Monday, December 7, 2009

What are You?

Saturday night, I watched the movie “Grand Torino” with my husband. I loved how in this movie, the character Clint Eastwood plays starts out very racist regarding his Hmong neighbors but in the end, gives his life for them. He asks them to go back to where they are from and doesn’t believe that they are American. As a veteran in the Korean War, he viewed all Asians as bad, especially his neighbors. I loved how at the end of the movie, he pins the silver star he earned during the war onto the neighbor boy Tao, really symbolizing how they are connected and that he saw him as American too.

In addition, a friend was telling me recently that in the year 2050 the Caucasians/Non-Hispanic whites in the US will become a minority. I found this article "Caucasian Race in the United States to be the Minority in 2050" that Reuters is predicting that by that time, this population will account for 47 percent of the population.

NPRs Melisa Goh recently did a story called “What Are You? The Answer’s Not Black or White” about being raised multiracial and how being mixed, with a white mother and an Asian father, that people didn’t know where she fit. She also talked about conversations can easily slip from race to nationality.

She went onto talk about a bumper sticker on her cousin’s car that read, “Somewhere in Kenya, a village is missing its idiot”. She responded this way:

But this jab struck a tender spot. He sees the sticker as a purely political matter. I see it as unquestionably racial. I drew blood when I pointed this out, and our conversation took that ugly turn.

But for me, those who question President Obama's citizenship are sending me a personal message: If your father came from somewhere else and isn't white, then you may not be American enough. To them, I'll always be an outsider.

Thing is, my cousin's husband isn't one of those people. Far from it. He and my cousin have adopted three Chinese orphans. He'll never, ever tell them they're not as American as their blond, blue-eyed brother — and I wouldn't dare anyone to try.

He has heard people say his children should go back to where they came from, and he has always put a stop to it. So I don't understand what's so funny about that bumper sticker.

She goes onto say:

Turns out, "What are you?" isn't a question for just funny-looking people like me. It's a question each one of us has to answer. And that answer, for all of us, isn't black or white.

What makes an American? Do you look at the color of someone skin and wonder where they are from? Have you ever made false assumptions regarding someone’s race and their nationality?

Karen Maunu

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