Being adopted into a family of a different race can complicate the development of one’s cultural identity. Particularly when a family does not incorporate any cultural activities reflective of the child’s background.
I was adopted from China, into a Hispanic household when I was 14 months old. We did not engage, nor did I learn about anything of my culture or my mother’s. When I came to high school I joined “Asian club” which did not do much more than host dinners which were not very valuable experiences.
It was only when I came to college that I was surrounded by individuals with a solid cultural identity. Soon after beginning my freshman year at Pacific University, I experienced jokes about “being a fake asian”, “being the whitest asian ever”, or a “banana.” These jokes caused me to reevaluate my identity and frankly start to reject my upbringing and my ethnicity itself.
My experiences highlight the importance of supplementing cultural initiatives through education. Creating a space with not only cultural competency, but cultural reference groups and role models, assists in developing a sense of identity and purpose. In clubs, I would like to see guest speakers come and discuss relevant topics to the cultures represented here. For example topics like Asian representation in the media or issues with a rampant patriarchy.
I would love to see women talking about empowerment, learning to combat the “Asian, exotic, submissive, object” views. Throughout my youth, I would have desired to be pushed not to quit Chinese language lessons and be more involved in the Asian community around my neighborhood and the community developed through adoptive relations. I would have also loved to learn traditional and important dishes and customs.
When younger children see individuals who are culturally similar embracing their background and sharing important elements of their story, it encourages an open dialogue and exposure about the history behind traditions and social norms. Including a space for open dialogue, exposure to role models as well as activities and customs reflecting a child’s culture helps cultivate a bond between individuals of similar culture and the individual’s own cultural identity.
It should be a partnership between the parents and the education system to present opportunities to develop a much deeper engrained piece of identity. Through learning about a culture’s history and its times of prosper and times of suffering, a cultural identity and a vitally intimate bond between people can develop.
Once my identity is developed, checking the box “Asian/Pacific Islander” will no longer just be a task. I will truly believe and feel confident and accepted within the community and the asian culture around me.