BlackLivesMatter vs BlueLivesMatter

A/N: Due to the nature of this post, my commenting policy will be strictly enforced. This goes for comments on my Facebook page as well. 

I’ve been seeing a video by Nick Palmisciano called “Blacklivesmatter vs Bluelivesmatter” being spread around on Facebook and while I’m not surprised, I am irritated. I actually started to comment and reply on a friend’s post, but it burgeoned into something incredibly long and unwieldy for a Facebook comment. Then I remembered that I have a blog.

Here’s the video I’m talking about. My thoughts are below.

On the surface of things, this video seems reasonable.

Surely, both sides have valid points. After all, the police officer in the video just accidentally bumped into the black woman. He didn’t mean any harm and she recognizes the situation for what it really is: an accident. Neither of them can figure out why people are coming in, literally silencing them, and putting words in their mouths.

Everyone except the original cop and woman is portrayed as unthinking idiots who hate nuanced thinking and context.

Except, of course, that most of the “situations” that spurred the BlackLivesMatter movement were not accidental bumps in a parking lot where no harm occurred. These situations resulted in physical violence, arrest, and/or death.

Look, I know a few cops – and quite frankly, in my entire life, I have never been ill-treated by a police officer. In fact, every time I’ve had interactions with the police, whether because I got pulled over for a ticket, or because they were actively protecting me and my family from stalking or physical violence, I have been treated well, with kindness, and respect.

But you know something? As much as my experience with the police has been fantastic (well, no one would say getting a speeding ticket is fantastic, but let’s just say I have never feared for my life – even when I was annoyed or less than polite), I am aware that my experience is not the same as everyone else’s. In fact, I am 100% positive that my experience, as an Asian American woman, whose stereotype is that of a meek, submissive victim, is quite possibly completely opposite that of a black man or woman.

Some of this video is true in the sense that individually, there are definitely cops and black folks who are “bad apples.” Equally true, the video posits that many people don’t want to think or consider nuance. The irony is that this video also lacks nuance.

You see, what #blacklivesmatter understands and #bluelivesmatter doesn’t seem to is the problem of systemic racism. Racism that is inherently part of the system – and if you are born and raised in America regardless of race, you cannot help but absorb through culture constantly telling you that black people are dangerous criminals and that cops are the good guys who occasionally have to use force to protect us.

So if you’re a cop – even a good, well-meaning cop, because of these messages, you may unconsciously use more force more quickly on a black person than a white person. These biases perhaps may be at best, just a nuisance, but can turn deadly in an instant as long as you, the cop, “feels” danger is imminent or threatened.

But as for WHY cops might feel endangered, THAT isn’t being questioned or explored. THAT is the quandary black men and women feel the consequence of all the time. The reason why cops feel threatened by an unarmed black kid in a hoodie is far more subtle than “the guy is racist.” The reason is because society is racist, constantly telling us that black men and women are violent drug addicts who are ghetto and poor and have no class.

Our country, as great as it is, was founded on slavery and genocide. We are literally built on the blood of not only revolutionaries who wanted freedom from paying the King’s taxes, but also with the blood of brutally enslaved peoples and the systematic elimination of another people. All our country’s wealth was possible because it relied on free labor from humans who were treated as cattle (HUGE TRIGGER WARNING) as well as stealing a fertile land by trickery, broken promises, and outright warfare. This evil has infiltrated every aspect of our country’s systems and is woven into the fabric of our history and collective memory (no matter how hard we try to deny it).

So, we all, by virtue of being born in the United States, are complicit and part of this racist society. Some of us benefit more so than others.

It is so much easier to say that it is individual police officers who are giving the rest of cops out there a bad name.

We want these matters to be on an individual level because then we as a people do not have to do anything. We can just call these events a singularity as something out of the ordinary that lets us judge those “racist cops” or those “thugs.”

We can then sit back, smug and safe.

I can just sit back, smug and safe.

But if it is a systemic problem, the solution isn’t easy or simple or even straight forward. I don’t even think there is a solution short of a complete overhaul of not only our existing structures (be it justice, education, economic, or religious), but also a complete overhaul of our thoughts.

Who wants to examine how our thoughts are influenced by racism, sexism, and religion? Who wants to go through life seeing things as they are (or at least, less oblivious than we used to be)? Who wants to write letters to our representatives, confront our pastors and teachers and school boards and HOAs and our neighbors? Who wants to be the squeaky wheel? Who wants to write long blog posts about that again? Or comment on Facebook posts?

A systemic problem makes me complicit and that makes me uncomfortable.

This whole post makes me uncomfortable. Why? Because although I’ve been vocal, I still don’t enjoy putting myself out there. I still want to seem pleasant and likable and not one of those people – you know, who always has to bring race or sex or whatever into the conversation.

But you know what? People are dying. Black people are dying. And my discomfort pales in comparison.

How to Gauge Chinese Fluency

**This piece was originally part of a series of posts. You can find the updated version, along with exclusive new chapters, in the ebook, (affiliate link) So You Want Your Kid to Learn Chinese

Before I continue, I recommend you read my post about setting realistic expectations to get the most out of this week’s article. This is not because I want to whore out my previous posts (ok, that, too), but more to properly frame this week’s post about gauging Chinese fluency in your children. (You know, so you can have realistic expectations about what I’m about to write.)

Also, I just want to say upfront that many people will likely take umbrage at my remarks. I totally understand. I might be skewering one of your sacred cows. No one likes their cows skewered unless they are the ones skewering – and even then, only if they also get to eat the skewers. So, I get it. But that doesn’t mean the cows weren’t in need of a good skewering in the first place.

Anyhow, enough with the belabored metaphors and on with the post. Whooo!

So, tl;dr version of my Realistic Expectations post (because I know you didn’t go read it): Chinese fluency requires intention. Your goals may differ from mine, but your kid isn’t going to be magically fluent just because that would be a nice thing to have. It takes work. And depending on your expectations and goals, more work than the minimum of showing up to Mandarin Immersion school every week day or a weekly three hour Chinese School session. (Of course, there is a lot more nuance to the post, but why would we care about that?)

Oh, your kid is from a non-speaking family and is fluent from going to a few years of MI?

Oh, your kid is from a non-speaking family and is “fluent” from going to a few years of MI school?

For the sake of this post, I’m going to assume you want something similar to what I want, which is for my kids to have a native level of speaking and understanding Mandarin as well as functional literacy. (If your idea of fluency is for your kid to know a few phrases and perhaps order some food or ask for the restroom, we need to have a discussion about the correct usage of the word “fluent.” Words have meaning and it behooves us to use them precisely.)

At the risk of being a clichéd college application essay, a quick Google of the word, “fluent,” brings up the following definitions:

  • (of a person) able to express oneself easily and articulately.
  • (of a person) able to speak or write a particular foreign language easily and accurately.
  • (of a foreign language) spoken accurately and with facility.

Of course, I know that not everyone has the same expectations of their children as me – nor do I think that is necessary. In general, I think the above definitions will suffice for most people in terms of fluency; we want our children to be able to understand and express themselves in Chinese with ease, accuracy, and facility.

In our pursuit of this fluency, many of us enroll our children in Mandarin Immersion schools, weekly Chinese schools, after school programs, or tutors. We want to believe the claims of “complete fluency” or “native grade level fluency” from the principals and teachers. However, let’s be real: these folks have a slight conflict of interest and unless they have quantifiable results to back up their claims, what you’re really buying is hype.

And honestly, without additional supplementation, either from heritage parents speaking Chinese at home, or hiring additional tutors, native level fluency is most likely improbable from just being enrolled in an MI school or Chinese school.

Alright, I hear you saying. Where’s my proof? Where are my studies? Why am I such a snob?

I’m going to cheat and say, sorry. That’s not the type of post I’m writing today. (Or ever, actually.) I fully admit that I’m just a regular person with no fancy degrees in Mandarin Immersion or secondary language acquisition. However, I really would offer you as proof the millions of ABCs (American Born Chinese) and BOBAs (Brought Over By Airplane) who have come before you with varying levels of success in Chinese fluency. If it were really that easy, there would be far more fully fluent ABCs and BOBAs in existence and this topic wouldn’t be such a sore point for so many of us.

Anyway, even if you don’t believe me, given all the time, effort, and money you are investing in this pursuit, wouldn’t it be nice to know if your investment is giving you the appropriate returns? In short, how do you know your kid is as fluent in Chinese as you think they are?

As I am wont to do, I will split the families up into two categories: Speaking and Non-Speaking Families.

1) Speaking Families (Wherein at least one of the parents speaks, understands, reads, or writes Chinese. Depending on the degree of fluency, however, you may also need to refer to the Non-Speaking Families section.)

Clearly, the higher degree of fluency, the easier it will be for you to determine how fluent your own children are in Chinese. Just like a native English speaker doesn’t need much help with figuring out if their kid is fluent in English, you will have that same ability.

In cases of mixed-fluency/ability, I will refer you to the next section. In my own particular case, I am pretty fluent in speaking and understanding so I have no problem ascertaining how fluent my children are at speaking and understanding. However, my reading and writing are sorely lacking. I can read perhaps about 500 characters if we are being considerably generous – but if there is pinyin or zhuyin, I can read everything and comprehend most of it. In the case of reading and writing, I will obviously be less able to judge accurately.

2) Non-Speaking Families (Neither parent speaks, understands, reads, or writes Chinese.)

Now, as a non-speaking family, you don’t have the built-in advantage of being a native speaker to determine how fluent your children are in Chinese. You can only hope that the people to whom you’ve entrusted your children’s Chinese education will be honest and ethical in their assessments and not just tell you what you want to hear.

In other words: Trust, but verify.

This is where adhering to certain standards and testing becomes useful.

Now, I’m not a huge proponent of standardized testing, (I am, after all, homeschooling), but I’m not opposed to them, either. I understand the need to have a way to semi-objectively measure what children are learning in school and to make sure that they enter college with a base standard of knowledge.

What I don’t like about all the standardized testing is our children’s education being reduced to how well they do on these tests, and that if they don’t “pass” them with a sufficient margin, that they are somehow failures.

At any rate, I think it is totally legitimate for parents (both from speaking and non-speaking families) to demand accountability in the form of standardized testing from their Mandarin Immersion and Chinese School administrators. However, it is also important to understand what the tests measure and what they do NOT. Please do not equate passing a test with being fluent.

At any rate, the tests are still useful for what they do measure. Some of the possible Chinese assessment tests are:

a) SOPA/ELLOPA – Interactive, listening and speaking assessments designed for children who are learning a foreign language in a school setting. They include hands-on activities and are conducted entirely in the foreign language. Students are assessed in pairs by two trained test administrators and, during the activities or tasks, are encouraged to interact with each other as well as with the interviewers. The focus of the interview is to determine what the students can do with the language. (PreK-8)

b) Linguafolio – A three-fold portfolio assessment that takes into account the child’s language/cultural background; samples of the child’s work over time; and formal qualifications, certificates or diplomas, achievements, and self-assessments.

c) STAMP – Web-based, computer-adaptive assessments that measure proficiency in reading, writing, listening and speaking for middle school through university students.

d) HSK – China’s only standardized test of Standard Chinese language proficiency for non-native speakers such as foreign students and overseas Chinese.

e) AP Chinese Test – The exam assesses students’ interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational communication skills in Mandarin Chinese, as well as knowledge of Chinese culture. The exam is administered on a computer. The student reads on the screen, listens through headphones, types using the keyboard, and speaks into a microphone. Students may choose between traditional or simplified Chinese characters for reading and writing in Chinese.

Beyond these tests, there really is no better way to check fluency than to speak with native speakers. Of course, you are also depending on the kindness of friends and strangers and their willingness to be completely honest with you for fear of hurting your feelings or their being amazed at your child’s novelty.

Sometimes, that really is the best you can do.

Here then, is the official end to my post.

However, I do have a few things that are related to gauging Chinese fluency that I wanted to speak to. Of course, I don’t speak for all Chinese/Taiwanese Americans, but I can say that I am not alone in my opinions.

So before I continue, I want to give fair warning that some of you will find much of what I say next offensive and perhaps unnecessarily harsh. I would apologize but quite frankly, I don’t care.

I want to address a few common pitfalls when it comes to gauging Chinese fluency that occur most often in non-speaking families: False Sense of Fluency (FSOF) and White Mandarin Fluency Standards (WMFS) (terms courtesy of Fleur).

False Sense of Fluency is pretty self-explanatory. Often, non-speakers with children in Mandarin Immersion are under the misunderstanding (often due to purposeful misrepresentation or unrealistic hype from teachers and administrators) that their children are more fluent in Chinese than they actually are. There’s no way you, as a non-speaker, would know because obviously, you trust what the teachers tell you!

White Mandarin Fluency Standards, however, is another beast entirely. This refers to the extremely low standards Chinese people have for white people to be considered “fluent” in Mandarin/Chinese – in essence, because they are white. Because there is literally little to no expectation that white people (specifically in the US) would ever learn another language – let alone Chinese, when they (and their children) speak any Chinese at all, no matter how poorly intonated or basic, they get fluency points just for trying. (Thereby leading to FSOF. It is all interconnected.)

If an ABC spoke the same poorly intonated/basic Chinese, they would be excoriated mercilessly. Furthermore, if a Chinese person spoke the English equivalent of this poor Chinese, the response would often be vicious and cruel with comments of “You’re in America, speak American!” or “Go back to your country!” There would be no WMFS equivalent. The contempt would be palpable.

I know, I know. I sound like a really shitty person when I talk about this stuff. But you know what? That’s because I am done coddling white fragility. You might think that we’re only supposed to be talking about Chinese fluency but there is all this subtext that you’re missing.

Here’s the thing: Chinese is not a “white” language and is integrally tied to a specific ethnic people. An ethnic people who, I might add, have had a long and complicated history with the US and white people. (What ethnic minority hasn’t? Also, I am aware that the US is not to be conflated with white people.)

And due to this long and complicated (and by complicated, I mean racist) history, many Chinese folks (who were mocked for their accents or “Ching Chang Chonged” in school) are rightfully annoyed and suspicious when white folks all of a sudden decide that Chinese is now the latest cool thing to acquire for their children. (And yes, of course, there are many legitimate reasons to learn Chinese, and of course, not only white people are wanting their kids to learn Chinese, and yes, of course, not all white people ad nauseam, – people, please! Stay on task here.)

willy wonka chinese

Furthermore, there are few things as aggravating as non-native speakers popping in on forums (or in real life) and loudly exclaiming how their darling child, after X number of years in a Mandarin Immersion school is now totally fluent in reading and writing Chinese and aren’t they fantastic?

I find these types of comments well-meaning but laughable.

To quote Irish Twins, “That must be one amazing school if they never speak [Chinese] at home and [their child] is magically fluent.”

Look. Someone has to tell you the truth.

That’s like my friend, Not Another DB MBA, saying, “My kid took math for 8 years. Sure, they know calculus!” Or me telling you that just because I can run a mile, I can now run a marathon.

Chinese is one of the hardest languages to learn. Not only is it a tonal language (which is notoriously difficult for non-native speakers to even distinguish), it also has over 20,000 characters – of which, only 10,000 are currently in common use. The Chinese government considers a person to be functionally literate (can read a newspaper) if you recognize around 2,000 characters. If you recognize 4-6,000 characters, they consider you highly educated.

Did you catch that?

The Chinese government expects its own people, people who already know how to speak Chinese and are literally immersed in Chinese culture, to be functionally literate if they can recognize 10% of Chinese characters. How can a person possibly think that their child, when only “immersed” in school for on average 6.6 hours a day, without any additional supplementation or support from a Chinese speaking household, be “completely fluent”?

And yes, I am overly petty when I snipe to my friends (I have never claimed to be anything other than petty and prickish). After all, what’s it to me if non-heritage and/or non-speaking families want their kids to learn Chinese? And what’s it to me if they are completely deluded in thinking their children are fluent? Who are they to me? And who am I to correct them?

This is where things get tricky.

It’s TOTALLY TRUE that it’s none of my business and certainly doesn’t merit reading the riot act on my part. Additionally, I concede that truly, your child really could be fluent. (And if so, I do find that to be incredible and wonderful.) HOWEVER, I consider this type of behavior just one of a legion of microaggressions that I, and minorities in general, have to deal with. It is merely one more reminder of the near constant cultural appropriation that happens to us.

I don’t want to retread my older posts, so if you’re interested in what I’ve written previously, I do go into more detail herehere, here, and here. (I will say that if you do not read these posts and then comment and complain about something I addressed there, I will respond with only a link. You have been warned.)

Look. I know no one chooses to be born white or Chinese or whatever. That is just a cosmic crapshoot. I don’t blame white folks and I don’t think being white automatically makes a person have a FSOF or WMFS. I really am pleased that so many people want to learn Chinese because I love the Chinese language and if only for purely selfish reasons, this helps me get more resources for my own children.

So, why did I have to go and ruin a perfectly civil and hopefully useful post by dragging it into the morass that is race and its incumbent squick factor?

As I said in a previous post, “Because it’s true and it happens and it’s real.  If you can’t handle that and don’t really want to navigate the murky and occasionally choppy waters of race and identity and whiteness or ‘otherness,’ perhaps Chinese is not the best language to choose.”

All I ask is that white folks be cognizant of the subtext and all the underlying issues something as seemingly innocuous as learning Chinese can bring up. Nothing exists in a vacuum. And if one of the reasons you want your children to learn Chinese is to become global citizens, it behooves everyone to not only have a deeper understanding of Chinese/Taiwanese culture and history, but Chinese/Taiwanese American culture and history as well.

Thank you for taking the time to read this never-ending post. I know it likely made many folks uncomfortable so I thank you for wading through the discomfort. Have a wonderful weekend.

The Slow Crazy-Making Of Microaggressions

Have you ever thought you smelled gas or a burning smell but couldn’t find the source no matter how much you tore apart your home to find it? And because it’s something that could be life threatening, you keep smelling it – long after you’re mostly certain that you were imagining it? Only to later find out that there really was something wrong?

Last year, I was visiting a friend’s new home and I kept smelling gas in their kitchen and occasionally, outside their house. It got so bad that I finally mentioned something to them. I felt a little embarrassed, but hey, it’s gas. You don’t want there to be some type of explosion and you could’ve done something about it. I prefaced with the caveat that I could totally be making things up, but since it’s free to ask the gas company to come and check it out, no harm, no foul.

Turns out, there WAS a gas leak in their kitchen. I wasn’t crazy.

Or a few weeks ago, I kept smelling something burning in the house and after checking my stove and oven, and walking around my house sniffing, I couldn’t figure it out. A few hours later, my mother came by and called me downstairs. She said, “Your fireplace is on.”

Now, for those of you who haven’t been to my house, that seems super obvious – why didn’t I notice before? Well, the simple answer is this: I have a giant plastic kitchen that takes up the entire front of the fireplace. (I mean, when would I need to use the fireplace in CA? Also, easy baby-proofing!) It’s a gas-lit fireplace with a light-switch on/off and I have it taped down to “OFF.”

It turns out, Gamera had been randomly hitting light switches that morning and she had hit that switch so hard, it broke the tape and the fireplace was turned on, slowly melting my plastic kitchen. Hence, the burning smell.

TERRIFYING. And also, more importantly, I wasn’t crazy.

Or, have you ever forgotten your phone and although no one ever calls you, now that your phone isn’t in your possession, all of a sudden, every ringing phone is yours. Or worse than that, you constantly hear a phantom ringing phone?

Now, imagine this happens every day of your life. Randomly. Sometimes, it’s the smell of gas. Or you think you have tinnitus. Or you hear a constant drip of water. Or random whistling. Whatever drives you nuts because you can’t find the source and do anything about it.

And now, you think you’re crazy because you even hear or smell or see signs of the smell or leak or phone everywhere – even when there is legitimately nothing to worry about.

That, my friends, is a tiny example of what it is like for minorities (be it women, race, etc. – anything that is outside of the “norm”) as we experience microaggressions (unintentional discrimination). (A ridiculous term, but I get why there is a term. It just sounds so vapid.)

In many ways, I almost prefer blatant racism because that’s easy to point to. I mean, sure, I Hulk out, (confer that time I got “Ching Chang Chonged”), but ultimately, it’s almost comforting to experience something so tangible. Like, finally, I can point to something to illustrate what I’ve been feeling! (Although technically, people could categorize it as a microaggression as well. I didn’t find anything micro about it!)

But the problem with obvious racism is that it obscures the more mundane things that get to you. Plus, it allows people (including myself) to justify and feel better about themselves. After all, “I’m not burning crosses or calling people the N word! I can’t be racist!”

The problem with microaggressions is that they are hard to prove. The comments seem innocuous and are usually meant that way. But over time, they build up and pretty soon, it’s not just the comment itself that sets off a negative reaction. It’s ALL the comments you’ve ever received.

Like smelling the gas everywhere, after a time, you begin to imagine offenses and become overly sensitive. (Which is a horrible way to live because who wants to be offended all the time? Or to be known as an easily offended person?)

And then when some real shit happens, people think you’re overreacting again.

Trust me. No one wants to be the boy who cried wolf.

And the super annoying thing is that really, the microaggressions come out at random. There is no preparing for it.

Like you could be talking to someone totally fine and seems super cool and then, they come out with, “Where are you from? No, I mean, originally. No, before that. No, I mean, where are your parents from? No, before that.” And you’re like, “Do I fucking know you? Am I renting a house from you? Am I applying for a job and this is an interview that I was unaware of? WHY THE FUCK DO YOU NEED MY CREDIT HISTORY OR WHATEVER?”

Or perhaps you’re riding your bike on a trail and a woman coming from the opposite direction takes up the whole trail by herself and her dog and she doesn’t move out of your way even despite multiple warnings and when it causes you to brake suddenly or run over her fucking stupid dog and causes your bike chain to fall off and you to fall off your bike, she yells, “Go back to where you came from!”

What, Jersey? (True story that happened to my friend.)

After my post last week came out, I had my usual Mandarin playgroup at my house and pretty much every single woman there had a similar story. If you go to any gathering where there are minorities and someone brings this topic up, you will be overwhelmed with stories.

We are not imagining it. This shit happens. All. The. Time.

Here’s the thing, I’m pretty sure we all think or inadvertently say or do racist/sexist/whatever-ist things. That’s the danger of being human and living in a world that requires us to make snap judgments and sweeping generalizations on a daily basis. I get that. It doesn’t make us bad people.

However, how we choose to respond when other people who have been hurt by our comments or behavior inform us (sometimes, un-gently) that they have indeed been hurt or offended might.

Of course, we feel defensive and embarrassed and terribly gauche and misrepresented, but in the end, it doesn’t matter because it’s not about us. It is about the person we have hurt.

And what do we do when we hurt someone? We apologize sincerely for our actions. (Note: We do NOT apologize for them being offended. That is a non-apology and possibly even more infuriating than the original offense.)

I have more to say on this matter, but I’ll save it for another post. Suffice to say, it’s been something I’ve been thinking about for awhile (on Reality and how stating Reality is not a judgment on anyone but just a statement of facts) and I just haven’t had the time yet to give form to my inchoate thoughts.

May all your aggressions today be macro instead of micro. Oh wait, that was NOT the point of this post. At all.

Who Made Me Gatekeeper?

It has occurred to me that based on my previous posts, it can seem that I have some sort of chip on my shoulder when it comes to Mandarin Immersion. (Perhaps “chip” seems inadequate. “Boulder,” maybe?) And perhaps, at times, I do. But like I mentioned in my previous post, just because my delivery isn’t to your liking doesn’t mean what I’m saying is not also accurate.

At any rate, I’d like to clear some things up and answer some (self-selected) questions folks may have. To change things up a bit, I’ve decided to do the post Q&A style today. If only because that requires less transitional writing. (Hey, what can I say? I want to be informative, but also, I’m really lazy.)

So, without further ado, a highly curated and self-induced Q&A.

Q: Why are you so mad all the time anyway? Just what is your problem with Mandarin Immersion and people who are not Chinese/Asian (non-heritage speakers) who want to do Mandarin Immersion?

Since I’ve already written several posts on this topic, I’ll refer you to those:

1) How An Article Confirmed My Worst Fears About Mandarin Immersion

tl;dr: Even on the topic of Mandarin Immersion wherein the majority of students are of Asian or Chinese descent, the focus is on the white experience. STOP OBLITERATING ASIANS FROM THEIR OWN STORY!

2) Hating On Mark Zuckerberg’s Chinese

tl;dr: Why is a rich white guy learning and having mediocre Chinese so impressive when millions of immigrants are FLUENT in English (albeit with an accent) but insulted and maligned and told, “You’re in America, speak American!” (And usually with laughably bad English.)

3) Will All This Mandarin Immersion Be For Naught?

tl;dr: My internal conflict re: the Mandarin Immersion bandwagon. On the one hand, I’m pleased at the increase in resources and classes. On the other, I’m still really annoyed by my language being relegated to a trend.

Q: Why can’t you be happier for more Mandarin Immersion opportunities?

As I have repeatedly mentioned, I am happy there are more opportunities for Mandarin Immersion. Anytime more people can be introduced to another language (in this case, Chinese) is a good thing. The more folks there are who express interest, the more resources and opportunities there are for me to take advantage of for my children. So, in purely Machiavellian terms, it is in my own self-interest to promote Mandarin Immersion.

However, it is possible to be both happy about more Mandarin Immersion opportunities and point out shit that makes me angry about the current situation.

Truly, even though there are parts of me that scoff at all the unrealistic expectations folks have for Mandarin Immersion, what’s it to me? Who cares if people are doing it for the “wrong” reason? Or don’t have a snowball’s chance in Hell for their kids to actually become and retain fluency? How does it harm me? And how is it any of my business?

The only time it does matter to me is when there is actual harm to me and my kids. (And by harm, I consider racism, entitlement, etc. all forms of harm.)

Again, my main concerns relate to the following:

1) When non-heritage parents and students think that just because they know some (or are learning) Chinese that they are now somehow Chinese and can understand and speak for the Chinese/Asian American experience.

2) When non-heritage parents and students dismiss the legitimate concerns and experiences of Chinese/Asian American parents and students.

3) When heritage parents and students dismiss the legitimate concerns and experiences of non-heritage parents and students.

4) When the white experience and viewpoint is of primary importance and spotlighted to the exclusion or tokenism of other experiences. (Ie: business as usual.)

5) The entitlement and utter cluelessness non-heritage (okokok, I mean white) parents exhibit when they complain about their kids being excluded or not popular or otherwise experiencing what every single minority person in America experiences to some degree on a daily basis. Then they cry “reverse racism!”

Q: Why are you so divisive? 

As for division, I am not advocating for exclusivity or some sort of litmus test. But rather, truthfulness in a community. There is no peace when the offenses and hurts of part of the community are papered over and over again for the sake of “unity.”

That isn’t real unity, opportunity, or peace. That is a lie.

ETA: Just had a thought. Why is it when I, as a Chinese American person, don’t like the idea of white people jumping on the Mandarin Immersion bandwagon, I am considered an elitist? But when white people do it about their golf courses, or financial institutions, or neighborhoods, they’re just “keeping tradition”?

Q: It seems like you’re wanting a litmus test or some type of delineation to see who should be allowed to participate in Mandarin Immersion. As if there were a “right” way to do it.

As appealing as a litmus test initially sounds, ultimately, I find it a dangerous slippery slope.

After all, who is to say who should “qualify” and be a “good” Mandarin Immersion candidate? Should it only be native speakers and their children because the parents want to pass on their cultural heritage and legacy? Should it also include heritage parents who CANNOT speak the language because they feel regret at their lack of fluency and because they also want to pass on their cultural heritage? Should it include only white and non-heritage allies? Should it include only white and non-heritage families who show the appropriate amount of dedication and commitment to learning a whole different language and culture? For that matter, should it include only native families who show the appropriate amount of dedication and commitment?

And even if we could “decide” who the “right” people are to allow in the Mandarin Immersion classes, who should do the deciding? And why them? And the danger of having such a calcified code of rules and qualifications is that all of them are so subjective. A person runs the risk of failing their own litmus test!

You know what that’s called? DOGMA.

I am uninterested in dogma.

I think the only litmus test is that the participants be human and someone in their family signed them up and enrolled them in Mandarin Immersion. Everything else is gravy.

Q: Who made you The Mandarin Immersion Gatekeeper?

No one. Aren’t you paying attention?

I am not The Mandarin Immersion Gatekeeper. Nor do I wish to be. After all, who wants to be the one who’s telling others that the “Seat’s Taken?”

I’ll freely admit. I used to wish there was a gatekeeper of sorts. You know, to keep the rabble out. But over time, I realized that that type of thinking was incredibly arrogant and divisive and ultimately, not helpful to the conversation. Plus, if I loved Mandarin Immersion, then really, I want as many people to take part in it as possible.

Personally, I think all schools should have some type of language immersion – be it Spanish, Mandarin, Arabic, Russian – whatever. Having more languages and cultures can only be a good thing. Keys to better understanding our allies and enemies and what have you.

Some instrumental posts that have changed my mind from being super “conservative” as it were about Mandarin Immersion, have actually come from the geek/SFF world. Many long time gamers or purveyors of Geek Culture (yes, capitalized) got all upset by the mass marketization of the things they love. And SF author, John Scalzi, wrote several posts that helped me a lot.

Now, I realize that the analogy is imperfect because I wouldn’t say geeks are or ever were an oppressed minority with major justice issues needing address. But the parallels are there. (Although there IS a need to address injustice and minority representation WITHIN the forms of comics/games/books. But that is an altogether different post.)

Anyhow, the main articles that really resonated with me are:

Who Gets To Be a Geek? Anyone Who Wants to Be – John Scalzi

A Creator’s Note to “Gatekeepers” – John Scalzi

When Someone Says They Love A Thing That You Love, Don’t Challenge Them; Embrace Them, And Love That Thing Together – Wil Wheaton

Q: You talk a lot about what you don’t want from fellow participants in Mandarin Immersion. What are things you would want? Or think that people “should” do?

Sigh. Again with the “shoulds.” I know. It’s human nature to want to draw a line in the sand and separate the sheep from the goats.

I don’t want people to live in fear of a bunch of “shoulds.” I don’t want non-heritage families to be kow-towing to heritage families. (But wouldn’t that be a nice reversal? NONONONONONO. Let’s not even go down that path.)

Rather, I consider some of these on my Wish List. A bunch of, “Wouldn’t it be nice if people acted in this manner?”

Here then are some of my “It Would Be Nices”:

– For non-heritage parents to listen, truly listen (without being the Tone Police), to the experiences, pain, and opinions of Chinese and Asian American parents. Language does not exist in a vacuum.

– For non-heritage parents to think before they speak. Especially thoughtless comments like, “What is ‘Asian,’ anyway?” or “Will they make any friends that speak English?”

– For both sets of parents to remember that not all Chinese Americans can already speak or read Chinese.

– For heritage and native speakers to not seem/be so smug.

– For non-heritage speakers to remember that it’s not all about them.

– While we’re at it, it would be nice for heritage speakers to remember that, too.

– For each group to remember that there are unique challenges each type of parent faces and to be a safe space.

Ultimately, the community of Mandarin Immersion families needs a healthy mix of heritage and non-heritage families. If the community is limited only to heritage families, there is no way Mandarin Immersion will reach the critical mass it needs in order to get more resources and money. If the community is limited only to non-heritage families, there is a great loss of cultural context.

Truly, it is possible to recognize that there can be different needs for different families – and to address those different needs. Let’s be respectful to the unique challenges each type of parent faces and be a safe space. Ultimately, we want to raise happy, healthy, and hopefully bilingual children.

Feel free to add more questions in the comments! As per usual, all trolling will be ignored and/or disappeared.

How An Article Confirmed My Worst Fears About Mandarin Immersion

Author’s Note: As per usual when I have a controversial post, I direct you to my Comment Policies. I encourage discussion but trolling, flaming, and general bad behavior will be vigorously disappeared. Also, comments that attempt to Tone Police will not be tolerated. If you don’t know what that is, figure it out. I don’t shit on your kitchen floor; don’t shit on mine.

Yesterday, an article about Mandarin Immersion schools in San Francisco made the rounds all over my Facebook feed. Pretty much every time I’ve seen it posted is in the context of self-congratulation and affirmation.

Well, friends. It’s time to Get Real.

For folks who find the article too long or too dry, here’s the tl;dr version: Chinese immersion schools are on the rise and super popular in the Bay Area. White parents worry their kids will make friends with Chinese kids who only speak Chinese. (Because OF COURSE Chinese kids can’t speak English.) White parents are sad their kids are excluded from the Chinese and multi-ethnic kids so they withdraw their children because they have The Sads. Oh, and didn’t you know? We aren’t even Asian anymore. Or Chinese. White people are. You know, because their kids can “talk” to the waiter in a Chinese restaurant.

Takesdeepbreath.

I haven’t yet decided if my post today will be scathing and sarcastic or even keeled and level-headed. (Trust me, thus far, I’ve been holding back.) On the one hand, I feel like we tiptoe too much around white people in case we offend their “delicate” sensibilities. On the other hand, I also know that it is hard to listen and learn when you’re being publicly ripped a new one.

I am, as it were, conflicted.

At any rate, upon reading the article, my immediate reaction was a swift and biting fury. And in true fact, I am still livid. But as I mull over this article more, I realize, more than my anger and offended sensibilities, is a deep underlying sadness.

Here we have an article on Mandarin Immersion that could be so encouraging in terms of garnering interest, collaboration, resources, and so many other possible things, and instead, we have an article that is at best, facile, but mostly, plainly offensive. But it is useless to bemoan what an article could have been. Rather, let us focus on what it is.

For an article that describes the immersion school demographic as mostly Asian or mixed-Asian descent (at De Vila, 63% identify as Asian, 18% white; at Chinese American International School, 38% Asian, 19% white; at Alice Fong Yu, 66% Asian, 5% white;), it manages to obliterate Asian people from the picture. Literally. Even the fucking CARTOON is of a white, blond family.

Oh, sure. They quote a few Chinese Americans who married white guys and aren’t fluent in Chinese. And full disclosure, my husband is half white, and most of my best Asian friends’ husbands are white. I really don’t care who people are married to or what language they speak. I don’t disparage Chinese Americans for not being able to speak Chinese. As an American Born Chinese (ABC), I know too well how difficult it is to maintain a language with which there are few people to converse and seemingly irrelevant to my life in America.

But overwhelmingly, the article treats Chinese as a commodity. A tool to be acquired separate from its people and culture. Chinese is for white people – something which they are entitled to because reasons. Just one more thing with which to be competitive in this hyper-competitive world.

The Chinese and Asian students and parents are mentioned only in the following contexts: demographics; a passing comment by a white couple that their kid only made friends with Chinese speaking kids; wanting kids to be able to learn their heritage; and excluding white kids.

Even in situations where Asians are the majority-minority, the focus is on the white children and the white experience. We cannot even star in our own fucking story.

The article mentions that some kids think they are Chinese because they can “speak” the language. How cute, the article implies. Look at how tolerant and accepting we are!

NO.

It is not adorable or a sign of “colorblindness” (please don’t get me started on that term) for some white kid to think he or she is Chinese. Because no matter what, that kid is still a white boy or girl who will grow up to be a white man or woman. And no matter how fluent or culturally aware this kid becomes, they will still be white. With all the privileges and cultural currency whiteness evokes.

He will not be Chinese because he will not be overlooked as a meek or effeminate male who just needs to be a little more assertive to get that promotion.

She will not be Chinese because though she will encounter sexism, she will not be seen only as a submissive sex object to fulfill every white man’s fantasy. Or a victim. A prostitute. A dragon lady.

He will not be Chinese because he will not have the size of his penis mocked or be told by his iPhone to open his eyes when he smiles.

She will not be Chinese because all her hard work and success in math, science, or medicine will be dismissed because she’s Asian and they’re all good at math. It’s in their DNA.

He will not be Chinese because any poorly pronounced Chinese words he speaks will be fawned over and praised and gushed about and make the international news cycle where a Chinese man who is actually fluent in English but has an accent is written off as a waiter or the dry cleaner or the delivery man with a “Ching Chong Chinaman” song.

She will not be Chinese because even though she was born here, no one will be amazed at how well she speaks English. Or randomly spout Chinese words at her like “Gung hay fat choy” or “Wo ai ni” or some other cheesy pick up line and then get offended if she isn’t suitably impressed. Or ask her where she’s from. No, where she’s really from. No, where her parents are from. No, before that.

He will not be Chinese because he will walk into any room or any country and expect to be catered to because he is American but really because he is a white male and the world bends over backwards to make sure the poor, sensitive white man is not insulted or has his feelings hurt.

She will not be Chinese because even though she is with her own children, no one will come up to her and ask her how much she charges to be a nanny or au pair.

I am deeply offended when the article quotes an author of a Mandarin Immersion book (a book which I purchased because I thought it would be helpful to me in my homeschooling) saying, “What is ‘Asian’ anymore, anyway?”

What’s Asian? What’s Asian? I’ll tell you what it’s NOT.

It’s NOT white people randomly deciding that my people’s language is suddenly useful for the future so it’s the hipster language trend of the moment.

It’s NOT some thing you can acquire from lessons or a bauble you add to your collection of progressive liberalism to show off how fucking enlightened you are.

I want to give the author, Beth Weise, the benefit of the doubt. However that doesn’t give her a pass. It doesn’t matter if she had good intentions. A person can have good intentions and be offensive. Weise’s comment is incredibly dismissive of an entire people. In fact, an entire continent of multiple peoples and cultures and lives.

Also? I’m really weary of constantly giving benefits of the doubt and passes. Where the fuck is MY benefit of the doubt or pass when I am angry about racism or sexism? Or when the Tone Police come to town when poor white folks are offended by the truth and consequences of their actions?

And then, the article ends with indignant white parents who cry because their kids aren’t popular and are excluded because the cool kids are Chinese and “mixed” kids. As a result, only a handful of non-Chinese kids are still in the programs by the eighth grade.

Look, I’m sorry your kid is miserable and not cool. I get that it is painful and sad. No one likes to be left out. But you know what else? WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF MINORITIES, YOU FUCKING ENTITLED TWATS.

Or, as my friend, Guava Rama put in a much more tactful way, “It’s nice some people can pull their kids out or graduate out of being a minority.”

Or as my friend, Irish Twins, said in a less tactful, but incredibly spot-on way:

I get that we need white allies to have more resources, get more immersion, etc. But they [white people] are so entitled. I think they feel heard. Because that is really important. Did you know that is it HARD to be a minority? Sometimes you get teased!

Congratulations on being so enlightened that you realize that the US has about 5% of the world’s population and there are other languages out there. That they [the kids] know any Chinese. Even if they don’t, they will be much more compassionate people because they have walked in the shoes of a minority and understand what it is like to not be the default answer to what is normal, pretty, cool. But oh wait, THEY CAN FUCKING LEAVE IMMERSION SCHOOL. Oops.

You know what annoys me about white people or non-heritage people who are trying to raise their kids bilingual in Chinese and English? It often feels like they are trying to make it about them. (Possibly because they are.)

Here then, is the crux of why I have spent the last few hours of my day seething and why so very many Chinese Americans are both cautiously optimistic as well as highly skeptical of Mandarin Immersion programs: Once again, we are being rendered invisible.

Can you imagine how that feels? To have your culture and your language appropriated and commodified? But then, to still have your people, your very personhood and identity denied? Or if acknowledged, as a charming footnote to someone else’s story?

Look, I am all for Mandarin Immersion. I value it so much, my blog has Mandarin in the title. I’m considering homeschooling my kids so that they will be surrounded in Mandarin as long as humanly possible. I send my children to Mandarin preschools. I go to Mandarin Mommy and Me’s and playgroups. I have spent thousands of dollars on Mandarin DVDs, CDs, books, materials, schooling. You name it and I’ve got it.

And sure, you can say that I’m all for Mandarin Immersion because I’m ethnically Taiwanese/Chinese and want my children, who are multi-racial, to “inherit” my culture. But do I want other people to have Mandarin Immersion?

YES. I really do. If only on a purely selfish level, more interest means more resources available for me.

But on top of that, I really do think Mandarin Immersion is a wonderful thing and if non-heritage families want to participate, how does that hurt me (except in the instances I have just illustrated in this post)? Like Irish Twins said, it can only be more helpful to have more folks have positive memories of Chinese language and culture vs the “Ching chang chong” crap I remember dealing with as a kid or a general suspicion of Chinese things as weird or exotic.

So, I tell myself it is a good thing. As long as folks who are doing Mandarin immersion don’t all of a sudden believe they are immune to being racist or an expert on being Chinese American, I think it is a good thing.

I hate that I even have to justify myself. I feel like I’m mollifying an overly sensitive child.

Just because you don’t like how I say it doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Don’t fucking tell me how to feel, how to state facts, or how to point out bias just because you can’t handle it or are uncomfortable with where it’s going.

Your discomfort and my anger doesn’t make you a bad person. In fact, it has nothing to do with you.

This post is not about you.

This post is about the entire peoples, in particularly, those who are ethnically Chinese or Taiwanese, that the article neatly sidesteps and renders unseen.

This post is to implore and beseech writers of articles, parents of Mandarin Immersion students, and the students themselves. Be aware of how your internal biases affect your writing, your response, and your behavior. Be cognizant that there are more people than just your narrow, self-centered, white-centric view of the world. Be open, humble, and gracious enough to the opinions, experiences, and pain of the people you affect with your words and ignorance – no matter how innocuous.

It doesn’t matter if your intentions are good. If you mean well.

Unfortunately, your intentions have no bearing upon the natural consequences of your actions. And honestly, I don’t particularly care. Please don’t act like a two year old and whinge about how other people are reacting.

And finally, my language, my culture, and my people are not commodities.

I am not a trend.

I am not a competitive edge.

I am not foreign.

I am not a memento.

I am not just another angry minority.

I am a person.

I am fury.

I am wounded.

I am exhausted.

I am powerful.

And I will NOT be silenced.

Will All This Mandarin Immersion Be For Naught?

As many of you can surmise even from my blog title, I’m big on Mandarin learning for my children. Even though they are multi-racial, it is super important to me for my kids to be verbally fluent in Mandarin, as well as be literate.

Mostly because I’m Taiwanese and speak fluent Mandarin despite being born and raised in America and I want to pass my family’s language down to my children. Plus, there is an entire side of my family that is still in Taiwan and I would like my children to be able to communicate with them. Lastly, even though it’s racist to assume that people who look Asian should be able to speak their particular language, I think it’s important that my kids, who look Asian-esque, should be able to speak at least one of their heritage languages fluently (and I’m not talking about English).

I am relatively confident that my kids will grow up to be fluent in Mandarin in part because I, personally, am fluent and I was born and raised in California, so I know that it can be done. And even though my literacy skills are subpar, I’m much better than I used to be and stumble along just fine with my Perapera Chrome app as well as my Pleco Chinese Dictionary app on my iPhone.

And if I, a Taiwanese kid raised in the Bay Area in the 80s, before it was au courant to be learning Mandarin, could be fluent just on a diet of weekly Saturday morning Chinese School classes for my entire K-12 education, then my kids, who are in two Mandarin preschools, will likely be homeschooled in Chinese, and surrounded by Mandarin learning resources, will be just fine. Plus, I have the will and the money and the time to force my kids back every summer into Chinese summer camps in Taiwan.

Here’s the thing. My dirty secret.

Part of me is starting to get annoyed by all the white people jumping on the Mandarin Immersion bandwagon.

Yeah, I said it.

It’s that same feeling I get when I see white acupuncturists, or white yoga instructors, or white Chinese medicine doctors, or white martial arts sifus, or white rappers, or white whatever.

I feel supremely conflicted.

On the one hand, I’m grateful for the increased interest in Mandarin immersion because hey, the more people who are interested in teaching their kids Mandarin, the more resources and materials that are available to me! And I am, if nothing else, incredibly opportunistic.

On the other hand, I get annoyed because I feel that here is yet another part of my people and heritage that white people are co-opting for their own. Here’s another thing that white people are stealing from others. Here’s one more thing that is no longer mine.

And seriously. How likely are all these non-heritage kids going to retain their Mandarin anyway? It’s hard enough for kids of heritage and mixed-heritage to keep up their Chinese, a huge part of me is pretty skeptical that these non-heritage kids are going to succeed – at least not without a TON of effort both initially and sustained. (And yet, part of me truly hopes this is possible because hey, if these non-Chinese kids can do it, my kids certainly can!)

Look. I know this sounds incredibly petty. Likely, because it is petty. (Rather like my rant about Mark Zuckerberg learning to speak Chinese.) But I can’t help the way I feel.

There is a lot of historical baggage regarding white privilege and cultural appropriation – especially with Chinese folks. (Also, side note: if these topics are foreign to you, please do not pester me with your questions. Not because I don’t want you to learn about these topics. Believe me. I do. But I’m not your teacher and Google exists for a reason. Use it.) As a result, it is hard for me to sort out all my feelings about this stuff.

It’s complicated.

I won’t lie. My sometimes ambivalent to slightly negative reaction to other people learning Mandarin is not entirely righteous indignation.

Part of it is that there is something nice to feeling as if you’re in an exclusive club. (You know, one in which at least a billion people in the world are a part of, but let’s not let facts get in the way of my silliness.) I’m sure it’s residual Chinese pride or something to that effect. (Hey, we’re called the Middle Country for a reason – because we think we’re the center of the world.)

The other part is just, for lack of a better word, sin. (More specifically, racism.)

I know this is a nasty part of me that wants to think myself superior to everyone else because I and my kids can speak Chinese. (Again, a skill that isn’t even unique.) And dammit if I don’t want to keep that superiority all to myself. I think of the disciples who complained to Jesus when they witnessed other people casting out demons in Jesus’s name and wanting Jesus to put a stop to that crap already. And Jesus smacks the disciples down and tells them to stop being such jackasses. (Ok, that’s perhaps not a direct quote.)

In the end, I know I cannot change the way I feel. You know, that gut reaction. But according to my therapist, that gut reaction is not who I am as a person. (When Dr. T told me that, I had a Good Will Hunting moment. I swear. TRANSFORMATIVE. I’ll post about it some other time.) How I choose to respond is.

So, even though I am somewhat fearful and skeptical and truthfully, a lot suspicious, I choose to be optimistic and open and gracious. I choose to welcome all people into the wonderful world of Mandarin immersion and pass along any advice, tips, and commiseration that I can. Because in the end, what I truly desire is to be a person who is good to all people – regardless of my own personal baggage. I want to be a person that my children can be proud of, and if that helps my kids become fluent in Mandarin, all the better.

Thanks for reading, friends. Even all my ugly parts.

The Histories of Our People

I have always been envious of my friends who know their family histories and genealogies back hundreds of years. Whenever I see commercials for genealogy sites, I sigh, wishing it were available to me, but resignedly accept that it is mostly for white people and perhaps black people. American people. Or Europeans. You know, people with records.

I cannot imagine that being available for countries with recent unrest and tumultuous histories. But if I am real with myself, my family history will dead end in China. (Thanks, Communists!) I am tempted to trace the roots of my family and Hapa Papa’s, if only for the benefit of my children, but the thought seems incredibly daunting. The task seems much too large. But I also know that if I don’t get started now, the last remaining keys to our history (our grandparents’ or our parents’ generations), it will all be lost.

That makes me really sad. If only I didn’t hate my paternal grandmother so much. Perhaps, I could mine her for our family’s stories. If only my husband’s family weren’t so distant – especially his white/German side, I would ask them more questions, too.

I often feel adrift, cut off from my family’s past. I want my children to feel connected to something more than just themselves. That they are part of a long chain of people going back to multiple countries; to the beginning of time. That if we are here, then we are survivors because we descended from survivors. How mind-boggling is that?

As much as I joke about my kids being Chinese and not anything else, I know that is not true. It seems a crime to erase the rest of their heritage just because it isn’t mine and I am too lazy to inquire further.

Tonight, I was listening to the Street Soldiers show on one of our local urban radio stations. The hosts were talking about Black History Month and discussing their personal connections to black history. When did they first learn about their people’s history? What was it about?

A little girl had called into the show and was talking about her school teaching them about slavery. One of the hosts sighed and said he understood why schools always started Black History Month with slavery, but that he really wished they wouldn’t. After all, black history didn’t start with slavery; it started with empires and cultures and thousands of years of history, of pharaohs and kings and goddesses and rich and powerful peoples who were forcibly kidnapped and sold into unimaginable slavery.

When he mentioned that, I realized, it never occurred to me that that distinction seemed small but was of tantamount importance. How demoralizing to only hear about your people as beaten down and oppressed. How weak and small must you feel when all you hear about is your own people being treated cruelly – and to see it mirrored in society still? How truncated is your sense of cultural pride and history if you start at the lowest point?

But how empowering if you start from the glorious beginning, wade through the ignoble middle, and see the struggle and fight of your people not just grabbing for something that they might not deserve, but really a return to the glory and dignity and abilities they always possessed?

If it made a huge shift in perspective in me, a Taiwanese American woman, just to hear that brief five minute conversation on the radio, how much would it mean to a black kid in school for a month?

I remember in junior high, we were in the middle of World History, and in the giant textbook, there was only one page (maybe two) devoted to the history of China. The history of the whole fucking world, and there were only two pages on China. I think it might have been shared with Japan.

Fucking amazing.

In high school, we no longer learned world history and learned solely European history. Such a teeny, tiny part of the world, and a big Fuck You All to the rest of humanity.

No wonder America is so jingoistic. No wonder white America thinks itself superior to all other peoples. (Except the British, because gorram! We sure love the Royals from whom we declared independence.) No wonder so many of us minorities see ourselves the way the rest of America sees us. No wonder we feel small and adrift.

This doesn’t even begin to include the history of our peoples in America.

Do you know that I know more about Black History than my own people? I mean, I take it as a given that I know more white history than any other people, but shit! My own people! Five thousand years of history and all I know is maybe about the Cultural Revolution and random history from kung fu movies. Oh, and we invented firecrackers and paper. And discovered methane long before anyone else.

Five thousand years of history and all I know can be summed up in two short sentences.

This is a huge reason why I want to homeschool my children. I know for a fact that my children will learn nothing about their people except a token mention here or there during Asian American History Month in May. And with that, they’ll learn about Chinese New Year, the Great Wall of China, geishas, Hiroshima, and maybe, Japanese internment camps, the Chinese working on the railroads, and Chinatowns.

It’s like black kids (and all kids, for that matter), learning only about slavery.

Our histories become something we are ashamed of; that we crawled out of the gutter to beg for a seat at the table. When in reality, we were pioneers, brave and courageous, innovative and ingenious; amazing. We came from our own fucking tables.

I think about how eager I am to learn about my own Chinese and Taiwanese histories. And about teaching my children their Japanese and German histories, too. And then, I think about all those histories out there – and wonder why we focus so much on dates and major events when really, the point of history is to learn about all these amazing peoples who came before us. All their joys and sorrows, fears and accomplishments. How did they solve and come through adversity? How did they triumph and rule their peoples?

I think this is why I envy the Jews so much. Yes, persecution since the beginning of their history is not to be coveted, but they have a book that unifies and tells their story. They have a story that is told in every synagogue and church all over the world at least every Sunday for at least the last two thousand years. They are known and seen.

I want my children to know their pasts on a personal scale, but also on a vast, historical scale. That we, people of color, have a past. A history. A place in the world where we lived, loved, and made big things happen. That we mattered in the past.

This is why I find it so important for shows and movies about the future (like Battlestar Galactica or Star Trek) to have people of color in them. To be seen. To be known. That we are important. That we matter for the future.

This is why it is so vital to me that my children – that all children – see themselves reflected in their history books, their current events, and their visions of the future. If we are not in the past or the present, how can we possibly be in the future?

Do you teach your children about your family’s history? If so, how? And if your family is of mixed heritage (I include mixed European heritage in this!), how do you go about it? Is there a particular side you might emphasize more? I am exceedingly curious and really want to know. Please share in the comments and I thank you in advance.