Guest Opinion | April 25, 2014 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - April 25, 2014

Guest Opinion

Bridging the cultural divide in an interracial marriage

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Elizabeth Lee is a member of the board of contributors who lives in Palo Alto.


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Posted by European-American
a resident of University South
on Apr 27, 2014 at 12:12 am

Dear Mrs Lee,

Thank you very, very much for your candid, inside view of Chinese immigrant attitudes towards their hosts and the host culture. It is not very flattering, frankly, but it rings clearly like the truth. Truth is too often glossed over or avoided in contemporary discussions of culture clash, in favor of saccharine, politically correct falsehoods.

I sympathize with your having to wait years for acceptance by your in-laws and their fellow Chinese. But isn't this bizarre -- the newcomers condescending to the host culture and populace? What kind of America are we creating if this is typical of other immigrant cultures as well? And if little or no honest public discussion of the clash is permitted?

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Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Apr 27, 2014 at 4:16 am

Kirin in Mt View. I've been there several times with "mixed" groups, and everyone gets the dessert. Sounds like the restaurant in the story has issues.

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Posted by Rupert of henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 27, 2014 at 7:37 am

Sparty is correct. The restaurant has issues.
European- America: this happens in all religions and cultures. Some members do not want their children to marry " outside" the religion/ ethnic group.
I really wonder how much of this story is made up or exaggerated to give it that " cutting edge" feel that stories I the weakly typically lack.

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Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 27, 2014 at 8:04 am

Chris Zaharias is a registered user.

Sorry, but I don't think the author bridged the cultural divide successfully. Rather, she willingly endured racism as if it was justified. I think a better approach would have been to never in the first place stand for her in-laws' reactions.

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Posted by resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 27, 2014 at 9:10 am

What "host culture" is Mr. European talking about? The Ohlone Nation? Almost all of us are immigrants here and we need to start treating everyone like equals, not minorities that need to be forced to abandon their language and religion and other traditions. This "host culture" attitude is what makes Donald Sterling feel entitled to tell people "not to bring black people" to his basketball games.

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Posted by Mixed Race Adult
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 27, 2014 at 2:28 pm

As a mixed race adult who was once a mixed race child, I HIGHLY recommend that people not have children if they wish to enter into a mixed race relationship or marriage.

I listened to a lot of " What the hell ARE you?" questions and sneering comments all through childhood. Most were from classmates, some from teachers and other adults. I must add that most of this came from the Asian side, not the American Caucasian side. The Caucasian side was more accepting and saw me as exotic ( especially, as I got older, the men!). My mother's side, the Chinese, just saw me as a "dirty white devil who stank of milk", and had very little to do with me during my childhood or even now. This despite the fact that they escaped Communist China and had two sons executed there! America took them in, no questions asked (this was in the Sixties). My mom was their "American child", but my grandparents, and aunt never bothered to become citizens of the U.S.

My father's family never made me feel like some sort of freak half-breed, as my mother had feared they would. However, for reasons I may never know, my parents never had any more children. My mother did not allow me to learn Mandarin, because she was so fearful for my assimilation experience, as she called it. However, in the sixth grade I was allowed, through a middle school in Cupertino, to take a Stanford-sponsored honors course in Mandarin that I completed my junior year in high school.

I was pushed hard in school by my mom, and did not have birthday parties, pets, slept-overs, after-school sports, etc like the other American children I grew up with, and have always felt that I did not get to enjoy the average American happy childhood the other kids did. However, my mother said that she did not, either. Nor did I ever get hugs and other physical affection that I saw Caucasian kids get, and I learned by the age of four that if I needed a hug, my Chinese mom was not the one to ask--ask a neighbor parent, or my father's mother. Same with getting affirmation or praise.

The racial and cultural gaps are just to big at this point in history, and I have never even benn able to imagine how horrible it must be for a child who is half black or half Latino. I am sure the ostracization probably comes from the Caucasian side as well, in those cases.

When it comes to interracial childbirth, JUST SAY NO!

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Posted by Sam
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 27, 2014 at 2:51 pm

"When it comes to interracial childbirth, JUST SAY NO!"

Since you are interracial, I assume you will not have kids, right? If your answer is "yes", you will be missing out on a wonderful experience.

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Posted by palo Alto Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 27, 2014 at 5:28 pm

@sam - many people who have tough childhoods either decide not to become parents or decide to parent in a totally different manner than their parents did.

@ Mixed Race Adult, thankfully the world has changed since you and I were kids. Being of mixed race, especially in Palo Alto if you are partially Asian or Latino, is no big deal. Being half or any part black here is still difficult simply because there are so few black families. I suspect being half black in Atlanta or Chicago is not such a big deal.

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Posted by Mixed Race Adult
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 27, 2014 at 6:55 pm

Sam: my husband is an American of European/Native American heritage. We did NOT plan to have children originally. However, accidents do happen and we have a son. However, although his eyes are dark, his hair is light, and when he or I fill out paperwork requiring ethnicity to be indicated, he or I are accused of lying to receive extra benefits and consideration or affirmative action! I almost always have to give my mother's maiden name and my husband's grandfather's surname as proof, because the boy looks so European.

My son has not had a difficult time due to his appearance, but when teachers meet us they assume he is adopted. Lately, with the Chinese nationals so prominent in Palo Alto, though, I do get a lot of cold shoulders at parties where people do not know me.

I am aware, though, that genetic dominance could have turned out differently and my son could have looked more Asian or Native American than European, or simply more mixed, racially. I thank the Race Gods he did not, because the Asian community is quite cruel about Asian blood mixing with any other.

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Posted by mix it all up
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 27, 2014 at 10:35 pm

Lets all just get together for a few generations and create a world of beautiful light brown children, so we can get back to hating each other for religious reasons.

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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 28, 2014 at 5:09 am

@mix, well that would be boring

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Posted by Sue
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 28, 2014 at 8:49 am

Regarding tapioca, the author inferences that "They only bring it to groups who are Chinese." I am not sure about this claim. I am a Chinese, my husband and I sometimes do not get the tapioca. My observation is that when I am in a larger group, my table will order more dishes, and we will typically get tapioca. When I am alone or with my husband only, sometimes we don't get the free tapioca. I feel the free tapioca is more of showing the restaurant's appreciation to the customer's big bill. Since it is free, I wouldn't complain if I did not get it.

There are many ways to see things. The author has her way. But I just do not agree about much of what she says in this article.

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Posted by Mixed Race Adult
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 28, 2014 at 9:21 am

It is not problematic to be interracial in a white neighborhood. It is extremely problematic to be interracial in an Asian neighborhood--a half-Asian child or adult is seen as dirty, tainted,,ugly, inferior, a devil, etc. In a white neighborhood, I have found, a half-Asian child or adult is exotic, or cute. White men especially find half-Asian women exotic; in high school and college, men pursued me even when it was unwanted and inappropriate.

My son, a freshman at Cal Poly, is finding just the opposite: when he claims to be of mixed race, he is accused of being a liar and a cheat who is trying to game the scholarship and financial aid system as well as affirmative action. He is one-fourth Chinese and one-eighth Cherokee ( the Cherokee nation accepts him even though his hair is dark blonde). I have had to supply MY birth certificate with MY mother's maiden name, as well as my father-in-law's birth certificate with his father's Native American name to prove my son is being honest, despite his European appearance!

BTW, we have NEVER gotten free tapioca even when in a large group at a Chinese restaurant, probably because most of us are "dirty half-breeds"! But, who cares? Does anyone over the age of six REALLY like tapioca anyway??? Additionally, I have personally found that if a Chinese restaurant is filled with Chinese, it is a pretty good indication of two things: some really creepy specialties, like shark fin soup and dancing prawns ( shrimp fried at your table while still alive), or generally very greasy food. I, for one , prefer Asian is far fresher, safer, and healthier as well as tastier!

And NO, here Von Henzau, the writer's story sounds honest and dead-on to me, and I am in a position to know!


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Posted by Cliven
a resident of another community
on Apr 28, 2014 at 10:22 am

[Post removed.]

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Posted by This:
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 28, 2014 at 10:30 am


"Lets all just get together for a few generations and create a world of beautiful light brown children, so we can get back to hating each other for religious reasons."


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