Goldilocks Syndrome, Church, and Lazy Thinking

So, my mother got mad at me the other day. She accused me of purposely adding Kung Fu for the kids on Sundays so that I could have an excuse for her not to take them to church with her. She’s wrong. I don’t want her to take the kids to church because I think her church is crazy.

To clarify: I don’t think ALL churches are crazy and I don’t think all churches are bad. I don’t even think that her church is bad. In fact, I consider myself Christian – just not currently attending church. And if I thought her church were less weird, then I wouldn’t have as much of a problem with my mother taking the kids.

Here’s the thing. I know I am having a hard time finding churches because none of them meet my ridiculously long list of things that I want these churches to have. I know I’m looking for a Unicorn church and quite frankly, I used to feel really guilty about not taking my kids to church. But since I’ve started to cut out guilt, I’ve decided that right now, church is NOT a priority to me.

I don’t usually feel bad about my new state of actively not taking my kids to church (versus passively just not getting around to it). However, the other day while we were driving, Cookie Monster asked, “Why does Ah-Ma really like imaginary things?”

I paused. “Do you mean things like Jesus?”

“Yeah!”

I nearly died laughing (or I would have if I allowed myself to laugh out loud).

Alternatively, Gamera likes to insist that Jesus is a watermelon. It’s even funnier when she insists in Chinese.

Another contributing factor to me not attending church is that when I do attend church, it usually pisses me off. It’s either the message that pisses me off or the fellow attendees. Obviously, this says a lot about my own character. However, it is also indicative of my fellow attendees.

Now that I think about it, it’s not usually the church services that annoy me so much as the small groups, Bible Studies, or book studies.

I find that I usually cannot have any sort of religious conversation with people I do not have a personal relationship with. The only reason I can have conversations with people who I am actually friends with is because I can remember they are human – and if they say something I disagree with, I can usually recall how to be a kind person. But if it is a stranger or an acquaintance, I have far less compunction and I’m afraid my inner asshole shows a little too often. And who wants to be that person?

But the reason why I have a hard time having these conversations (and I have had this problem since childhood) is because most of the conversations are superficial and cliché; rife with lazy thinking and shitty theology. Nothing pains me more.

A few years ago, I ranted about Sunday School and how woefully inadequate it is in preparing our children for the hard questions we ask of God and the Bible and of Jesus. I would posit that this is also my gripe with grown ups.

Am I snob? Am I asking too much of people?

Look, I know that just because someone believes something doesn’t mean that’s how they apply their theology. And I get that I can be a dick and treat people with contempt because I find their thinking derivative.

But truthfully, I’m so tired. I’m so tired of the church being silent and irrelevant on things that matter to me. Yeah, yeah. My eternal soul matters. But my life here and now matters, too.

You know what I want?

I want to see churches have hard conversations about race and sex and money and suffering. I want to see churches have honest repentance for their complicity in racism and misogyny and abuse. I want to see churches be real and take responsibility for the ways they have contributed to the status quo.

I know that there are some voices in the desert, calling out to the rest of the US church for repentance. But mostly, they are slapped down and silenced.

So my solution is to not have much to do with the church in my day to day life. As a result, my children think Jesus is imaginary. Clearly, my method is working out just great.

That Time I Got “Ching Chang Chonged” At Mini Golf With My Kids

This afternoon, my three children attended their good friend’s birthday party at a mini golf course with a swarm of six year olds and a smattering of their younger siblings. They descended upon this poor mini golf course and since they are small, ran amuck. I was without Hapa Papa due to lack of thinking things through on my part, so my three children scattered and were little punks as unsupervised children are wont to do. (However, let it be noted that my kids were not the only ones running wild and crazy. See aforementioned party.)

As I was yelling at my kids in Chinese to stop whatever they were doing and come back, I overhear a white man (most likely in his mid-late twenties) at the 18th hole mutter “Ching chang chong” or something similar to his date, a white woman in her mid-late twenties. When I looked over at him, he gave me a smug look, as if to say, “What the fuck are you going to do about it?”

Now, the last time I heard “Ching chang chong” hurled in my direction was on the elementary school yard before I knew it was a bad thing (and likely before the kids who used it did, too). Since my parents had inculcated me with an inordinate amount of pride in my Chinese heritage, I just responded with something akin to mockery and pity, thinking (and likely saying), “That’s not Chinese at all. Idiots.”

Well, it’s been thirty years or so since then and now I do know full well the meaning. And though I still feel contempt, mostly I feel a piping hot rage. I wish I could instead feel pity and disdain and let it go, but I no longer have a better nature.

You see, the guy said it just loud enough for me to hear and be offended. I bet he was counting on me pretending he didn’t say anything at all. You know, because I’m an Asian female and we’re all submissive like that. Wouldn’t want to start a confrontation or make a big scene, you know?

Guess he chose the wrong Asian woman.

I can’t truly recall what I said because it’s all a blur. Something akin to, “I bet you think you’re so clever to say, ‘Ching chang chong,’ huh?”

His date turns to me and says, “Well, he’s part Asian so he can say that. Why don’t you go get your kids?”

“I do have my kids.”

“Oh yeah? We almost hit one of them with a ball.” With that parting shot, the couple stalked off in a fit of righteous indignation. As they left the course, I could see them still pointing and talking about me.

Sigh. Hapa Papa would be so ashamed of me, letting myself be “negged” and side-tracked from the main point.

But as much as I’d like to be someone who has that perfect thing to say at the right moment, I am much better on paper. Truly, my viciousness is better showcased a few moments after my fury has laid waste to my sputtering incoherence. Biting commentary after the fact? That is where I truly shine.

So though I’d like to not have had my entire afternoon derailed and me allowing some fuckwit to have so much power over my feelings and behavior, alas, it wasn’t until after I devised a multitude of apt bon mots on the drive home that I felt a little bit calmer.

Here then is what I would’ve liked to say to the woman after her date was a racist jackass to me:

“You know what, lady? Your boyfriend being part Asian doesn’t give him a pass to say racist things. You think it’s like black people saying the N word to each other or in hip hop? No. It’s not. No one’s even trying to reclaim ‘Ching Chang Chong’ as some empowering thing or co-opt its meaning.

“Consider this: I’m all woman – just like you. Does that mean it’s okay for me to call you a ‘fucking cunt bitch’ because I also have a vagina?”

Or perhaps, if I didn’t have a 20 month old Glow Worm squirming in my arms, I would’ve just sucker punched her in the throat and ran away. That would have felt awesome and like a total win – that is, until the police showed up and booked me on charges of assault and battery. That would be a great example to my children and all the children at the party.

Here’s the thing: I get why the couple was annoyed. I mean, I was annoyed – and they’re my kids. I was already trying to corral the kids into some semblance of obedience, but again, I get that it’s probable the couple didn’t see that, or if they did, didn’t care. That’s their right and prerogative.

However.

That still does not give these people the right to be racist – or at least, racist in public. To me.

And you know that if it were my friend’s 6’5″ white husband who speaks fluent Chinese (like a fucking boss) yelling at his kids in Chinese, these assholes would not have even thought “Ching chang chong” for even a millisecond. If they said anything at all, it might be to compliment his ability to speak a foreign language so well. Ah, the benefits of being a big, white dude. Sometimes, I wish I could have that superpower for myself. (On second thought, given my violent tendencies, that might not be a good idea.)

I have no idea how to end this post. shakesfistatendings

Suffice to say, in the grand scheme of things, I know this incident was a minor drop in an ocean of racism. But sometimes, like a grain of sand in your eye, it’s the tiny things sneaking past your guard that grate the most.

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.