Monday, September 19, 2011

Dumbest thing of this month : "Singaporean" is a race? "American", not.

In America, you can be any race except "American"
My preschool son fights with me constantly over his need to learn the Chinese Language. Doesn't matter if I told him of the rich history, art and literature of some 4000 years. Doesn't matter if many cool inventions including paper and gunpower (yes, explosives!) originated from China. Doesn't even matter that Kungfu is part of the Chinese culture. His answer is simply "I am not Chinese, I am American.". There is no benefit nor necessity to be associated with the word Chinese. At least not at his age. Lately, I have stepped up his chinese language homework and with tears in his eyes ( he rather be drawing), he exclaimed " I don't even look Chinese!".  It is true. In fact everything he said is right on target. He does not need to speak in Mandarin to communicate with anyone of his maternal side because they all speak English. In fact, all of his Singaporean cousins are raised speaking English and learn Chinese as a second language. He has the kind of neither here-nor-there appearance, looks Asian when in America and looks non-Asian when in Asia. In his world view now, there is no such thing as race. Everyone is just different. Like every vehicle is different. Whenever he describes someone to me at school, colour of their skin is always the last thing he talks about. Like he would say :" that kid who is 6" or "that kid who gets time out all the time" etc. Only when he is totally desperate after exhausting all of his details would he turn to describe the colour of someone's skin. It is as unnecessary to him as describing someone's hair or the colour of their shoes.To him, all of his friends are simply-Americans.

Sounds very peaceful, even hopeful. But reality will soon teach him that there is no such thing as "american" in race. No paperwork you fill in this country will ever provide you a choice to pick american as a race. When he was born, race on his birth certificate says "Asian". I can see how that is going to be another interesting discussion in about 6 years. So his Caucasian side of his family does not count. Even though he is only 50% asian, maybe even less because his great great grandmother is red Indian. Does it make any sense? no. How is this classification going to affect him? What it really means is this - if he ever want to apply to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, his SAT score has to be perfect. I can just hear him saying at that age " Good thing I am not interested anyway!". Yes, the same liberals who blast at anyone they don't like as racist have set racist standards against Asian students. What is that called? "reverse racism"? Read Althouse's blog on Sept 14 regarding UOW admissions discriminatory policy.

So this is the way it is here, my american friends told me. It is just the way this country does business of the last few decades. Ok, cultural differences, I can accept that. I come from a country that many different cultures live quite harmoniously together. We kind of enjoy each other's differences and celebrate them. Hence you can see a long list of public holidays for many different races including CHRISTIAN ones!I can accept that there are certain traditions of a country which will take some time to change. Maybe in my son's generation, they would find race baiting too backward in thinking. There is hope.
Until today, we were filling up a stack of paperwork at the new pediatric clinic when we had to fill in the race of our child.These information were required by CDC.  It gives you a long list of option, almost every country is listed there as a race, "Singaporean " is now a race. Really? "Malaysian" is a race. huh? " Parkistini" is a race? what? Yeah, the only race you cannot find is "American". So you can be any of these newly invented national race. But in America, the only race you cannot be is "American". I know exactly which box my son wanted me to check, the one that says "Others". And we did.


Joe said...

Most nations practice "ethnic nationalism," where national identity is based on shared ethnicity. America practices "territorial nationalism," where national identity is based on citizenship, independent of ethnic or racial characteristics.

Ethnic categories have a valid, useful place in medicine. They help doctors tailor care to your specific ethnic background. Other fields have less excuse for this information, such as education.

J Greathouse said...

Hi Joe, thank you for commenting. I can see why ethnic background can help in medicine. I don't understand the equivalence of territorial nationalism with race. If CDC wants to know where the "applicant" of the forms are coming from, they should simply ask to state nationality. There are 5 major race classification in Singapore- Malay, Chinese, Indian, Caucasian, Euro-Asian/American-Asian. Singaporean is not a race.Race baiting in this country is getting to the point where it is senseless and "very old".