Currently sitting in my living room with soft sunlight peering through my curtains as it starts to lower itself from its daily resting post above the housing roof tops, I’ve been thinking about everything that’s been circulating my life as of late. All tidbits from postgraduate work and studies, employment opportunities post-uni, creative projects to pursue, and life altering aspirations. I’m feeling an odd equilibrium of cool, calm, collected with a growing urge to organize and clean. I think that sums up my thought process as of late.
Its funny, but I’ve finally been finding strange inspiration through some of my readings within the past week. The most odd was surrounding a German geographer’s theory on the study of Geography within the theory of human rights and natural rights. The most random inspiration as of late for my creative artistically driven mindset! Somehow jumped from Lebensraum to the teapot song. I won’t go into that one any further, because I’m actually still playing around with it in my head! Also, I’m within a module right now that studies identity within varying contexts, which is always something I’ve battled with and have discussed heavily in my art work. Just being able to discuss this topic again has been refreshing, and is opening my mind to looking more into my insecurities amidst the identifying characteristics such as race, ethnicity, gender, and nationality. These are things as a mixed race, Asian female, dual nationality, third culture kid and immigrant existence that I have battled with for a couple decades at this point. I’ve always known that I was the minority of minorities – half Caucasian, half Asian; deceased parent; two immigrant parents from different countries; first generation North American born; British and Canadian; bouncing immigrant, etc. – but I feel that within my adult years an uncomfortable realization that the term ‘exotic’ was being attached to my characteristics emerged and I’m not sure how to deal with it.
'Tea Time' - a book I made on a Universal III letterpress discussing British and Chinese identity
I am not comfortable with people identifying me by my ‘exotic’ blend of ethnicity, or by my association with the minority component (Asian). Don’t get my wrong – I am proud to be a dual equation of cultural history, and I think culturally and conceptually there is much beauty in mine and my siblings existence since we do have rich stories. What I am uncomfortable with is the pure fascination with what I am, rather than who I am. People characterize me through an attraction to the exotic, but I hate to break it to you – I am 5ft 8″ and could snap you in half if I wanted to ;). I don’t do Asian stereotypes, and so I don’t understand where the attraction builds from my association to that culture. Of course, I proudly embody my attachment to my Asian history, but characteristics which fit with those of other Asians (mixed or full) can be viewed as cultural attachment, but should not be responded to with the notion that such is an obvious trait because I’m Asian. I do not take racial and ethnic assimilation lightly – in one reading by Maalouf he states that once you have been picked on or characterized and pinpointed by your race in an observation of being an Other, one doesn’t forget that experience. I certainly haven’t. From when I was very little to now – I don’t forget. And I won’t forget.
'On Identity' Amin Maalouf
I suppose the difference between my appreciation and my distaste towards topics contained within my identity and its questioning is that I am a proud individual based on my parents’ history of being immigrants, of being a mixed race couple in the 1980’s, on the traditions that I embody and hold dear within our cultures, and my strong, personal association with both the British and Chinese cultures. However, the associations made because I’m Asian (typically the exoticism lies with the minority characterization) are uncomfortable, demeaning, and not appreciated.
You’re Chinese, so then you’re fluent in Chinese, right?
You’re really tall for being Asian.
You must be good at Math and Science – help me with this!
[I won’t even include the questions I’ve been asked regarding Asian pornography].
Yes, I’m tall. No, I am not fluent in Chinese (Mandarin or Cantonese). I love the sciences and math, but no it’s not my strong suit. Some may view these as harmless inquiries (with the exception of the porn questions, and at times even the language assumptions), but they are assumptions based on what I am, a purely objectified being situated within association with a culture.
During my trip to China and Hong Kong a couple years ago with my childhood friend Stephanie, I deciphered some of my discomfort surrounding the subject matter. My father, the Asian component of my racial identity, died when I was 7 years old, and being the only members of our family that resided in Canada I was never surrounded with the Asian familial presence of my history. Therefore, my only physical connection to my Chinese identifying factors was my father – biologically, he was the connection. With him gone, associations and assumptions based on my racial features hurt deeply. My only association assumed by others to my father’s history was that I was supposed to speak Chinese. I was supposed to be short and slim. I was supposed to excel at maths and sciences. As pop culture and media portray, I was supposed to be exotic – to assume attraction based on what I am is complex, and I feel a little less because of it. This was the only affiliation assumed by others that I had with his history, and in turn my growing history. And it still burns. To this day, the assumed associated characteristics of what I am still upset me and make me uncomfortable. I am who I am because I am my father and mother’s daughter – no assumptions nor observations should be concluded upon because biologically it is also what I am.
Anyways, enough about that – I started to think about all of this after my first lecture within that course. Its something I’m hoping to explore further within my creative and academic studies, because I feel like I truly need to. Being mixed race in this global phenomenon is truly a gift, but one that deserves understanding and not fantasizing about.
Until next time, peace, love, and smiley faced emoticons! 🙂
Love from, Vic Louise xoxoxo