I remember the first time I brought Jason home to meet my parents. My mom told me she was excited and told my father they were about to meet their new “son-in-law.” I found it very interesting she knew before I did that he was my “match.” You see my mother believed everybody had their “match.” The person they are destined to be with.
When we got to my parents’ home, I could tell Jason was nervous. He was worried about their reaction. You see my husband is part Jamaican and part Italian, but identifies as being Jamaican. My parents were surprised! But I was proud of them for not being too Asian-centric. In great Asian-style, they made us a fabulous lunch and stuffed him until he could eat no more.
It was not until later that my father expressed his concern about me dating someone Black and in the military. My mother tried to console me by telling me how much she liked him. She did not see him as Black or White, but someone who was funny and kind. Of course, I was hurt and angry. I rarely brought anyone home to meet my family and when I did, my father decided he does not approve.
I did not tell Jason at first, because I was embarrassed that my Cambodian-Vietnamese father, who identifies culturally as Cambodian was being somewhat racist. I figured my father would be more open to the idea of dating outside our culture since I had a beautiful niece who is part African-American and Asian, whom they absolutely adore. I realized after talking to him and to my mom he was not trying to be racist, but concerned about our own “mixed-race” babies.
You see my father did not want other people in our community or in our society to think his grandchildren were “different” as he told me. I finally understood. It made me think about my own difficulties about being “different”, from mainstream culture.
It was already hard for me to navigate my own world of being first-generation refugee from Cambodia, being part Cambodian, Laotian, Vietnamese and Chinese and a woman of color. I guess having children with Jason would only add to my already complicated life. But what do I do? Do I let the fear of judgment from others keep me from my “match?” Or do I make the conscious decision to love him no matter what others think about our union?
Since meeting my husband, I believe my mom’s idea of love. We do not always have a choice about falling in love. But I believe creating a life with a partner is a choice we all make. We choose every day to work at our relationship.
My husband and I celebrated our four year anniversary. And we are contemplating having our own family. We discussed having “mixed-race” children and how they may be treated in our society.
I feel disheartened thinking even in 2009, we still have to think about racism and discrimination based on a person’s look or skin color. We still have the need to label and box people in. Children of mixed race do not choose to be born into a multi-cultural family, yet. They are subjected to ignorance and fear. I have armed myself with personal stories about family, about culture and education to protect my niece, nephew and someday my own children. I hope they will have the courage to choose their own cultural identity and not let others decide for them.