Sorry for not posting for so long! Even though I'm back at college and not in China anymore, I still want to keep writing about the effect of my experiences and about China in general. I hope you will still stick with me! If you read my last post about choosing classes, I finally decided to chose the seminar called the Chinese Diaspora in Fiction and Film. The material is so interesting; for example, here are some of the topics we are going to cover: Coolies and Slaves, Chinese Food, and the Chinese in Hollywood.
Still, the class is first and foremost about the dispersion and emigration of the Chinese people starting as early as the 15th century. I feel as if I've already learned so much about the history of Chinese Americans as well as the Chinese that immigrated to other parts of the world such as Southeast Asia and Africa. The homework for the first class was 800 pages of reading! Thankfully the subject matter was so engaging that it did not even feel like work.
If you are at all interested in Chinese American history, I strongly recommend Iris Chang's The Chinese in America. It takes you on a journey from the first Chinese immigrants working on the transcontinental railroad in California all the way up to the wave of Chinese intellectuals arriving in the 80s and 90s. I warn you: the narrative is extremely depressing and heart-wrenching as the author tries to sway the emotions of the reader. The book made me feel anger, disgust, and humiliation at the horrific way the Chinese were treated. It's definitely a part of American history that I never learned in school textbooks.
Did you know there was a period of time in which Chinese Americans were not allowed to testify against white Americans in court? When Chinese children could not attend the same schools as others? Did you know that opposite Ellis Island was an immigration station on the west coast called Angel Island, basically an interrogation and detention center for Chinese immigrants? Or that during the Cold War, prominent Chinese scientists were ousted after years of hard work for the U.S. government?
I feel lucky that my parents immigrated to the U.S. during the 1990s instead of the 1890s. Not to say there still isn't racism, but at least it is illegal! I personally do not recall ever encountering hatred or intentional discrimination. I grew up in fairly diverse college towns when my parents went to their respective graduate schools. I guess I never really felt that different from my friends, who were of all ethnicities (white, black, Asian, Hispanic).
I have encountered some ignorant but well-meaning remarks. For example, once I was in a Target store with my younger sister and a nice old white lady came up to us, smiled, bowed, and said "Konnichiwa!" (Means Hello in Japanese). When I worked at a grocery store, there were many elderly men and women who would smile at me benevolently and ask me, "Where are you from?" I never knew how to answer the question though I could guess at their intent. Technically I lived just in the next neighborhood, but before that I lived in Wisconsin, and before that, Indiana. Going even further back, I lived in Texas for two years. Before that, I lived in China.
Still, it seems like there is less ignorance and racism with each successive generation. The U.S. is turning ever more into a multicultural melting pot. Technically, we learned in school that our situation isn't really a melting pot, because immigrants keep parts of their own culture and traditions instead of everyone blending together. Therefore, it's more accurate to say that we are a chunky beef stew, with distinct chunks of different foods.
Well, I think that's enough rambling for now. I have much more to write about so I hope to "see" you soon. Question: what are your own experiences with race and culture?