On the terrace Eason said it: I wasn't Chinese.
For all of our Cantonese banter, for all the attempts to learn folk songs, and the shoulder-to-shoulder camaraderie in conducting business – man, did I assume wrongly.
My 50% Chineseness went to 0% in a flash.
There were times in Guangdong when I was rolling 85% Chinese. Some days I momentarily hit 95%, like when I convinced someone of something using a Chinese frame of reference, with Chinese metaphors, and Chinese phraseology. Like when I slipped in a Journey To The West reference and it just flowed, or when I mused with dorky puns like wuxian ni de wuxian (un-limit your wireless). At other times, I'd hover around 30%-60%. Some days, when I missed California and all I could think of was Mexican food, I went down to 5%.
In all of this- never was I 0%, nor was I ever 100% Chinese, I concede. There were some people who could never get over that I looked different. There were some who had intractable, maybe even harsh views on race. But I knew there were those who had room in their worldview for people like me. That on many days I was in control of my identity – that I had identity options – was a fact.
But in that acrimonious conversation, neither Eurasian nor Hapa could help me.
If I believed in Hapa, I would have told Eason he was wrong. I would have proclaimed him racist. If I believed in Eurasian, I might have switched to English – his was poor – and told him he was from the sticks, and my worldliness made me better than him.
I didn't have the vocabulary then. But today I reject both those solutions.
I can do better.
Eurasian and Hapa weren't robust identities. They weren't stuff serious enough for a useful framework, much less something to fallback on in an argument.
Ultimately, there is truth to what Eason says. I am not fully Chinese, nor am I fully Western. Indeed, there are aspects of Chinese I don't even know I don't know, and visa versa. But should I resolve to avoid the Easons of the world? Should I live in rarefied places where I don't have to deal with Easons from the sticks?
I say no. I say absolutely not."
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Coming 1Q 2016
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