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East Meets West Meets Us

I met and married my husband in little more than a year. We held our new baby in our arms 9 months and 1 week (to the day) after our wedding.

We didn't have time to consider all of the ramifications of a marriage between a Chinese man and a WASP American woman. We decided that no matter what came up, we would and could deal with it.

As it turned out, both of my parents were "too busy" to travel to our wedding party, but my husband's Chinese parents accepted their American daughter-in-law with aplomb. They came halfway around the world to visit and help us out the first year of our baby's life, no small deed that!

In five years we've had our ups and downs, mostly ups. We're our own best friends probably because we've had a tough time finding couples that will accept both cultures. In particular, some of the white husbands of my girlfriends refuse to socialize with my husband, and when we get together with his Chinese friends, I am the only American. During these gatherings I've been subjected to relentless criticism of American life. When we've given parties, the guests mixed like oil and water. I didn't mind any of this until a Chinese "friend" made a rude comment about my child at a party and the other Chinese women giggled. I ignored the crack as it was borne of envy, but I was surprised and disappointed by the lack of character and integrity of the group. The pack instinct had taken over. I knew that my few trustworthy friends were rare and valuable.

In restaurants we've had a few problems: a white male waiter in Virginia Beach refused to serve us (I complained to the owner on the way out); once a white couple with children got up to move away (I felt the long stare first and then heard the nervous comments); and once a white man at the next table made loud comments sharing his disapproval of mixed marriages while his wife and daughter tried unsuccessfully to shush him (by way of apology, the women commented on our cute baby). On a few occasions white people behind counters have spoken only to me, and, of course, there have been countless times we have been standing next to each other in line and people assumed we were not together. My gentle, tolerant husband usually ignores it, but it bugs me. I want him to see the best of American culture and people, not feel ashamed as I was in these cases.

As his fellow countrymen struggle for democratic freedoms, we live in a country where most of our rights are taken for granted -- and exploited. I have to worry about neo-nazi crazies who kill "nonwhites" at random like that idiot in L.A. who murdered the Asian-American postal worker. I have a bi-racial child and an Asian husband to think about. And, yes, I have a much greater understanding and appreciation of the fear and anger of people of color.

Fortunately, I married a thoughtful, intelligent man who brought to the marriage the warmest, closest, and most accepting family I have ever met. I know that if my child can't find peace in America, we can live in China with loving paternal grandparents. But I want my child to grow up here without fear. I want my child to feel proud of being part of the nation that is the greatest cultural and racial experiment in the history of the world.

Even so, life goes on. I no longer notice the stares and head swivels (getting a good look at the bi-racial product -- my beautiful kid). Now I concentrate on my own life and the success and happiness of my family. And I rejoice in meeting other bi-racial and bi-cultural couples hoping that we won't seem so unique to the next generation.





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