Reclaiming lost heritage.

by , on
2021-03-08

I’ve been on a journey the past couple years to reclaim lost heritage. Specifically, knowledge of my Chinese ancestry. I did grow up knowing a little about the white side of my family, but the Chinese side? ⁣All I knew is that they were Wongs, they were from Canada and my father played the guitar. ⁣

I’ve made huge progress in my search this year. I can’t tell you how amazing it feels to know my Chinese ancestral home village! This journey of reclaiming lost heritage is revealing a lot to me about the role heritage plays in our lives, in our sense of self and even in our faith.

While I’m not ready to share what I’ve learned about my ancestry just yet (so much is still happening and I’m taking time to savor and process it), I do want to share what it means to me as an adoptee and encourage you to reflect on what it means to you. After all, we all have a heritage.

First, what does “heritage” mean?

Essentially, heritage is what is passed down to us from our parents and ancestors. Therefore, it’s potentially quite a lot of different things and individual families often emphasize different forms of heritage over another.

For example, some people will emphasize the language or culinary traditions passed down through the generations. Others might think more about ethnic phenotypes or national pride. Heritage can encompass generational family values like community service or aptitudes like artistry or athleticism.

Heritage, in any form, is an inherited sense of our distinct family identity, the good and the bad. A sense for one’s heritage can give us a context to help us make sense of ourselves as individuals. We sometimes call this representation or mirroring; when children have healthy relationships with adults who share their traits. Children who see themselves in those they love, learn to love themselves.

A strong sense of heritage can make people and communities resilient in the face of suffering and fight back against oppression. Embarrassingly, I think of the movies Braveheart and 300 (the one about the Spartans), but better examples aren’t hard to find.

When heritage is erased.⁣

There are many reasons why someone may not have knowledge of their heritage or have missing pieces of knowledge. Throughout history, when one group of people seek to conquer another, erasing their heritage is a common and effective tactic.

We see this in the Old Testament when the Israelites were conquered. We see it in the way European Americans enslaved Africans and terrorized Native Americans, stripping them of their language, hairstyles, and family connections. When Communist China sought the reshape the people’s national identity, many family genealogy books (which recorded family values and stories as well as hundreds of years of lineage) were sought out and burned.

There are also those who have voluntarily disconnected themselves from their heritage. Maybe it was to distance themselves from a painful family identity. Maybe to trade it in for a different group identity that gave access to privileges they wouldn’t have had otherwise. In either case, that usually signals the end of the passing down that family identity to future generations.

When heritage is lost or erased, we lose a piece of the natural human experience. We lose the ability to learn about who we are with the support of that broader context of family identity.

Christ Restores

One last thing before I wrap up these thoughts.

The most powerful thing I’ve learned on this reclamation journey is that my identity as a Christian was never meant to replace my heritage, but to restore it. Sarah Shin’s book, Beyond Colorblind, really cracked this wide open for me.

This realization is powerful because I grew up understanding my identity and salvation through a white lens. In other words, a lens that naturally devalued ethnic heritage.

If we understand “white” as a group identity based on the made-up (false) concept of racial categories, then we understand that “white people” have a real ethnic heritage. For example; Welsh, Breton, German. However, generations of European immigrants downplayed their ethnic heritage in order to self-identify as white and access the privileges of whiteness. For example; access to citizenship, ability to own land, vote.

Reading the Bible through a white lens, it appears that is what we are to do as Christians as well. We leave behind our ethnic heritage (worldly identities) to better identify with Christ and access the privileges of salvation; what we inherit as an adopted child of God.

Image says: Whiteness actively minimizes the value of knowing our non-white ancestors. Let's normalize reclaiming ethnic heritage.

As an adoptee, I believed I would find more wholeness and satisfaction in replacing my heritage than in reclaiming it. My adoptive family’s heritage became mine, and that wasn’t necessarily bad. But I should have seen that as an addition to, not a replacement for, the identity I’d lost.

Heritage makes me whole.

Reading the Bible through the lens of non-white cultures, it’s clear God never intended anyone to give up their entire identity. After all, the Bible depicts every tribe, nation and tongue represented in heaven. Instead, being in Christ allows us to restore that which was broken and lost. That way we can embody Christ’s love through our distinct family identities.

This is why I feel reclaiming lost heritage is so vital. It is part of Christ’s healing work to make me whole; to learn to love the parts of myself that God created for good, no longer devaluing God’s work. It is part of how God will work through me to fight injustice and strengthen me to endure suffering.

Of course, I’m learning that reclaiming our heritage is risky and costly. I’ll write again about the risks and rewards. For now I’ll just say I do believe my security in Christ is what enables me to confront the painful things in my heritage and not let fear of more loss paralyze me.

Your loved one is sick. What do you do?

by , on
2021-01-21

It’s been 13 years since I met Virginia and she convinced me to run 26.2 miles. As a cancer survivor and a few years ahead of me in life, she said if she could do it, then I could do it. I couldn’t argue with that. Now, I may have regretted listening to her a time or two during the following months of training. However, the fact that she was even there for that arm-twisting conversation was a medical miracle, and, at least in part, due to the love of her husband, Van.

When Virginia was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Van started researching. Sacrificing sleep to surf the 90’s internet, he was looking for something that might save her life. What a shot in the dark, right? Cancer is a big, scary monster that has bested experts for a long time. What difference would it make for this one man to educate himself on the world of cancer treatments?

The difference was that he found a clinical trial for an experimental drug. They were able to get Virginia into that trial. She became one of the first people to receive an effective dose and 21 years later she’s still alive.

For a couple years, I had the privilege of hearing Van and Virginia tell parts of their story to crowds of marathon runners. As I listened, I imagined Van accompanying Virginia to her medical appointments and sitting with her through treatments. All things that were probably difficult for him to do, yet powered by his love for her.

However, it was that additional effort of self-education and hunting down a miracle that always gave me pause. Even if the miracle drug hadn’t existed, love compelled him to do as much as he could and to refuse to accept things as they were. If you want to hear more about Van and Virginia’s amazing story, I recommend you purchase their book and read it.

Love is Costly

When someone we love gets sick, it might upend everything. Plans and dreams get put on hold or entirely replaced with a new normal; one that might involve becoming “an expert” in the disease or illness that is attacking your loved one.

That makes me think of Jone and Joshua. Jone is my cousin. Joshua is the partner of her son, Randy. Randy also had a terminal diagnosis a few years ago and was in and out of the hospital and, sometimes in and out of consciousness. Jone and Joshua had to advocate for him with surgeons, doctors and nurses for years. And by advocate, I mean stopping them when they were about to do something that would’ve made him worse or even killed him. Time and time again, it was their knowledge about his disease that helped him get through.

When someone we love has a chronic condition, we might have to change the entire family’s diet and/or schedule. I once met a family who got their kids out to ride bikes in the pre-sunrise light because one child, who could not be directly exposed to sunlight, loved to ride. I can’t imagine it was easy to adapt to waking up the entire family while it was still dark on a regular basis.

We might be tempted to say that none of these things are difficult to do when you love someone. We might not even want to talk about how tedious it is to research cancer treatments, or how stressful it is to challenge medical professionals, or how inconvenient it is to reorient our daily life in these situations. At least I tend to jump toward thinking…“well, it is nothing compared to the struggle of the one we love who is sick and in danger.”

There are personal costs we are willing to pay if it means saving the life of or alleviating the pain of someone we love.

What if the disease isn’t physical?

What if the disease attacking your loved one isn’t cancer? What if the source of their pain isn’t something wrong in their cells or even in their psyche? What if they are fighting to survive the societal cancers of racism and white supremacy?

Can you make this jump with me?

If you are not a person of color, but your loved one is, there’s a good chance you don’t automatically understand the disease that threatens them or the pain of the cumulative harm done by racism and white supremacy. There’s a good chance that the social “diet” and routines you’re accustomed to are toxic for your Black child or your brown spouse.

Like Van, does your love compel you to stay up through the night learning and researching, even if there is no miracle cure for racism?

Like Jone or Joshua, are you taking on the responsibility to know what you need to know to be ready to prevent further harm, even if it means challenging a doctor, a teacher, a pastor, a grandparent, a friend?

Are you willing to make changes to your life or get out of your comfort zone in order to create a healthy environment for them?

Even if you are a person of color, but your loved one is a different racial/ethnic minority, there’s a good chance you have some learning and changing to do as well because their distinct experiences of racism and racial trauma might be quite different from yours.

What is love, anyway?

I’ll admit I’m a bit confused these days when someone says they love me. In this past year, there have been plenty of “I love you”s from family, friends, and fellow Christians, who seem content with leaving me (and others) to battle the societal cancer that is racism alone.

“I love you” but I will still pedal anti-Chinese sentiment around this virus. That’s like saying “I love you but I will still smoke around you even though you have lung cancer.”

“I love you” but I don’t want to understand what you’re going through.

“I love you” but not enough learn how to care for or help you through this.

“I love you” but I won’t speak up to others who are harming you.

“I love you” but I won’t sacrifice my comfort to alleviate your pain.

Is that really love, then?

I have greatly appreciated the people who have listened to me or have read what I wrote. However, it seems like many white friends and family see it like a hobby of mine. Like I talk about racism and adoption trauma and how that impacts me because I enjoy it, but it’s totally optional. So they do not have to actually know anything about my little hobby in order to love me.

However, I see things like racism and adoption trauma like a disease I’m fighting, an affliction I struggle against. Somedays the pain is so bad I can’t get out of bed. Somedays I’m feeling really good. Either way, my overall health is greatly impacted by whether or not those closest to me are doing their own learning and willing to make changes.

Just like Van, by himself, did not save Virginia’s life, I don’t expect any one person to be everything I need. Virginia is still with us, not just because of love, but because of years worth of research by specialists and treatment by medical staff, as well as the support of their friends and family.

Still. The kind of love that refuses to accept things as they are and keeps trying, against all odds, can make a huge difference in the outcome. The kind of love that puts effort into understanding someone else’s struggle can learn how to help without furthering harm. That is the kind of love we need.

Adoptee Critique on Emmanuel Acho’s Adoption Segment

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2020-07-24

If you’re not familiar with this series by Emmanuel Acho, it’s pretty great, actually. The videos of “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man” are making their rounds in our social feeds and I do like it. I do. However, Emmanuel Acho’s adoption segment needs a critical review from an adoptee lens. There are problems here and we need to address them.

First, here is the video if you haven’t seen it. It’s about 16 minutes long.

A Note on Adoptee Critiques

In publishing, there is something called a sensitivity reader (learn more here). A sensitivity reader uses their lens, their lived experience, as someone with a marginalized identity (e.g. Black, LGBTQ+, an adoptee, etc) to give feedback on a work and opinions about any elements that might be offensive, harmful, etc.

When I write adoptee critique posts like this, that is basically what I’m doing. I’m revealing to you what I see through my transracial adoptee lens. I’m providing critical feedback. It might expose you to a perspective you wouldn’t have seen otherwise. This is practice for learning to walk a mile in an adoptee’s shoes. This is the whole purpose of my site; addressing uncomfortable perspectives on adoption, race and faith.

So let’s get started.

[NOTE: I’m only going to say this once. I do like much of what the parent’s had to say. I am NOT attacking the white parents.]

Did we just erase Black parenthood?

The premise of this video is that it discusses raising Black children. Well, if you want to talk about raising Black children, why not talk to Black parents?

How did they go from the previous segment (where they featured interracial couples talking about being parents someday) to this one, featuring white adoptive parents?

Was that just a sloppy segue to somehow connect the spot on interracial couples to the spot on transracial adoption?

I don’t see why this white couple should be speaking on this issue.
I’m confused.

These kids are not ready to share.

The adoptees here are children. Now, sometimes kids have found their voice on something and they are excited to talk about it. That is not these kids! They were clearly not coming in ready to engage on being Black and being adopted. They have found their own voice on yet. This should not have been asked of them.

This centers the White APs.

AP=Adoptive Parent.

If these kids aren’t leading the convo here, then who is? Who was invited to speak? The parents. Who got dragged along? The kids. It seems obvious to me, that they are there at their parent’s request. Even if they were excited to be filmed in this video, it was not their idea.

Therefore, to me, this appears as if they are a prop for the parents to talk about something they’re still not the best people to ask about; re: raising Black children.

This tells me that the people running this show think it doesn’t take a lot of work to address adoption (or raising Black children) properly. They can just call in some woke white people and their Black kids and it’s all good.

Take note: Adoption is often a go-to, feel-good topic to fill content holes for people. As an adoptee, that hurts. This is not an easy reality to live and I don’t like anyone saying, “Hey…why don’t we cover transracial adoption? That’d be neat!” without taking the time to understand that they are stepping into a complex and often hurtful adoptee reality. It’s a topic that needs to be handled with more care!

Story was put on the spot.

When Emmanuel asks her if she ever wishes she had Black parents?
NO child should have to answer a question like that, unaware, in this kind of pressure situation. Her parents should’ve made it clear beforehand that NO impromptu questions be asked of their kids. The kids should’ve had the time to think about what they wanted to talk about in advance.

The question he threw to Story revealed TWO things to me.

1: That she was conflicted on how to answer and felt pressure. That sucks. Her parents were there. The cameras were rolling. A very good looking man was asking her a question. Feeling conflicted but pressured to answer is not a good spot to be in.

2: That she felt the answer had to be either yes or no. Maybe that’s because she’s not at that point yet, cognitively, or maybe she is and that is why she seemed conflicted. Still, she wasn’t able to articulate, in that moment, that the answer could be BOTH yes and no.

I have no idea what was going on in her head, but watching and hearing her, I was like…Ahhh! The power dynamics here were VERY unfair to this young lady. If she had complex or conflicting emotions in that moment, which I suspect she did, how terrible to walk away from this whole recording session, unable to express that and holding that within her.

Yes, that’s me and I was adorable.

This is why we don’t feature kids.

This is why we should not have adoptees who are still children, still minors, doing things like this. We should not be making videos about adoption that feature a child’s adoption story or asks them to speak on what it’s like to be adopted.

Adoptive parents should be protecting their child’s privacy while helping them learn to make sense of their own story and find their own voice.

When we are ADULTS, then let US tell our stories and interpret what it means for you. Once adoptees have matured to the point we can hold in tension conflicting beliefs and emotions inherent in adoption AND be able to articulate that, THEN come ask us for interviews.

Questions to Ponder

Why do you think so few productions like this and so few adoption centered videos online (like the viral ones that get shared) feature ADULT adoptees?

Why do they almost always show children?
It’s not like there is a shortage of adult adoptees willing to share and able to do a good job of it.

You might think…well it’s just because kids are cute.

Ask yourself why that matters? If we center children because we enjoy seeing their cute faces and our hearts are moved by their stories…then what are we prioritizing? Our good feelings and emotional entertainment.

You might think it’s because kid’s need to be adopted and therefore the best way to make that happen is feature stories of kids.

Then aren’t you treating our story (with the inherent pain and conflict)… like an advertisement?

What if instead, you asked an adult adoptee to share their story and photos/video footage of themselves as a child?

Then, they can control over how their story was presented?

Wouldn’t that be more ethical?

Seeing Internalized Racism, Part 4 | Feedback Loop 201

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2020-06-28

In Part 3, I introduced you to the feedback loop of internalized racism. Thinking about it this way helps me understand a bit better why internalizing racism is more than my individual self-hate (see Part 1 & Part 2) but can actually contribute to systemic racism.

You might ask, as I have:
“So, why don’t BIPOC just recognize that racist narratives are lies and stop internalizing racism?”

Shouldn’t ending internalized racism be that simple? Just stop the cycle by…crushing it with our mind-vice (30 Rock reference. Anyone?). In other words, shouldn’t I just stop being stupid enough to fall for this racist narrative crap?

And… that’s kind of blaming of the victim, isn’t it? I felt part 4 was necessary to explain why it’s not always that easy. I also need to have some grace with myself as I unpack my internalized racism. There were reasons I didn’t recognize racist narratives for what they were.

What keeps the loop circling?

Above is the same feedback loop from part 3, but with two things added. First, there is the Impact of Colonization on the outside, acting as a force that keeps the wheel spinning. Second, there is an inner mini loop of “rewards”, acting as a force within. It keeps the momentum of internalized racism going as well. Let’s talk about those two things.

Impact of Colonization

“Colonization” is maybe the wrong term, but I’m using it to refer to the white European legacy of severing ethnic minorities from their heritage and history. With Africans, it was stealing them from their country and stripping them of their cultures and ethnic distinctions. With Indigenous peoples, it was genocide on top of taking their land and forcing the survivors to assimilate.

With me, it is quite different, because it was an unwanted pregnancy and an adoption that severed me from my ethnic heritage and history. However, modern adoption practices (e.g. the tendency to assume that being adopted by white parents means a better life) have definitely been a tool of colonization and white supremacy.

Let’s look at how this keeps the feedback loop spinning.

Lost Heritage

It’s hard to know and affirm the goodness in our ethnic distinctions when we’ve lost connection to our roots. When we do not have a healthy grasp on the goodness of our ethnic identities, it is harder to recognize and fight racist narratives when we encounter them. We will hear the lies and not know for certain they are lies.

Using my Chinese restaurant example from Part 3, I didn’t know the glory and variety of Chinese food culture. I hadn’t grown up watching my Chinese family use fresh ingredients, lovingly prepared, and turn them into our favorite dishes for family holidays. So, when I consistently encountered racist rumors of dog or cat meat in Chinese food, I didn’t have this robust positive context with which to refute and reject the racist narrative. I just had lies stuck on repeat that seemed to make more and more sense in the absence of truth.

Whitewashed History

A whitewashed history erases the sins of white European colonizers and focuses on events from a perspective that glorifies them. When BIPOC are deprived of understanding history from the perspective of our racial/ethnic group, we struggle to recognize the common racist narratives used against us.

For example, I did not know that racist depictions of Chinese immigrants included cartoons of them eating rats. I wasn’t taught about the exclusion act. Now that I am learning this other side of American history, it is much easier to see anti-Chinese racist narratives for what they are.

The most recent example is the scapegoating of Chinese people for COVID-19. I see now that this racist narrative is also over 140 years old and it also has staying power in the minds of Americans. In fact, I knew the moment I heard about coronavirus, that anti-Asian hate was going to get more aggressive and more visible again.

George F. Keller Cartoon from May 1882. Public opinion was that the persistent presence of three diseases – Malarium, Small Pox, and Leprosy – were the fault of Chinese immigrants and their “unsanitary living conditions.”
George F. Keller Cartoon from May 1882.
Public opinion was that the persistent presence of three diseases – Malaria, Small Pox, and Leprosy – were the fault of Chinese immigrants and their “unsanitary living conditions.”

Reward Mini Loop

Now, about that reward mini loop. In the graphic it says this:

“Dominant white culture may reward BIPOC by granting access to some privileges, reinforcing their internalized racism.”

Here are two hypothetical example scenarios:

  1. A Chinese American academic, scientist or reporter who believes China created coronavirus on purpose might get a lot of white-owned media attention. Their youtube video may be all over Facebook. The “reward” for such a person might be invites to the White House, paid speaking engagements, and celebrity-like status with white Americans who want to scapegoat Chinese people for this virus.
  2. Using the model minority myth mentioned in Part 3 for context: a Chinese American kid who struggles with math will not ask for help. They feel ashamed that they are not good at the one subject everyone “knows” they are supposed to be good at. The “reward” for hiding their need for academic support is that they won’t be made fun of by classmates or be seen as not living up to the model minority stereotype. The reward is actually just avoiding a punishment for not upholding a racist stereotype.

These examples aren’t that hypothetical, are they? Living in a world that has been shaped by racist policies and narratives, BIPOC are constantly pushed to meet racist expectations. People want to see us a certain way. Going along with that can feel easier in that we avoid the friction and confrontation required to go against it. Getting applause and praise feels good. It can even feel like love.

However, when BIPOC internalize racist narratives, it does deep harm to ourselves and others. It leads to self-hate and self-sabotage and turns us into an actor in the oppression of others. These ‘rewards’ merely mask the harm being done, like a pleasant side-effect masks the symptoms of a lethal drug. So you keep taking it because you don’t realize it’s killing you.

Truth & Grace Required

In seeing internalized racism in myself, I have felt the need to be aggressive at times. It is important to own up to the truth of how I have upheld racist narratives and excavate my mind, heart and history for the root my racist beliefs. Yet I’ve also felt the need to extend grace to myself as one who has been harmed by racist narratives and policies that I did not create, and is recovering from self-hate and shame.

Truth and grace are both required.

This is why I am so critical of white Christianity and white culture. I feel I have to right my wrongs by speaking against the beliefs I formerly held. While it might not be the best way for me to atone, it helps me heal. I have gone through much of my life experiencing racism that I was unable to name and process. Now that I am learning the words and tools to do that, sharing that feels like freedom.

I believe that confronting and deprogramming internalized racism is godly and necessary healing work. However, it is costly (i.e. I have lost the ‘rewards’ of certain relationships and opportunities). I’m sure as I learn more and get better at seeing internalized racism in myself, I’ll want to explain some things differently.

Seeing Internalized Racism, Part 3 | The Feedback Loop

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2020-06-28

In Part 2, I showed how my circumstances led to internalizing anti-Asian racist ideas. However, that’s just not enough. It’s important to see how internalized racism perpetuates racism in a feedback loop. We need to zoom out and see how my story fits into the bigger picture.

Content Warning: Anti-Chinese and Anti-Asian racism and imagery.

As I said in Part 1, internalizing racism means that BIPOC experience racial inequities and believe the source of that problem lies with their own racial group. Essentially, BIPOC adopt the racial prejudices of white people who hold power. When this happens, BIPOC can be used by those white people in power to uphold and defend racist policies. This explains how.

Feedback Loop 101

I’ll expand on this in the next post, but this is the basic feedback loop. The graphic below assumes that you understand the origin of racism as self-interest (a concept expertly articulated by Ibram X. Kendi) driving racist policies. If not, your homework is to read this article.

Take a minute and think on it. Then read through my examples under the headings below. I’ll follow a thread of anti-Asian racism, connecting historical events to things we still see and hear today.


Racist Policies

Racist policies preserve and protect wealth and power.
An example: The Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882.

In the 1800s, war, natural disasters and famine in China forced thousands to come to America. These Chinese immigrants were seen as a threat to white European Americans who held power. You can learn more with a google search, but the tl;dr (“too long, didn’t read”) version is that white America did not want competition for wealth and power from a new crop of immigrants they had little in common with and couldn’t control.

This was a race-based law designed to protect
white American wealth and political power.

Therefore the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed; a law targeting a specific ethnic group, banning Chinese people from immigrating and preventing Chinese people from becoming naturalized citizens (i.e. owning land, voting). Originally considered a 10 year plan, it stayed in place for 61 years!


Racist Narratives

Racist narratives are used to justify racist policies.
An example: Chinese immigrants depicted as dirty, rat-eaters.

To justify the Chinese Exclusion Act in the minds of the majority of (white) Americans, several anti-Chinese racist ideas took root. This included referring to Chinese immigrants as “yellow peril“, depictions of Chinese men as dirty and immoral, eating rats, addicted to opium, stealing jobs and threatening white women.

Image description: "Rough On Rats" product box lid is a colorful celluloid picture of a Chinese gentleman with  a long pigtail, a cooly hat, and an embroidered tunic who is about to eat a rat while in his other hand he holds a second rat, apparently also about to be consumed.
From MemoriesandMiscellany: “The racist image perpetuated a long-held belief among some Americans that the Chinese on a regular basis ate live rats as a snack.  The Chinese also appeared in “Rough on Rats” advertising.”

Yes, the idea that Chinese immigrants frequently ate rats was so recognizable that it became a part of this brand’s image and product design. Were they insinuating this rat poison was just as effective at eliminating rats as Chinese immigrants were? Go ahead and be angry about that for a minute, will you?


Racist Ideas Forced on BIPOC

Racists narratives are forced onto BIPOC.
An example: Chinese restaurant “mystery meat” rumors/jokes.

What do I mean when I say ‘forced’? I mean that racist narratives permeate all aspects American culture. BIPOC can’t escape these narratives completely. There are a million ways, large and small, violent and subtle, that racist narratives can invade your mind and make you doubt yourself.

I’ve definitely heard on more than one occasion that Chinese people ate dog meat and that Chinese restaurants frequently serve dog or cat (or rat) in their dishes. Yes, this is essentially the same racist narrative that has been around since the 1800’s. This racist narrative has so much staying power that family-owned restaurants have gone out of business because of local rumors; that it feels true enough for white Americans to find this meme funny.

Image shows hands holding a fortune cookie paper that says "That wasn't chicken" and an empty serving dish with chopsticks in the background.
Last year, two white guys in my Facebook feed shared this meme.
Neither one saw it as being racist.

Growing up, I never liked going to the one Chinese restaurant in town. I remember ordering a cheeseburger and fries instead. I knew some people believed I had a connection with Chinese food (being a half Chinese adoptee). I also knew Chinese food was sometimes seem as gross or suspicious.


BIPOC Internalize Racist Ideas

BIPOC interpret the results of racist policies as proof of racist narratives.
An example: The Model Minority Myth.

This one is long, so stay with me. This shows us how racist narratives change to suit the policies and therefore interests of white people in power.

First, Chinese exclusion eased up in 1943 as the USA wanted China as an ally against Japan. (This is self-interest driving policy, btw.) To justify this about-face, a literal committee strategically recast Chinese people as great neighbors and good citizens in promotional materials to convince America accept them!

Then, in the 1960’s, the National Immigration Act gave preference to immigrants that could help the American economy. (Again, self-interest driving policy.) Suddenly, many Asian immigrants had PhDs and high-demand skills. They had less obstacles due to racism and experienced more financial success. So guess what? They made the wealth and education stats for the average Asian American go way up.

Overlapping all this was the Civil Rights Movement. White people in power used Asian American success to argue that racism wasn’t holding anyone back. Asian Americans became “proof” that America wasn’t racist. They claimed that it was hard work and good citizenship that made Asians just as wealthy and successful as white people! This is how Asian Americans were depicted as the “model minority”; the one all other minorities should seek to copy.

So, this is the model minority myth; a racist narrative used to excuse the racist policies that produced inequities for Black Americans! This myth pits minority against minority and protects the status quo of white wealth and power.

So, how does this get internalized?

Today, an Asian American might believe the myth; that their family’s success is proof that if you work hard, you can overcome any racist obstacles that might exist. Therefore, this person may believe that racism is not the reason for the economic disparities between white people and other BIPOC.

Instead of connecting their racial group’s success to external factors (i.e. policies that removed obstacles and opened doors for them), they internalize it, believing that their racial group’s success is because they behaved better and worked harder than other racial minority groups.


BIPOC Uphold Racist Policies

Once internalized, it is easy to believe that racist policies are justified.
An example: Asians against affirmative action.

Affirmative action in higher education has been a big topic in recent years. In this example, the racist “policy” was actually the widespread practice of discrimination against racial minorities in higher education prior to affirmative action.

While many white people have been against affirmative action, a certain segment of the Asian American population is now against it as well. Research done in 2019 shows that this segment tends to be first generation immigrants; the ones benefitting from selective immigration (*) and who tend to have higher academic achievements.

Asians against affirmative action seem to have internalized the model minority myth (i.e. we earned this). Just like many white Americans, they would prefer solely merit-based college admissions, which would ignore how our educational system still hinders Black students. In this way, they seek to uphold the practice of racial discrimination in higher education.

(*) The Mere Mention of Asians in Affirmative Action, Jennifer Lee, Van C. Tran, Sociological Science.


Wealth & Power Stays White

Now the feedback loop has come full circle, where white wealth and power can keep creating racist policies to protect their wealth and power. BIPOC who have internalized racist narratives often get weaponized against other BIPOC who are trying to call out and correct racial injustices.

Racism, as a form of oppression, is constantly seeking to keep the oppressed down. So internalized racism functions to get oppressed people to do that work themselves, to keep themselves down. This is why it is important for BIPOC to untangle ourselves from this mindset.


In Part 4, I’ll talk about how white wealth and power exploits BIPOC with internalized racism. I’ll also add two key details to the Feedback Loop that help me understand how this wheel can keep spinning? Why can’t I just recognize that racist narratives are wrong and stop myself from going around this circle?

Read Part 4.