This is weird and disjointed because it
was originally loose snippets has long since ceased to be April 3rd in my time zone and I promised myself this time I would say
something about this and not just never post the things I want to say but may not be ready to and hide. (Again.)
In the 1950s, Indos were inassimilable and could never get used to the Dutch climate (too cold). Also the country was full. So it would be best, really, if they didn’t come over here, and tried to make the best of life as Indonesians. However, that obviously didn’t work out, and those strange, strange people came here. (In true Dutch fashion, if at all possible on their own costs. They were still greedy colonials who were coming to get money off the backs of hardworking Dutch people, though, never mind the fact that most of the people concerned were Dutch citizens. That was sort of the point.)
When I was little, we were so much the model minority we weren’t even really considered a minority, since we’re so well-assimilated and everything. (It helps that we’re all mixed-race and some-part white, of course.) For me (third generation), the culture, and the food, and the language, and the stories my grandparents grew up with are faraway and out-of-reach, except for some bits and pieces here and there. I want to chase them, and find out more about my heritage, but it feels like I would be appropriating something that’s not ‘mine’. In my family, we Didn’t Talk About any of that.
A 1984 study (it was the first of its kind and it’s probably still pretty lonely) questions—with Science—this perfect and seamless assimilation. Its authors say it was mostly white people claiming this years after the fact, with no facts or figures to back them up, nor ever hearing the other side of the story (I can hear your gasps of surprise from over here!). Obviously the seamlessness of it was entirely due to Dutch tolerance.
I have no problem saying I’m multiracial. Indo I’m good with, too, even if I still occasionally wonder about that one because my grandfather’s family came over from Surinam to the Indies. I can just about handle ‘non-white’, even though I feel compelled to append that my mom is white and you’d have a hard time telling me apart from the whitest person in town. ‘Person of color’? I can’t do it. It’s really stupid and probably me exercising the privilege I have of passing.
On the other hand, I feel like some White Chick playing at being Other. I mean, here I am: I look pretty damn white, my mom is white, my main ethnic identity is considered to be perfectly assimilated and by definition a mix of Asian and white, and my dad’s side of the family has been mixed going back generations. Oh, sure, my grandfather was black; my grandmother was Asian, but still. It’s stupid. I know. I still can’t help feeling it.
My immediate reaction to seeing the words Indo Diaspora
is still ‘I’m part of a Diaspora? Whaaa…?’.
It’s highly unlikely someone would say discriminatory shit to my face, and the first time I heard (read in a book) about discrimination against people like me, back in the sixties, I balked. Surely not? I was probably sixteen when I read that book and realize now I did everything in my power not to take that book and its perfect clarity seriously. (I reread it and it made me cry. There were tears in my eyes after the prologue
Of course, that was until I read an interview with a ‘hurt’ white director who got upset the Indo community didn’t like his representation of them and said things made of fail. In the nineties. (Me: GRRR
Or when in 2009 someone made a slur against Geert Wilders based on his ethnicity. (Me: *shocked, speechless silence* ;__;) It felt like a punch in the gut but I still feel I have no real reason to feel upset about it because comparatively? We have it pretty good here.
And then I started thinking about representation. Because, while most of the people on TV do look like me, they don’t share my heritage and background. (Or most of them don’t anyway.) I said that wasn’t a problem for me but more and more I think that was a rationalization I started making by the time it got through my thick, thick skull that my cultural default ≠ Dutch cultural default and that the people in my books and on my TV weren’t exactly
me, just like me in some ways.
Because, you know, honestly? Where the hell am I? I’ll even leave out the black granddad thing! Can you
point me to the third generation Indos? No? Okay, how about the second, then? Challenge: when not written by Indo writers? That leaves the first generation, where I get to see my grandmother as some white guy’s second (doting, devoted, beautiful, etc) wife who has no children of her own and not much of a personal life, either. (Possibly I get to see my grandfather on the street or on the train?) Honestly, why don’t I get to see my grandmother do anything else other than cook and take care of the family?
How about she tells the stepkids stories about how she joined the Red Cross after the war to find her lost fiancé? Maybe in that book, she simply couldn’t find him and met this awesome
white dude years later and happily married him. Can that be arranged at least?
(I mean, I can always still pretend any white kid in your stories is just really light like and takes after the white side of the family, after all! Just give me some of my family too?)And the lovely thing is,
I’m still wondering if I have any business saying/posting this. Isn’t that
(Written for the Asian Women Carnival, organized by ciderpress.)PS — No, Random Stranger, seeing a mother with two very different looking children does not give you the right to ask the mom if they have the same father. (Yes and fuck you.)