There are a lot of things I want Jada to own – healthy self-esteem, faith in Jesus Christ, and hatred of the New York Yankees, to name a few – but one important and loaded one is her Asianness. It helps that she looks Asian and has an Asian dad, but it’s not quite as simple as that. For one, we’re undergoing this extensive process to make her a US citizen, which involves a severing of legal ties with China in terms of citizenry and status. Also, it is very easy to want to further distance her from her Chinese origins, given the country’s human rights violations and its political strife with Taiwan, my family’s motherland. Finally, while there are certainly many Asians in America, it takes work to be a fully hyphenated Asian-American in this country, and not just a fully assimilated American with no other cultural tie.
And so I hope that my wife and I can help her to explore, understand, and appreciate her Asianness. That she would not begrudge her looks as different but embrace them as beautiful. That she would learn Mandarin, and that her bilingualness would help her tap into the Asian and American parts of her identity. And that she would appreciate her father’s Taiwanese heritage and take pride in that aspect of her cultural milieu. Most of all, that at her core she would find no conflict in saying that she identifies as both Asian and American. As stated above, these things will not happen without parental support and intentional action. The parental support is there from my wife and me; what is left to do is the intentional action.