I have a dream.

I’m laying on the ground, staring out the door at the big, blue sky.  The air has a sultry, sticky feeling to it.  Outside, I see fleeting glimpses of palm trees, huts and a strange looking animal that resembles a cow.  A water buffalo.

It is paradise.

But, yet, it’s not.

I’m aware of the filth, the noise, and a slightly moldy, dank stench that permeates the air.  I see someone enter the building where I’m laying.  They are dressed in rags, and are wearing a funny looking cone-shaped hat.  They stop in a corner, squat, and urinate.

And then the dream stops.

I wake up, and realize I’m dreaming about Vietnam again.

I’ve had The Dream for as long as I can remember.  It’s one that’s come and gone throughout my 30 some years of life.  I’ll go for a year or so without having it, and then the images will appear again in my mind, as crisp and as clear as if I were actually there.  The details of The Dream never change.

Some days, The Dream is the only thing that reminds me of how I appear outwardly to others.  Asian.

I came to the U.S. when I was only four months old.  I was adopted into a white family, in a town about as  ethnically un-diverse as they come.  To say I was a minority would have been a grave understatement.

But I didn’t see it that way.  Because in my mind, it wasn’t a factor.

When I looked around me, I saw parents and family who loved me as if I was born of their own flesh and blood.  I saw siblings who only cared whether or not I was crossing the invisible middle line in the car… and if so, I’d better stop… or else.  I saw a regular suburban kid just trying to get through adolescence intact.

But not everyone saw me that way.  When they looked at me, they only saw a person with jet black hair and almond eyes so very different from their own.  Some immediately stereotyped me as someone who was good at math and knew how to use chopsticks.   And still others labeled me as someone who was yellow on the outside, but white on the inside.  A Twinkie, they called me.

I’ve experienced prejudice, stereotypes and labeling.  And every time I did, it always jolted me back into reality a little.  Because often, the only times I was cognizant of my Asian heritage was when I looked in the mirror.  Or when I had The Dream.

Oddly, since I’ve become a parent myself, I no longer have The Dream.  Perhaps it’s because every day I look into two little faces so like my own, and I no longer need subconscious reminders of the person I am outwardly.

Or, perhaps, it’s because I now have different dreams.  Ones reserved especially for my children.

I dream that they will not be pigeonholed into acting a certain way based on what they look like.

I dream that they never hear the term “Twinkie” except for when it’s mentioned the context of a delicious, artery clogging dessert.

I dream that they remember who they are genetically – 1/4 Chinese, 1/4 Vietnamese, and 1/2 all funky white boy – and embrace that heritage.  It’s an inextricable part of their being, and one that I am proud to call my own.

At the same time, I dream that they will recognize their heritage does not  define who they are.

I dream that they will be not be judged by how they should act based on their race but, rather, by how they do act based on their character.

We do not choose our families, our skin color or the life that we’re born into.  But all of those factors invariably shape and influence the person we choose to become.

And my children?  They will be whatever they want to be.

At least, that is my dream for them.

17 thoughts on “I have a dream.”

  1. As a funky white boy who loves Twinkies (the Hostess variety) you would think I couldn’t relate. But I can.

    Growing up I was subjected to some pretty severe anti-Semitism. My parents used some of the events as “teachable moments” and I think it stuck. The lessons learned in my youth formed me into the adult that I am. I have more character in my pinkie than those dopes have in their entire bodies.

    Excellent post on this MLK weekend.

  2. This is so touching and well-written. I really loved it.

    I’m sorry you grew up in a community that looked at you that way, but am happy that you had a great family.

    I do think life will be relatively easier in this regard for Chip & Bobo because mixed heritages are more common now than they were a few decades ago.

    Or at least I hope it will be. 🙂

  3. This is so powerfully and beautifully written. So glad that you’re instilling these values into your children. Judgment is a harsh cruel thing.

  4. Oh, this is wonderful. You have captured such a range of feelings in this post, from your feelings as a kid to your feelings as a parent. What an honest and heart-felt piece you’ve written here…and a perfect time to post it.

  5. Love this post. It’s always on my mind, skin colour. I hope that my kids feel a sense of belongingness I never did.

  6. You absolutely touched my heart to the core with this post. So beautifully written and expressed! When I look into my kids eyes, the only thing I see is love. Thanks for writing that!

  7. This is so beautifully written and so honest.

    I love when you say 1/2 funky white boy too! You have a wonderful way with words. I too hope that your children don’t face the same stereotypes…it’s a beautiful dream to have and I wish the same for my children 🙂

  8. OMG I love this post! I love it because it’s personal and I’m getting to know a little bit about you.
    I’ve never heard the term Twinkie before, so that was interesting. How do people even come up with this crap?
    Anyway, wonderful wonderful post my darling!

  9. when i lived in the states where all they talk about is equality, human right and so on, i saw more racism than anywhere else.

    i wish for your dreams to come true.

  10. YES… I find it such a tricky road to walk as parenti as I try to both help my children understand their heritage but, in the same breath, not be defined by it.

    Your post is Beautiful. I love your dream, and I have it, too.

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