In our global world, how could I look at myself and see confusion? My essay speaks of my survival scarred by various forms of racism, the harsh ones as well as the subtle ones and the lesson I learned about my identity.
I was born in Vietnam as a French citizen to the fusion of my French and Vietnamese blooded and French citizen born mother and a Vietnamese man. I was one year old when France repatriated all its citizens during the Vietnam War. In France, I lived in an area made of different ethnic immigrants including few Asians.
During my life in France I was often teased or bullied and had to fight back or flee. I remembered being chased multiple times by kids who insulted me, pulled my hair and spat at me because of my difference. Although I saw myself as being French, knowing little about my birth place, I was labeled as a Chinese girl not even Vietnamese. People including my family made fun of my flat nose, round face, and short size and noted how dominant my Asian features were for a person of mixed race. These remarks instilled in me that the ideal physical look was the western one. My step-father at the time dictated my behavior as a typical Asian girl meaning submission, reserve, and intellectuality. Controversially, in high school someone added another stereotype for Asian girls as being flirtatious before even knowing me. It raised no doubt that I was confused about my identity, lacked self-esteem and had grown shy and distrusting of people.
In the United States, I also regularly encounter people’s doubt about my relationship with my progeny who displays many Western physical traits. Lowering me to the position of my children’s babysitter obviously denotes their feeling that the white race is superior. My interaction with local French speakers is usually problematic too due to my atypical appearance. For example, at a communal dinner, I was introduced along with other French ladies to the host’s father-in-law from Ohio and his first statement to all of us was that I did not look French. First perplexed, I finally realized that people are naturally driven to categorize. However, my identity is not about my race but my history, skills and beliefs and I am an advocate for tolerance.
As an increasing population of multiracial children is facing the challenge of fitting into their communities, we need to persist on spreading the message of tolerance and fight against our habits of labeling individuals. Hopefully, through more education and exposure to differences will humanity adopt Martin Luther King’s ideology: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”.
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