Double Blossom xx – Week 8
What a week this has been. Just as the world comes to grips with lockdown trauma, a white policeman murders another black man in America. Yesterday morning when I was looking through my photos for a holiday photo, I came upon this one of my brother and me in Washington D.C. On that trip, I remember touring all the monuments that represented the ideals of our nation and its founders; the White House, the Jefferson Memorial and in this photo with the Washington Memorial behind us, we are at the base of the steps to the Lincoln Memorial. This photo spoke to me as I had just read that the White House was under lockdown on account of the riots, induced by George Floyd’s senseless death. The angry mobs of the French Revolution seem not too far away.
The seven-year girl in this photo proudly believed that the benevolent founding fathers of our adopted country were happy to welcome my family and me as citizens of America. Little did I know that my version was the Walt Disney one. The real story is far more complicated and not as rosy.
Yes, I am and will be forever grateful to the USA for taking my family in. They came for the great American dream, the one stated in the Declaration of Independence where all men are created equal and guaranteed the unalienable rights life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And in many ways, we found it. We were all able to pursue higher forms of education and found success in our lives.
But I realise now that the dream never meant liberty for all and that the pursuit of happiness was contingent on the exploitation of black people. In her most recent newsletter Krista Tippet of the On Being podcast writes, “Race is a dehumanizing construct, an invention of white people in modernity. Its endless terrible consequences have distorted our bodies, souls and societies.” Over three hundred years, this construct has evolved into the intractable systemic racism we know in America today where we all play a part.
What’s it like to realise that this dream I had bought into, an inextricable piece of the narrative I had built up about my Chinese American family was based on a faulty foundation of oppression? And as we watch the foundation of America crumble in this century, my own interior scaffold no longer seems so stable. Who am I if not a Chinese American? And if I accept that I am Chinese American and non-white, I have to accept that I am nothing more than a second rate citizen in the country of my birthright.
With the onset of Corona Virus and reports of racist incidents against Asians, I worry for my two sons who are ½ Chinese, ¼ Japanese and ¼ White. When people ask, “Who would want to be a black man?” My response is always, “Who would want to be the mother of a black man?” I can not imagine the strength required of these women who have to worry day in and day out about the safety of their sons in the US and in the UK; something which often seems completely out of their control. My heart breaks for them. As mothers, we know that every child’s life matters.
I believe each and every one of us, whatever our race or ethnicity, want a better life for our children. Every mother, whatever race or ethnicity, should be able take that as a truth. It is my dream that we get there soon.
With love, Xtine.
The above post is part of Double Blossom xx, an Instagram project I started with photographer Christina Wilson Elms during lockdown. Each week we post a photo of ourselves and write a letter to the other on an agreed theme. If you are interested in reading our stories, you can find us on Instagram at Double Blossom xx — Two London sistas share stories about being Chinese in the UK and the US. Same age, same name; almost.