Growing up mixed-race is confusing. It wasn’t until my third year of University when the theory of hybridity was introduced in a Lit Theory class that I even began to consider the complexities of my own existence. It was also then that I started to realize that much of my own experience was not unusual for those of us who exist in the in-between.
The biggest struggle is exactly that: not fitting into either space. With a White mother and a Chinese father, neither will ever understand my experience. My mother sees me as White; never will she understand the struggles I have and will continue to face as a non-White female. My father sees me as Chinese, only with the benefit of being able to ‘pass’ when needed. My Chinese extended family only knows me as the White member of the family, the Westerner who is not quite Chinese. My White extended family continuously ‘others’ me, pushing me back into the margins because I do not look like them.
My father’s experience as an immigrant in the 1960s was not easy. It was only made more difficult by falling in love with an 18-year-old White girl. I consider myself blessed to have never experienced the racism or the discrimination my father faced while trying to simply make a life for himself. For him, he fought those battles so that I didn’t have to. However, most of the racism that plagued my father was inflicted by my mother’s own family.
My father’s ability to allow the comments to slide off his back easily has made my mother blind to the racism. He has learned to not care about what is said; he distances himself from it and laughs it off. I do not have this ability.
When someone close to my mother is racist, she does not see how this affects me. Again, to her, I am her daughter, born privileged because of her Whiteness. She doesn’t know of my experience as a non-White woman, where I am fetishized or complimented for my ‘exotic’ appearance. As for my father, I would never even dream of sharing these experiences with him as they would break his heart, having hoped and believed that I would always be ‘White enough’ to avoid the negative experiences he had.
I know that my mother’s feelings are a reflection of her hope that nothing would ever hurt me because of something so ridiculous as race. But pretending something doesn’t exist does not make it go away. Buying me a blonde wig for Halloween when I was 8 because I did not believe a princess could have dark hair only confirmed my feelings of unworthiness. Laughing at my friends who made comments about me being adopted or being ‘half human’ furthered my hatred for my other half. Mocking me when I was upset because none of the crayons in the box matched my skin didn’t make me feel like I fit in any more.
For my mother, these did not seem like real issues. I was her daughter and I was perfect the way I was. But to most of the outside world, I was different, and this was and continues to be obvious.
Perhaps having had these experiences myself, when I become a parent to children who will no doubt be hybrids, I will help them revel in their otherness. Maybe as a first generation hybrid, I am simply part of the learning process and the next generation will learn to co-exist simultaneously.