Friends of ours recently gave us the book Part Asian, 100%Hapa. It’s a pretty cool little volume in which there are simple, stark faceshots of people who identify as mixed descent and their responses to the question “What are you?” that they likely receive on a daily basis. Of course, my kids will have to deal with this as well, especially as both of them appear very blended and are not immediately identifiable as one particular ethnicity. Part of me thinks that as time goes on, this will become less of an issue as more mixed couples have children.
A bigger question I ask, though, is what ethnic culture are we raising our children in? How do I want them to understand what it means to be Indian? What does that even mean to me? Growing up, I never really had a lot of Indian friends, despite living in a very diverse community. I often found that the younger generation of Indian kids often had a lot of the same restrictive boundaries that I felt the older culture to have. The community can be very disapproving if someone does not fit into a relatively narrow box.
As children, my parents would drag my sister and I to various celebrations and events. These were largely meaningless to me then as religious events and really were more of an excuse for a social gathering. I cannot tell you what one does for Diwali other than light firecrackers, nor what one does for Holi other than throw paint on other people (which was really fun, the one time I did it). Neither Eric nor I are religious people in the least, and I don’t think that taking the kids to Temple would acheive anything since, quite frankly, I couldn’t tell them what was going on. While I speak Marathi (just Google it if you don’t know what it is) and can even sort of read the Devanagari script, I’m far from fluent and wouldn’t be able to teach the kids the language. I’ve learned most of my Indian mythology from picture books that I’ve read to the kids.
Many of the blogs and articles I came across while doing a quick Google search on the topic deal with (most often) black/white children and the one that I found about an Indian/White child involved a man who was an Indian immigrant, which doesn’t really apply to me. Most of the other ones I found I just don’t relate to. There seems to be a fair amount of literature for children who are adopted across cultures/races, but not as much for first-generation kids raising children with a partner of another race.
There are clearly things that I was raised with that I want my children to have. Among other things: a respect for your elders, a respect for family, a respect for education, and of course the delicious food! I want my kids to travel to India and know what it is like there. Is that “Indian enough”? Or does it not really matter in the ever more blended society we are inching towards?
This post is woefully inadequate in terms of all the issues I’d like to bring up, but is long enough already so I’ll table those thoughts for another time.