I am the very proud grandma to this beautiful little baby-Malia Grace. As you can see by this picture, Malia is a Hapa baby. Her mother is my daughter Katie and her father is my wonderful son in law Norm.
I am honored to be the full time caregiver of Malia and I recently had an experience that left me determined to make sure Malia knows who she is and is always proud of her mixed heritage.
Malia and I were out shopping when I approached the fitting room to try on some pants. This is the conversation that ensued:
Fitting room attendant: Is that your daughter?
Me: No-this is my grandaughter.
FRA: What is she? I mean she looks Chinese and you aren’t Chinese.
Me: Ummm…excuse me-
FRA: She’s like a mutt-you are going to have to tell her she is mixed.
At this point I left the store completely flustered. Now I am not some bitty little grandma; I recently graduated from UCLA with a double major in Political Science and Asian American Studies. I spent many hours in classes listening to these kinds of horror stories from mixed students and always vowed to try and make the world a better place where race is irrelevant. But even I, with my education, couldn’t find the words to express my feelings at that moment.
The good outcome of this is that I am more determined than ever to pursue my Masters Degree in Asian Am studies at UCLA next year. My sweet little Malia must grow up in a better world and I want her to have the strength to combat this kind of behavior from others. From now on-should this occur again-Malia will have her granny to help fight her battles!
I have posted before on Hapa Voice about my experiences with my beautiful little grandaughter Malia and some of the reactions I get when I am out in public with her. Malia is half Filipino and half-well…alot of other things.
Recently she and her parents, (my daughter and son-in-law) were out to dinner. My daughter left the table to go to the restroom and a couple came to the table and in a joking manner, asked my son-in-law if Malia was speaking Chinese yet.
My son-in-law Norm is the kindest and most gentle man I know and I’m sure he good naturedly laughed it off, yet when my daughter told me about the incident I was bothered. I guess what bothers me is the assumption of many people that if someone has Asian features, it automatically means they are Chinese.
Many years ago I may have not thought this was a big deal, but after majoring in Asian American Studies at UCLA, I have become sensitive to Asian Am issues. The importance of recognizing the history and contributions of every ethnicity cannot be overlooked and when we lump all Asians into one ethnicity, we overlook their individual stories and struggles.
Norm, my son-in-law, was born in the Philippines, but came to the US as a baby. His father joined the US Navy and served the United States during Vietnam. His mom was in Hawaii with 5 small children managing the household while her husband was away, they made these sacrifices so that their children would be Americans and have the kind of lives that we take for granted.
I know that Malia is growing up in a world that is more progressive than the world was in the 1960’s, but I am still reminded of the prejudice and ignorance of some people when I hear comments made to her and about her. As her very proud Granny, I am also her protector and cheerleader.
My wish for the New Year is that Malia will never know the discrimination that her Lolo and Lola faced as they came to the US, and that she will always be judged not by her ethnicity, but by her nature. I am continuing my education so that I can speak out on her behalf and for all the other Hapa children. Malia is the result of the love between two people who may be of different backgrounds; she is proof that ethnicity, skin color, etc. are not as important as the love between individuals. As I like to say: Hapa children are mixed with love.
Happy New Year to all of you, I hope that 2011 brings tolerance, love, and understanding to all people.