Sunday, July 24, 2011

Letter From an Aggravated Chinese Adoptee

By Mei-Ling

Dear adoptive parents and/or other outsiders (people with no personal connection to adoption),

I get that you want to acknowledge I am Asian. I get that you think think it's important for you to acknowledge that.

But you're doing it The Wrong Way.

When I'm out at a Chinese market or in a vicinity with Asian signs and shops, I don't need people suddenly asking me if I can understand the signs. I don't need people conveniently becoming "aware" that oh hey you're Chinese and expecting me to know the characters because wow, they just realized my ethnicity is Chinese even though they have viewed me as being culturally Caucasian.

Or wondering why I can't read a cartoon clip on the Internet that's in Chinese, and subsequently asking me why I can't read it - and then, in some cases, furthering the exchange to ask how I can't read it - "You studied the language, you really can't understand it?"

Please don't tell me to just "study harder", "buy a dictionary" or "take classes." I have done all of that, multiple times. No, it doesn't work. No, it does not allow me to do anything more than ask for simple directions, and oftentimes, I can't understand the answer, which makes the whole asking issue pointless. It might help a little for survival, but please think about the reality of the situation.

Don't tell me to add in my cover letter that I speak Mandarin just because there's a bilingual job that requires Chinese, or that I should try and apply for an admin job which states the employer's name is Chinese. Why? Because it's the only type of job where you seem to think putting down an Asian "whatever" will get their attention! or hired! No, putting in my Chinese name and "boasting" about how I have survival skills in Mandarin does not equal job professionalism. Yes, I've put my Chinese name in my cover letter for Chinese restaurants. No, it doesn't work. Don't use my ethnicity like that.

Don't tell me you saw a cute Chinese boy at the mall and talk how about it's "too bad" I couldn't date him. On that matter, don't suggest that you have seen an Asian co-worker or a friend of a friend whose son is an immigrant and happens to be from China therefore maybe we can set up a date. Hello? I was raised Caucasian. I am not going to obtain fluency in Mandarin, I am not going to suddenly have intimate knowledge of the culture or food, and I am certainly NOT going to have anything in common just because we're both Chinese. Get that idea out of your head, because it's a privileged generalization. It's nothing more than convenience to you.

Why is it a convenience? Because you only talk about it within of another Asian guy or when we go to an Asian district! It's never ever mentioned anywhere else!

If you're going to acknowledge me as being Chinese but only when there's a cute guy in the room, or when you want me to translate, then don't do it at all.

Being Chinese is not a matter of cultural or linguistic convenience.


an aggravated Chinese adoptee