I recently read The Help and then went to the movie. Getting to read a book to completion while parenting young kids is a luxury all unto itself, so I am doubly pleased to have been able to do both. I went with two other mothers, one Caucasian South African and one Caucasian American. Ordinarily, their race is of little consequence to their identification. They are my friends, C and S and two of the loveliest women. In this case though, it is important to note who was in the car. The question was asked “what would I do if I were there back then?” It was really interesting to listen to their candor. I was in awe of their willingness to challenge their convention as to how they would handle the race issue if they were growing up back then.
I was left with a different question. “What would I be doing back then?” Sure as hell, there would be no black nanny taking care of my children. But I was wondering if I, and others like me, would have been there at all? Actually, I know there were Korean adoptees back then, we started coming in droves in the 1950s by mostly very religious families who were “called” to save the orphans of the Korean War. I have met Korean adoptees who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s in the South who were not allowed in stores, who feared the confederate flag and who would hide when a truck of White boys would come barreling down the street. But where were we during Jim Crow?
This question has been burning in my brain for some time now. My son came home fascinated and forever changed when he learned about Martin Luther King in school and is very diligent in describing the color of a person – brown, very brown, light. I am actually proud that he doesn’t identify himself as being White. Driving through Harlem, he will ask if he would be able to hang around and play because there are no light skinned people around. But I am always stumped when I think about my Asian American history and realize we don’t exist in American History books during Jim Crow. I know we existed. There were laws in the history books before then prohibiting Asian women from immigrating here so as not to procreate. Chinese immigrants were not considered full human either. And the image of the canary being held by a “Yellow man” entering the mines is forever in my head as a sign of where we came from.
So, I have the dubious task of educating my sons about being Asian in America and adoption. Like any other minority population, our home is full of books written by Asian American authors, pictures and paintings on the wall from Korea and I remain on the never ending quest to find someone who will teach Korean to my kids other than in a church setting. My children are around close friends of all shades. Is it enough? I am left wondering what will stick in their heads and hearts.
To end, I found a book. Partly Colored: Asian Americans and Racial Anomaly in the Segrgated South http://www.news.wisc.edu/18551. Anyone else wonder about this? What have you found?