|All the kids I grew up with were Black. It wasn't until I started going to school in 3rd grade that I started feeling things were not quite right. Like, we'd always be referred to as "the Chinaman's store," and I resented that, even though it wasn't meant to be derogatory.
And when I'd go to the movies with my Black friend Otis, I would sit downstairs, but Otis would have to go to the balcony. I remember at school, people would never ask me, "Are you Chinese?" They'd always say, "What are you?" And I'd say, "I'm Navajo Indian...(dummy)."
Some Chinese men married Black women, and several of my relatives married White women. But it wasnt easy. My cousin who was racially mixed took a lot of heat because his father was Chinese and his mother was White. He'd always be coming home crying because of some mean thing that happened to him.
Still, I'm glad I grew up in that community. It gave me a lot. I'm not uncomfortable with Black people, the way a lot of folks are. I can get along with anybody.
And there's still a lot of the South in me. I find myself saying, '"You stop funning now." Or "Dawggg, why did you do that!" And when folks come to visit, I always offer them something to eat or drink. When I went north, one of the first things I noticed was that people didn't offer me a damned thing.
Whenever my parents talked about China, it was all very romantic, like the way they used to fly kites and the beauty of the land. At home we always spoke Toishan (village dialect) right in the midst of Little Rock, Arkansas.
But I didn't stay in Little Rock. I went to Rochester to study photography, got my masters at New York University and served in the army in Germany for a couple of years.
And I did marry a Chinese woman. In my forties, I went "back" to China to visit my parents Toishan village. During my trip some neighbors introduced me to Weimond Choy. The old matchmakers immediately wanted me to marry her, but initially I refused.
Then she and I just got together and talked, and I really liked her openness.
So we did get married after all, but came to it in our own way, not the "old fashioned way." My wife speaks Toishan, too, so in a way, I ended up like the old time Chinese bachelors did - going back to China and getting myself a wife.
But its me from Little Rock, in the 1980's. Funny, isn't it?