Monday, September 3, 2012

Identity Crisis

“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.”
--Maya Angelou

Son: “Mom, so am I more Chamorro or more American?”
Me: “Being ‘American’ is different from being a ‘Chamorro’, son, it’s like you're asking me if you’re more APPLE or more FRUIT.”


It is the eve of my son’s second grade year. He is both excited that school starts tomorrow (a feeling I hope he never loses) and keenly aware that he only has 4 weeks with this particular brood of kids. As Navy life would dictate, we transfer to the Pacific Northwest by October 1st. He knows he must say goodbye to his friends and wonders if he’ll make new ones. I assured him that his old friends will remain his friends and that he will discover new ones at our new home town. In addition, my seven-year old son has asked me with more frequency and since the Summer Olympics how much of a particular ethnicity he is. He is aware that he is the culmination of 7 ‘identified’ ethnicities, or as he says, “I’m made up of 7 different bloods!” Those being Chamorro, Korean, Japanese, Hawaiian-Portuguese, Filipino, Italian (?). He’s a smidgen of this and a dash of that thanks to my husband and me and our mixed up heritage, but as my son says, “I know I’m mostly Chamorro.”

Sometimes I wish I was simply one ethnicity from one place. Life would be easy, bland, but easy. But, the bouquet of ethnicities represented in my children is wonderful. It might also explain why my daughter has a strand of blonde and strand of red hair buried in her brunette tresses.

My son was also concerned about his future in the Olympics. His confidence and surety are wonderful and I bite my pessimistic tongue every time he relays his dreams. I tell him to go for it, but add that he needs to practice seriously. My son wants to represent Guam in swimming AND running. His statement made me gush. He asked how long he would have to live on Guam to qualify and went down a laundry list of concerns, one being, “Will I still be an American citizen if I move to Guam?” I informed him that people from Guam are indeed American citizens. His eyes bright, he knew he had found a loophole, a way to maintain the only life he knows in America to the one he dreams of as an adult. I didn’t hear the end of this revelation for days. And, he asked why I had kept this gem of knowledge from him, like I was conspiring him from knowing.

In our research of homes and neighborhoods in Washington State, the brown factor always played a role in our decision. The brown factor being, are there islanders in this neighborhood? Some might think I’m being ridiculous for even thinking this way, but I like diversity and I want to insure that we are in a neighborhood tolerant of those who are different. American citizen or not, I’ve had enough encounters with ignorant people to be weary in general. One recent experience happened with another soccer mom. Upon hearing I wrote a few books, she worked hard to get me into her book club. I was cordial with her and kindly denied, but she persisted and to this day, still sends me the occasional mass email of the meeting place and book to be reviewed. Call me stuck up or closed off, but when we were discussing The Count of Monte Cristo, she said that they were serving Monte Cristo sandwiches at this next meeting. I didn’t know what these sandwiches were and asked her about them. Her response? “Oh, that’s right! You wouldn’t know what Monte Cristo sandwiches are! You’re from Guam!” Needless to say, our friendship never went passed that soccer season.

Why am I rambling? I am just worried for the well-being of my kids. I’ve had enough first hand experience being the recipient of stereotyping, that I’m more thick skinned, mature, etc. when I encounter anyone who makes me feel like a freak. It’s a double edged sword. Do I protect my kids from intolerance, prejudice, racism? Do I let them decide on their own how to handle such idiots? We’ve used education about Guam and such and have come away with some really wonderful friends who are fascinated about us and our way of life and our home island, the rest can fly their kites. My kids are lucky enough that they see diversity on our street, in their school, at the store. Navy life has blessed us with people from all origins. And, I know everyone has reassured me that Washington State has bula Chamorros.

Sometimes I feel like one of the mutant X-Men. I think they’re kick ass in their differences. And, I guess when the new neighborhood discovers us and that we’re a bit different, and that we have special mutant powers like making delicious kelaguen, tanning without being in the sun or identifying each other with a simple nod of our heads—then maybe these new folk will love us. I hope so. We can only be who we are, even if it’s a bouquet of DNA.

Thanks for allowing me to vent.
I ♥ Alana Davis-"32 Flavors" 1997

Esta Later!

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