Friday, February 17, 2006

What does it mean to be a rice daddy and how is it different from being any other daddy?

Is this suppose to have something to do with me being Asian? Huh. Well, I'm sitting in the baby care class looking at the couples since we've got like six hours on our hands. After the last class, I decide I don't need to take copious notes but then can't help jotting down a few things with the guilt that one day my baby might need it (is that Asian or just nerd anal?- I can wait for the disappointed customer who pops up this blog in a search for "Asian anal"). Ha!

Anyway, we live near the Camp Pendleton Marine military base and the beach so there's this always interesting mix of marines, surfer dudes, and just working class people of all colors. Well, not at the baby class. Just white and Asian people (3 of us). Does this have to do with economics, class, and/or cultural ideas about parenting?

I feel like the youngest couple in the room, even if we probably aren't (early 30s), I just feel like we "look" younger. I'm sorry but some white people don't age well. Even being a teacher, I'm dressed more professionally than the other guys although this one guy who always comes late and is on his cell-phone has the business casual polo/slack look down. But the rest of the guys have this Social Distortion/West Coast Choppers-like aggressive hair, T-shirt, high sock, and shorts so I can show off my tattoo look that I first recognized in Long Beach. Mind you I still believe we look younger, they just try to look like they're younger.

Well, one of them is with an Asian mommy. Here comes another hapa kid. Now in late high school/early college I think most Asian guys go through a jealousy/internalize rage phase because you almost always see an Asian woman with a white guy and next to never the other way around. I, as most, got over it. But now, ten years later, as a father to be I wonder more closely about the cultural background of the child to be. I guess the mother to be Vietnamese and possibly first generation. Is hapa baby going to go to Tet festivals? Will he eat with chopsticks and burn incense at the temple? Or will he skate with his dad and grow out pointy sideburns so he can thrash out to punk? I'm leaning toward the latter because I assume her to fulfill his image of the subserviant Asian female. Now is this my internalized racism or the epitome of why Asian guys don't like White guy/Asian girl couples in the first place?

9 comments:

la doctora said...

Sometimes I feel saddled with feeling responsible for the propagation of my culture. Sometimes I feel like I need to make friends with white parents of adopted Asian babies so I can teach their kids how to be Asian.

But then I remind myself that there has never been a "pure" culture. Especially as Asian Americans our family traditions are distant cousins of traditions practiced in Asia. Our responsibility is to pass on meaning and a sense of belonging to community-- both to an Ethnic identity and to a wider Asian community.

cam c. said...

As the white father of a half white, half Japanese kid, I have another perspective for you; the Asian race is using its irrestible women to assimilate the rest of us! I mean, with negative population growth in Europe, and the only population growth in North America attributed to (I would assume largely non-white) immigrants, the caucasian race is clearly not growing in size...

And I, for one, welcome our new sushi-slinging, chop-socky-movie-making, ancient culture-toting overlords! :)

nina said...

"I'm leaning toward the latter because I assume her to fulfill his image of the subserviant Asian female. Now is this my internalized racism or the epitome of why Asian guys don't like White guy/Asian girl couples in the first place?"

I'm half white, half Korean - my dad is white, my mom Korean. And although I get the stereotype you're talking about, my parents SO do not fit that mold. My mom is first generation, but outspoken and strong and my dad obviously was not looking for a subservient Asian female when he married her. In my dad's family, 2 of his siblings married Asians...does that mean they have Asian-fetishes or that they are perhaps more willing to overcome racial, ethnic, cultural boundaries than most?

I never really understood why Asians are so concerned with keeping with their own race when it comes to marriage. And why they often seem mildly to wildly offended when some of their own "betray" them by marrying outside their race. I mean, I guess I understand, but as a person of mixed-race it kind of hurts when your friends tell you "I could NEVER marry a white guy/girl!!!" as if omg, it's such a horrible thing.

Maintaining ethnic culture in America is complicated whether you are "pure-blooded" or a "mutt" (as some I have known have called me...ergh, grumble, grumble...). So whether the kid ends up a skater or embracing his Vietnamese culture...he can probably do both to a large extent. I've always seen being mixed race as more of an opportunity than a hinderance. I get to choose from the best of both worlds.

AQdoc said...

Wonderful site. I surfed in from Angry Asian Man and am happy to learn about the experiences of other Asian fathers.

Anyway, my 2 cents:

"Is hapa baby going to go to Tet festivals? Will he eat with chopsticks and burn incense at the temple? Or will he skate with his dad and grow out pointy sideburns so he can thrash out to punk?"

The child in question will genetically belong to both White American and Asian heritages; yet in many ways, culturally, s/he will be no different from our own ethnically full-Asian babies growing up in America. It will depend on how much exposure each individual family provides. And even if the family is the kind where the Asian mother fulfills the White father's exotic fantasies, it does not mean the child will be alienated from his/her Asian heritage at all.

And in response to Cam C: If your child is a daughter, do you really want European/White American men finding her "irresistable" just because she is Asian? Or wouldn't you rather they cherish her as an individual regardless of race?

Joe said...

“I never really understood why Asians are so concerned with keeping with their own race when it comes to marriage.”

It’s the same concern that black people have when one of their own is going to marry a white person.

It’s because we both have been colonized and exploited in the past and these old wounds still hurt.

And even though life has gotten a lot better for us, racism still does exist.

As a side story, I knew 2 hapa brothers--one looked more white and the other more Asian. It was sad because the Asian-looking one would get picked on while the white-looking one was able to avoid it. And this put a tremendous strain on their family.

OTT said...

I wrote my own post about the whole Asian girl / Caucasian guy thing recently.

I am Viet-Australian, my partner is long-time Australian (but not as long as its indigenous peoples). And some people at a restaurant were rude enough to say loudly – “There’s another Asian girl with a white guy”. They were Asian – but only one was male – so I wonder if there was internalised racism stemming from some concern for purity.

If there is a phenomenon of the Asian female / White male relationship, I wonder what its causes are? I wonder if those causes relate to cultural stereotypes in many cultures about the role of women, and particularly in cultures different from the mainstream and trying to maintain that different culture’s purity.

And when “Asian” encompasses Indian, Hmong, Korean, Viet, Filippino, Mongolian, Indonesian and the ubiquitous Chinese or Japanese (which we all are anyway) what level of purity is there if my child was half Indonesian half Viet? Purity because it is still ‘Asian’?

Maybe the child will be a skater punk at Tet festival – s/he has the benefit of diversity – like Nina – I hope s/he embraces this.

Rice Mommie said...

I'm hapa, but look very Asian. Developed a pov of Asian American. I embrace both of my heritages -- balancing the two is challenging and fulfilling.

Anonymous said...

To Ott and other Asian females who wonder why your Asian brothers (and some sisters) wonder about the Asian woman/white man dynamic. For me its not a matter of racism against the white man. If a person meets someone and falls in love its a beautiful thing.

The issue is why did those two fall in love? The racism I wonder about is did my lovely Asian sister chose that white guy because he was white? Did she fall for the "Asian man as undesirable" mantra that the media likes to push everywhere I look?

So my concern about the couplings aren't because of racism towards the white man, but rather because I wonder if that Asian woman has has bought into the racism about the Asian man.

Another Asian Brother

Philippe Laurichesse said...

"Is hapa baby going to go to Tet festivals? Will he eat with chopsticks and burn incense at the temple? Or will he skate with his dad and grow out pointy sideburns so he can thrash out to punk?"

I'm sorry if this is not exactly the question you posed, but the above thoughts reminded me of all the Asian-Asian parents who decided to eradicate Asian culture and language from their homes while raising their children for fear that hearing or speaking a language other than English might harm the kids' ability to speak English and be all-American. If you look at the children of Western European immigrants, in particular French, it's exceedingly rare that their parents deprive their children of French culture or language. Look at the shitloads of French-language schools in the US. Unlike Asian parents, it would not even occur to a French parent to be ashamed of their culture. Hell, French parents consider their culture to be superior to American culture by a longshot. So, to answer your question, if Asian-Asian parents regularly deprive their kids of their Asian culture and language, do you really think a couple in which only one parent is Asian has a chance in hell ? Fuck no ! That kid's not even going to have a Vietnamese name, I guarantee it (like that guy from the Men's Warehouse). Ce gosse est foutu, il sera plus blanc que les blancs, sa culture ricano-ricaine lui sortira par les trous de nez et il s'en branlera de savoir s'il y a d'autres cultures à part celle que son père s'efforce de lui inculquer, aidé en cela par sa femme, soumise et fidèle jusqu'au sang, c'est pour ça qu'il l'a épousée, non ? Et, au fil des ans, le petit s'en contentera, intériorisera tout, y compris le fait que son père est un trouduc mais, après tout, c'est son père, y peut-on seulement quelque chose ? Comme le chante Brassens : "Quand on est con, on est con. Qu'on ait vingt ans, qu'on soit grand-père, le temps ne fait rien à l'affaire !" Et bientôt il n'y pensera même plus... jusqu'au jour où il rencontre dans la cour de récré des petits français qui se parlent entre eux dans la belle langue de Molière et là notre pauvre métis se rendra compte que ceux-là parlent anglais aussi, et ce aussi bien que lui, car issus d'une double-culture ! Qu'ils ont du bol ces petits français ! Ces petits aryens, ces bons à riens, ces riens à foutre, ces foutre-riens ! Moi je les emmerde !