Digging at the confluence of culture and everything else
04/29/2014Posted by on
The internet is a wondrous non-place for folk like me. Take an insatiable sense of curiosity, add the attention span of that dog from Up 1 and unlimited fountain of free content, and you’ll find me bouncing from trying to write something more substantive on Don Sterling beyond the obvious,2 to doing my daily Serious Reading on The Dish to catching up on Facebook to watching some musicians absolutely kill the theme songs to Ducktales and Pokemon as 90’s R&B slow jams to thinking hard about some life choices I’ve made in regards to race and faith. We’re going to talk about the last one, but first, we gotta catch ’em all.
Anyway, whether because of her singing chops, looks, or the sheer ease of researching anybody on the internet, I went ahead and clicked my way around and discovered that Andromeda Turre has been having trouble with the New York singles scene:
I’m single. And I live in NYC. And I’m really busy just like everyone else here, so I decided to give Internet dating a try. In the midst of the flood of ever-creative messages simply reading “hi” or “let’s chat,” there were an overwhelming number of messages asking: “What are you?”
I’ve gotten that question a few times myself. My personal favorite variant is “where are you from?” which I face commonly enough that I’m no longer shocked, and rare enough that I don’t get upset about it, unless I get skeptical looks when I reply “Michigan.” 3 Before long I find myself saying “I’m Chinese. Well, an ABC – American Born Chinese.” Turre knows the score too:
I’m a woman. I’m a New Yorker (yes, I was born here). I’m American. I’m human.
If I was Borg, I’d be one of two. Because as far as I know, there are only two people in the world with my particular ethnic mix. Myself and my brother.
I’m a singer. I’m a songwriter. I’m a fashionista.
I’m a Christian, but I’m open-minded. I hate that I have to say that I’m a Christian that’s open-minded.
I’m the “other” check box.
Apparently, I’m exotic… good thing I like birds so I don’t mind this stupid saying so much.
Right there, there in the middle, in the midst of this good but harmless little piece on the complexities of race in America, Turre managed to offend and shame me simultaneously. Once more for those who missed it.
I’m a Christian, but I’m open-minded. I hate that I have to say that I’m a Christian that’s open-minded. (emphasis added)
Turre is right to be open-minded. She’s right to hate that she feels to need to disclaim her Christianity by the “open-minded” modifier. She’s wrong to disclaim her Christianity. She’s wrong to concede even a little that Christianity is in any essential way closed-minded. She’s wrong to give ground to the petty, angry, spiteful fanatics that have claimed Christianity for their own.3
Problem: I just did the same thing
I’m Chinese. Well, an ABC – American Born Chinese.
I say that, because it is more precise to say that I am American Born Chinese. I say that, because it forestalls the need to clarify it later. I say that, because I know that many who bear the label “Chinese” reject my association with them. And my response to them should be the same as the response I want Turre to give to all the Christians who think that her open-mindedness is something she should disclaim.
There is plenty of analysis, argument, and reasoning that could be done here, but none of it, none of it is as true as flipping them off. My right to call myself Chinese is in no way constrained by your surprise that I do. My ethnicity is not held hostage by snobs, racists, or purists who sniff that a mere American would dare claim his heritage. I am Chinese. I am American. I am Christian. No disclaimers.