Today is week 39 of #TWmemorymondays!
Most of you probably already know this, but I'm going to cover basic background for those who are new. My parents grew up in Hong Kong, and immigrated to California in their 20's. I was born in the Bay Area, and lived there until college.
When my parents moved here, they joined Chinese community church where they became very involved and found a new home in. Most of the people who attended this church also immigrated and mostly spoke Cantonese (which my parents did also). I was basically born into the community along with many of my childhood friends who were also second generation. (Swipe to see a photo of my mom and me in front of the church.) I have so many fun memories of playing with my friends after church during my parent's choir practices or meetings. SO MANY MEETINGS - but that just meant I went to my friends' houses and hung out multiple times a week.
A memory that sticks out to me is the smell of Chinese (the real kind) food filling the halls of church after the service has ended. After the church service and before my parents' choir practice, everyone who was part of the choir and their families had lunch together. Every Sunday, it was the routine to have lunch together for basically all of my childhood. The whole hall was filled a mix of chinese and english - because most of the adults spoke chinese and most of the kids spoke english. Just the combination of the smell, the anticipation of food, the sound of moving chairs, and announcement that people can get their lunch - it brings back such a feeling of comfort.
My family was part of that church until I entered high school, and then we moved to a church that was predominantly white. As you can guess, it was a huge life and culture change. I was of course part of many other contexts where I was a minority, but when it came to core community - I was usually around people who looked like me. The part that was most obvious to me was (white) people's nice cautiousness to approaching my family - like the cultural divide was a bit too much...kind of inconvenient. This was such a huge contrast where
we were seen and really known in the Chinese community. In the white culture, that complexity seemed to be flattened out to one dimension - which is OTHER.
At the new church, my parents also sang in the choir, and there was dinner served there before rehearsal. Dinner was chicken alfredo with garlic bread, or chicken parmesan, and that sort of traditional "American" food. Nothing is wrong with that of course, but it does not ring true to my family's comfort/heart food - and talk about contrasting experiences!
Now I want to point out something that I've noticed in my life: when it comes to race and particularly socializing with POC, there seems to sometimes be this paralysis that white people get. It's caused by not wanting the POC to feel "other," and feeling scared they will say the wrong thing - or not say something they should say. As a POC, it's the worst feeling, because under the niceness there's a deep division and caricature-ing of me.
What SHOULD happen (in my opinion - can't talk for all POC), an internal acknowledgment that the person has a brown/black ethnicity and internally celebrating that, then proceed to be authentically curious about their life without bringing up the fact that they are a POC. THEN, when the relationship has been built, be verbally curious about their ethnic background/experience. And do all of this without the agenda of proving something to them or others or wanting to offer some information about how much you know about their culture.
Easy right?? It's not easy, because our white supremest society doesn't set up POC to be seen as equal of dignity and worth. I want you to see color and to celebrate/embrace it - this act is powerful, takes a lot of work, and VERY inconvenient. But that's the thing about breaking evil systems - it takes sweat, tears, discomfort, and many inconvenient interactions.
#TWmemorymondays: A painting inspired by a memory every Monday of 2018. Connecting abstract art to real life. Week 39/53. 'Church' / 8x8 in / mixed media on paper