I hate to admit it, but it is incredibly hard for me to like folks from Mainland China. This is stupid since my father’s side is from China even though he was born in Taiwan. My grandfather escaped from the Communists to Taiwan after serving in the army. My paternal grandmother is also from China. We still have cousins and grandaunts and granduncles in China. Yet for me, I now identify mostly as Taiwanese after spending most of my life spouting that Taiwanese people were obviously from China unless they were the indigenous Taiwanese people. Now, I consider myself Taiwanese (if only because my mother’s family has been there for several generations.)
Unfortunately, my father’s numerous affairs with his secretaries in China have soured my feelings towards the country. I hear so many stories of women who don’t care if men are married and have families and become home-wreckers. Anything to get money and/or leave the country. It doesn’t help that the newspapers are full of stories featuring corrupt officials, corrupt food, and status seeking real estate, car-buying hordes of people.
Obviously, an entire country cannot be painted en masse just because of a few horrible people. The people I’ve met from China have been perfectly nice and friendly, loving and wanting the best for their children just as I do. We are not so different. Yet I hold them at arm’s length, convinced that they are, deep down, an immoral, ruthless, greedy people. I find it difficult to look past my prejudice and be warm and inviting. I’m not rude, just not kind or super friendly. This makes me sad.
If I want to be intellectually honest, though, I would have to hate Taiwanese women, too. My father had affairs in Taiwan, in the US, and who knows what other countries. While I’m blaming huge swaths of people, perhaps prostitutes, strippers, and all secretaries, too!
Part of me knows it is partially classic “blame the mistress” syndrome in order to distance my father from his evil. I mean, his latest woman is particularly fucked up and conniving, but let’s be real. My father didn’t just trip and accidentally have his penis fall into her vagina and make a baby with her, buy her multiple houses in China and Texas in an effort to hide assets from my mother before the divorce, not pay alimony, and in general be a sociopathic, narcissistic, grade-A asshole. Sadly, this is just the minor tip (see what I did there?) of a fucked up iceberg that tore through my family and ripped it apart.
Not that I’m still pissed about this or anything.
But try telling that to my brain when I interact with Mainland Chinese people. I know. My Taiwanese snobbery is showing.
I bring this up because this past Monday, a woman was so desperately happy to attend our Mandarin playgroup. She had been so isolated because she didn’t speak English very well, lived in a neighborhood without many Chinese people, and couldn’t drive (at least legally in the US). She has a 14 month old son who rarely meets other children because again, this woman cannot drive. Now, when she arrived at my house, of course I was nice and polite. I’m not THAT much of a jerk. And I felt bad for this woman – I know it can be very isolating and lonely after having a child – especially if you’re basically under house arrest. Yet, as soon as I found out she was from Mainland China, part of me shrank back and did not want to be as open to her as I had been originally.
Part of it can be rationalized by saying that as an ABC (American Born Chinese), my experience is vastly different than hers as a new immigrant. Also, Taiwanese culture can be very different from Chinese culture. But ultimately, that is crap. I can lie to myself all I want, but I know, deep down, it’s because I’m a racist bastard.
Anyhow, since I often post about racial issues, I wanted to be honest. Just because I’m a minority (in THIS country, anyway) doesn’t mean I’m exempt from racist thinking and actions. I don’t have any easy answers. I am not about to go out of my way to make friends with all the Mainland Chinese people in my neighborhood. But I do think that being aware of my tendency to be aloof and to actively be more engaging with folks from the Mainland is a good beginning.