautiful and I love their features but I have nothing invested in whether they look Chinese or foreign. I see a mix of their dad and me in them, not a mix of foreigner and Chinese.

 

But to get back on track, I totally agree patecake, the fact that people mean well doesn't really make it ok. I know that most of the people who comment on my son mean well (or, at least, they don't mean to be insulting), but their comments are objectifying nonetheless. It is very uncomfortable for me (and I assume it will be for my son and daughter when they understand what's going on, but who knows) that my children are seen first as a little "hun xue" (literally mixed bloode) and not just as a kid. I get it to a degree myself living as a foreigner in China but I'm an adult and as uncomfortable as it makes me to have my identity here so tied up in my whiteness, I can deal with it. I had a pretty strong sense of who I am before I even came here, but I worry about what the constant objectification will do to my children, who are still developing their identities and sense of self.

post #27 of 28

Jumping in as another Bay Area mom with a racially mixed kid and a totally different opinion. :)

 

I have never found it insulting at all to be asked about my ethnic heritage.  I'm actually white but get this question a lot (that I can recall, people have asked/guessed/assumed Spanish, Italian, Iranian, Afghani, Italian, Indian, Argentinian, generic Middle Eastern, generic Latin American, and a bunch of others I've forgotten).

 

I haven't gotten too much commentary about DD's ethnicity (DH is Indian) - I'd say racially mixed kids are maybe 30% or more of the playground population here so it's not really worthy of notice - but when I have I've never considered it offensive.  I do recall one guy saying in a surprised way, "She looks more Asian than you!" (to which I laughed and replied that my husband was Indian) and another mom at the playground saying "Oh, she's mixed, that's why she's so beautiful!" when I mentioned that DH spoke Hindi to her at home.  I chose to take the latter as a compliment, as it was meant.

 

I'm curious about where people are from as well.  I don't ask strangers directly about their ethnic heritage (as I tend not to ask personal qestions of strangers in general) but I find the topic interesting and honestly I feel that when we interpret kindly interest as loaded racism we contribute further to the overall loading of the topic of ethnicity.  Ethnicity can't be an 'un-loaded' topic if people don't feel free to talk about it, IYSWIM.

 

Of course I might feel differently if I were an underprivileged minority, or had ever experienced direct racism, or lived in a less multiethnic area, or were a more obvious ethnic 'mismatch' with DD.  I don't delude myself that all inquiries about ethnicity are benign and to be taken as such.  But being who I am, living where I do, and having the experiences that I have, I feel my best path is a charitable approach to the curious. 

 

ETA: I would have been annoyed by the guy in the OP as well.  But not for reasons of ethnicity.  Just bc it's rude and upsetting to a small child to be asked a personal question like that repeatedly.  It's harassment really, and would still be  so if the child in question were not racially mixed.  I'd be inclined to say something like, "Looks like he doesn't want to answer that question right now."

 

post #28 of 28

Hey, Mambera, glad you jumped in! I will clarify a little by saying that I actually very seldom get asked the question directly, "What's your/your baby's ethnicity?" And if I did, I actually don't think I'd mind, necessarily (I'd have to be asked to be sure, I guess!). I think this is likely because my baby's ethnicities are obvious to most people around here. As you know quite well, I'm sure, the Bay Area is home to a *ton* of Chinese people, and a *ton* of Chinese/Caucasian couples, and of course as a result, a *ton* of Chinese/Caucasian kids running around! So, I don't think I get asked that question directly so much because most people can probably already guess. Not to mention that my son really does look smack dab in the middle of my husband and I (if you closed your eyes and hazarded a quick guess at what sort of baby pops out when you've got a Chinese mama and a Caucasian baba, you're probably not far off!).

 

What I get more of is that curiosity about his heritage, but with what feels like an subtextual layer of judgment in one way or another. So, for instance, when someone tells me my baby is so deliciously exotic, it rubs me the wrong way. To me it feels like a "I'm noticing you because of your race!" but with an additional game of "which one of these things is not like the other?" Does that make any sense? A word like "exotic," in my opinion, by definition sets up a contrast between "normal" and "alien." Something belongs, something doesn't. And even it's "a pretty alien, one I'm saying great things about!" it's still alien, no? 

 

Here I have to concede that it's not *just* the assumptions of the person making the comment, but also the baggage I'm bringing to the table as a person made to feel for much of my life as a foreigner in the country that is my home (and, as thelocaldialect can attest to, this doesn't necessarily mean you have to be a person of color!). So, fairly or unfairly, I think I view some comments through a certain lens because of that. I think I'm always subconsciously aware of the fact that there's a power differential when it comes to race (I think when you're not in a dominant group, whether it's because of your race or otherwise, it might be difficult to erase this awareness? At least, that's what I'll say for my own perceptions.). Does this make any sense?

 

And I do want to add that there *are* people whose curiosity is very clearly benign and with no judgment attached. I love it when people overhear me speaking Chinese to my baby at the park and they ask about it ("May I ask what language you're speaking? Did you grow up bilingual? Are your parents American-born?"). 

 

Mambera, I think you make a really good point about being open with respect to discussing ethnicity; you're right in that we can't get past our assumptions if we can't even talk about them. Thanks for that reminder. I would like to remember to be open to curiosity, rather than feeling so immediately on the defense. 

 

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