The Space Between
Many people have contacted me over the past couple of days in regards to the Asian hate crimes that are currently sweeping through this country. To every person that has reached out to check in on me, as well as my sisters, thank you, I really do appreciate it. When I receive those texts or emails however, I feel myself halted in my response. How do I tell you that while anxiety may be present regarding the current violence towards Asians, I don’t quite know how to explain the complexity of feelings I feel being an Asian-adoptee.
As an Asian woman, I am pained by the violence against Asians and my heart goes out to the families of the victims. What is happening is tragic. As an Asian-Adoptee, I feel myself in a spot I’ve been in many times before, wondering about my Asian-ness and being reminded of my lack of connection to Asian culture, which gives me a unique perspective when watching these horrific events unfold. You see, I did not grow up with an Asian mother or father or any Asian relatives that could impart their knowledge on me regarding what it means to be Asian, specifically Chinese. I didn’t grow up eating authentic Chinese food, learning about customs and rituals or celebrating traditional Chinese holidays. I grew up in a Caucasian family, went to predominantly Caucasian schools until college, and honestly spent years and years rejecting my physical appearance, wishing I could be anything but Asian. In college when I made a few international friends from China while studying abroad, it became even more clear to me that I was not one of them, nor considered one of them. They would often playfully joke with me that I was not a “real” Asian, and at the time I didn’t really care to fit their depiction of what a “real” Asian meant to them.
While I have gained much more pride in being Asian-American over the years, the events of the modern world targeting Asian people, in many ways, make me want to retreat back to the way in which I used to think about being Asian. Suddenly without having deep roots in the Asian community myself and other adoptees have become a potential target for violence. The people that are attacking Asians don’t care that I am adopted, grew up in a white family, am almost going to graduate with my masters, am a proud big sister, love to travel etc. the only thing those people will see is that physically I am Asian. It is not fair to me, to other adoptees, nor other Asians in this country experiencing this outright harm. No one should live in fear, yet over the last few days I have walked around more on edge than usual. I have become incredibly conscious about my physical appearance especially my eyes, which in many ways is the asset that I know puts me in danger.
I have been in contact with other adoptees over the past few days who feel the same way that I do. It is scary that our physical appearances now present as a threat to us; appearances that for many of us took a long time to accept due to growing up in Caucasian families, going to predominantly white schools, or our own internal racism. It has been exhausting since the Atlanta shootings to have feelings of self-hatred reemerge for an appearance that is associated with a culture I have never fully been a part of. That being said, when people reach out, I want to say thank you again, myself and other Asian-adoptees are in danger and we appreciate your support. What we want you to know though is that these modern times of violence are so much more complicated than you could imagine for us. What the world doesn’t know is that as adoptees, we lie in a complex space where many times we are unsure of where we really belong: we are regarded by some as Asian, and some others as not Asian enough. It really does leave us in an odd predicament of feeling in danger when for some of us our connections to our Asian identities are so ambiguous. Regardless however, of how myself or other adoptees relate to our Asian identities, what is happening to Asians in this country is heartbreaking and I know we stand together in acknowledging these acts of violence are intolerable.