Monday, February 2, 2015

Chinese New Year

The Triangle Area Chinese American Society of North Carolina hosted their annual Chinese New Year festival at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh this weekend.  This was our first time attending and we had a lot of fun.  I was pleased to run into a friend of mine from grad school that I hadn't seen for many years.  How time flies...

We also ran into some other adoptive families.  I was happy to see Caroline get on so well with other children, sharing (without too much prompting!) a little drum that we bought for her.  I would say that there were almost as many non-Asians as Asians in attendance.

Most of these people are in line for food.

There was plenty of entertainment: dancing, singing, music, martial arts demonstrations, &c.  Caroline had a good view.

From pater familias to high chair.  DOWN IN FRONT!

One of several dance troupes.

The Silk Dance.

Children also performed.

The Dragon Dance.

Naturally, we enjoyed the food.

A good time was had by all.

It occurred to me that the "Asian-American" community is a bit larger than just the people who are immigrants from Asia or descendants of Asian immigrants.  As I noted above, there were many people of other races there.  Some were simply enjoying the festivities, but quite a few were spouses, sweethearts, friends and (of course) adoptive families who, though not Asian-American themselves, are connected to that community by some pretty strong (!) ties.

A digression: I mentioned the friend that I ran into.  I recall having a talk with her when we were in school about "hyphenated Americans".  I said that, like Theodore Roosevelt, I didn't care for them: one is either an American or he is NOT*.  My friend, whose parents are from Taiwan, explained to me that this is rather easy for a white American to say, and that it's much harder for non-white people to be "plain Americans" not only because they feel pride in and connection to the lands and cultures of their ancestors, but also because they are often treated as aliens.  She told me a story about a Chinese boy she knew who dated a white girl.  He met her family and, in the natural course of polite conversation, they asked, "Where are you from?" He named the city in No. Carolina where he was born, but they persisted: "No, where are you FROM?" as if a person of Asian descent can't possibly be from No. Carolina... or anywhere else in our country.

As you can see, this conversation stuck with me, and I like to think that I understand her point better now than I did then.

Caroline, of course, is FROM China: she was born there.  She can - and I hope she will - say that with pride.  But I also hope that she has equal pride (well, OK, MORE pride!) in saying that she is an American.  And, if she wants to say that she is a Chinese-American or an Asian-American - a hyphenated American - I'm good with that.


(*) I may well be wronging TR: his dislike of hyphenated Americans was not of them per se, but rather of those who put loyalty to their native / ancestral land above their loyalty to the United States.  He also had no use for "native" Americans who put themselves against their fellow countrymen who happen to be immigrants or the children of immigrants.  I certainly agree with this:

"Americanism is not a matter of creed, birthplace or national descent, but of the soul and of the spirit.  If the American has the right stuff in him, I care not a snap of my fingers whether he is Jew or Gentile, Catholic or Protestant.  I care not a snap of my fingers whether his ancestors came over in the Mayflower, or whether he was born, or his parents were born, in Germany, Ireland, France, England, Scandinavia, Russia or Italy or any other country... If the immigrant is of the right kind I am for him, and if the native American is of the wrong kind I am against him." [emphasis mine]
Theodore Roosevelt, speech, St. Louis, MO, May 31, 1916

A final quote that I like, this from Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak, who was an immigrant from the Austro-Hungarian Empire:

"[I]t's true I didn't come over on the Mayflower, but I came over as soon as I could."

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