Week 17 of #TWmemorymondays! I'm continuing my exploration of untangling the complex nature of my racial shame. It's something that I didn't even know was there until my eyes have been open to it recently. I'm using this project to start the work of naming pieces that contribute to the shame. It's not fun to call it out, because it seems so wrong when you actually look at it, but naming it is part of ridding of it.
My parents' (they immigrated from Hong Kong) primary language is Canonese (I use "Chinese" synonymously), while they can speak English fluently. So my mother tongue is Chinese, and I was fluent in Chinese and English when I was really little. Gradually over time I lost the ability to speak Chinese. By gradeschool, I rarely spoke any Chinese. Now, I can't speak it at all even though I can understand it 100%.
At home my parents rarely spoke to me or each other in English, it's always in Chinese (unless it was during school hours - read about it in week 15). I remember always being in the kitchen setting up the dinner table, and my mom pushing me to speak in Chinese. There was once even a rule that during dinner, my sister and I could only speak in Chinese. Being able to speak in Chinese was something that was important to my parents in protecting our culture. My whole childhood was them trying to get me to speak and learn Chinese! But the passive pressure I felt about it was too strong.
Thinking back, the whole situation is very complex. As a young girl I could tell the difference between my Asian friends who spoke fluently in Chinese and those who didn't. Like what I wrote last week, the more foreign or "fobish" you came off as the less you ranked in society, which is unfortunately true on our white supremest culture. So it was natural for me to not want to speak Chinese, because it was embarrassing to be one of those Asians who were so culturally far from being white. It was never a conscious decision - but I subconsciously knew that being as white as possible was a huge part of what it meant to be cool.
White culture strikes again. It's horrifying to admit it's dominance on my past and present. But I have hope to learn to speak it again!
#TWmemorymondays: A painting inspired by a memory every Monday of 2018. Connecting abstract art to real life. Week 17/53. 'Spoken' / 8x8 in / mixed media on paper