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华裔妈妈的种族难题:我儿子是华人吗?

更新时间:2015-12-20 9:19:51 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Choose Your Own Identity
华裔妈妈的种族难题:我儿子是华人吗?

I never realized how little I understood race until I tried to explain it to my 5-year-old son. Our family story doesn’t seem too complicated: I’m Chinese-American and my husband is white, an American of English-Dutch-Irish descent; we have two children. My 5-year-old knows my parents were born in China, and that I speak Cantonese sometimes. He has been to Hong Kong and Guangzhou to visit his gung-gung, my father. But when I asked him the other day if he was Chinese, he said no.

直到试着给五岁的儿子解释什么是种族,我才意识到自己对种族的了解原来如此之少。我们的家庭背景似乎也不算太复杂:我是华裔美国人,我丈夫是白人,一个有英格兰、荷兰和爱尔兰血统的美国人;我们有两个孩子。五岁的儿子知道我父母出生在中国,知道我有时会说广东话。他曾经去过香港和广州,见过他的公公,也就是我父亲。但那天我问他是不是华人,他说不是。

“You’re Chinese, but I’m not,” he told me, with certainty. “But I eat Chinese food.” This gave me pause. How could I tell him that I wasn’t talking about food or cultural heritage or where we were born? (Me, I’m from Queens.) I had no basis to describe race to him other than the one I’d taken pains to avoid: how we look and how other people treat us as a result.

“你是华人,但我不是,”他很确定地告诉我。“不过,我吃中餐。”我不得不停下来想了一会。怎么才能让他明白,我谈论的东西和饮食、文化遗产或者我们在哪里出生没关系?(我本人来自纽约皇后区。)我几乎没什么可以拿来对他描述种族的依据,除了我竭力避免谈及的一点:我们的长相,以及其他人因此如何对待我们。

My son probably doesn’t need me to tell him we look different. He’s a whir-in-a-blender mix of my husband and me; he has been called Croatian and Italian. More than once in his life, he will be asked, “What are you?” But in that moment when he confidently asserted himself as “not Chinese,” I felt a selfish urge for him to claim a way of describing himself that included my side of his genetic code. And yet I knew that I had no business telling him what his racial identity was. Today, he might feel white; tomorrow he might feel more Chinese. The next day, more, well, both. Who’s to say but him?

不用我讲,儿子很可能也知道,我们长得不一样。我和丈夫的基因在他那里得到充分混杂;他曾被认作克罗地亚人和意大利人。在他的一生里,他将不止一次被问道,“你是什么人?”但是在他自信地断言自己“不是华人”的时候,我有一种自私的欲望,想让他用一种涵盖我这边基因的方式描述他自己。然而,我知道轮不到我来告诉他,他是什么种族身份。今天他可能觉得自己是白人;明天可能觉得自己更像华人。再以后,可能会觉得,嗯,两者皆有。这事除了他,还有谁能说了算?

Racial identity can be fluid. More and more, it will have to be: Multiracial Americans are on the rise, growing at a rate three times as fast as the country’s population as a whole, according to a new Pew Research Center study released in June. Nearly half of mixed-race Americans today are younger than 18, and about 7 percent of the U.S. adult population could be considered multiracial, though they might not call themselves that. The need to categorize people into specific race groups will never feel entirely relevant to this population, whose perceptions of who they are can change by the day, depending on the people they’re with.

种族身份可能是变化的。情况必将越来越如此。皮尤研究中心(Pew Research Center)于6月发布的一项新研究显示,多种族美国人的人数在增加,速度是全国人口增幅的三倍。如今,近一半的美国混血儿不满18岁,大约7%的美国成年人可以被认定为多种族,尽管他们可能不会自称混血儿。这个群体永远不会觉得需要把人划归到具体种族这一点和自己有很大的关系。他们对自己是谁的看法可能每天都在变,具体要看他们和谁在一起。

Besides, the American definition of race has always been in flux. For one thing, context mattered: In 1870, mixed-race American Indians living on reservations were counted as Indians, but if they lived in white communities they were counted as whites. Who was “white” evolved over time: From the 1870s to 1930s, a parade of court rulings pondered the “whiteness” of Asian immigrants from China, Japan and India, often changing definitions by the ruling in order to exclude yet another group from citizenship. When mixed-race people became more prevalent, things got murkier still. Who the U.S. Census Bureau designated “colored” or “black” varied, too, before and after slavery, and at times including subcategories for people of mixed race, all details often left up to the whims of the census taker. In 1930, nativist lobbyists succeeded in getting Mexicans officially labeled nonwhite on the census; up until then, they were considered white and allowed citizenship. By 1940, international political pressure had reversed the decision. It wasn’t until 2000 that the Census Bureau started letting people choose more than one race category to describe themselves, and it still only recognizes five standard racial categories: white, black/African-American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.

此外,美国对种族的定义也一直在变。首先,环境很重要:1870年,生活在保留地的混血美国印第安人被算成印第安人,但如果生活在白人社区,他们就会被算作白人。随着时间的推移,谁是“白人”的定义不断演变:从19世纪70年代到上世纪30年代,有一系列衡量来自中国、日本和印度的亚洲移民是否属于“白人”的法庭裁决。它们常常用裁决的形式改变定义,为的是拒绝承认另一个群体有资格申领公民身份。当混血儿变得更多见时,情况也变得愈发模糊不清。在奴隶制废除之前和之后,美国人口普查局(U.S. Census Bureau)认定的“有色人种”和“黑人”也各不相同,有些时期还包括针对混血儿的小类,所有细微之处往往是由人口普查员随意决定的。1930年,本土主义说客成功地让墨西哥人在人口普查表上正式被归为非白人。在那之前,他们一直被认为是白人,能够获得国籍。到了1940年,国际政治压力迫使这一决定被推翻。直到2000年,人口普查局才开始允许人们在描述自己时选择多个种族类别。但该机构依然只承认五个标准种族类别:白人、黑人/非裔美国人、美洲印第安人/阿拉斯加原住民、亚洲人和夏威夷原住民/太平洋岛上居民。

Racial categories formed the historical basis for so many of America’s societal and political decisions, and yet even the Census Bureau has admitted that its categories are in flux, recognizing that race is not a fixed, “quantifiable” value but a fluid one. White or black or Asian America isn’t monolithic and never was. Everyone’s story can be parsed ever more minutely: Haitian-Hawaiian, Mexican-Salvadorean, Cuban-Chinese. And when you start mixing up stories, as my family has, much of the institutional meaning of race falls away; it becomes, instead, intensely individual. In a strange way, the renewed fluidity of racial identity is a homecoming of sorts, to a time before race — and racism — was institutionalized.

族裔构成了美国很多社会和政治决策的历史基础。但就连人口普查局自己也承认种族类别是会变化的,认识到种族不是一个固定的“量化”值,而是不稳定的。在美国,不管是白人、黑人还是亚洲人,其种族都不是单一的,而且从来如此。每个人的背景都可以进行更细微的拆分:海地-夏威夷、墨西哥-萨尔瓦多、古巴-中国。当开始像我家一样,种族背景各异的人走到一起时,种族的很多制度意义消失了,反倒成了一件非常个人化的事情。种族身份重新表现出的不稳定性以一种奇怪的方式,让一切回到了种族和种族主义被制度化之前的状态。

In the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live, the once-derogatory term hapa — from the Hawaiian word for “half”; it’s a Hawaiian pidgin term long used to refer to people of mixed-race background — is now part of the everyday lexicon. In my sons’ preschool and kindergarten classes, hapa is fast becoming the norm because there are so many mixed-race children in attendance. There’s power in the word: a reclaiming of territory, a self-determination. To me, the idea of hapa as a racial definition is inclusive rather than exclusive and thus a step in the right direction. The term is mostly used to refer to people of part Asian heritage, but increasingly it’s used for anyone of mixed race. And it’s a term that tends to be a self-identifying choice, rather than an outside imposition.

在我生活的旧金山湾区,曾带有贬义的词hapa成了日常用语的一部分。这个词来自夏威夷语中表示“一半”的词,这个外来词汇长期用来指有混血背景的人。在我儿子的学前班和幼儿园班级里,hapa正在迅速地成为常态,因为学生中混血孩子太多了。这个词含有一种力量:是对领土的收复,是一种自主决定。在我看来,把hapa作为一种种族定义的想法体现的是包容而非排斥,因而是朝正确的方向迈出的一步。这个词目前主要用来指有一部分亚洲血统的人,但也越来越多地被用来指代所有混血儿。而且这个词往往是人们在界定自己的身份时可以使用的一个选择,而不是外部强加的。

There’s a difference, you know. A critical element in the long-running Hapa Project, for which the artist and filmmaker Kip Fulbeck traveled the country and photographed thousands of multiracial people, is that photo subjects speak for themselves. One woman states to her observers: “I am a person of color. I am not half-‘white.’ I am not half-‘Asian.’ I am a whole ‘other.’” There is a resistance to fragmentation, a taking control of the narrative. Fulbeck, as a mixed-race person himself, came up with the idea as a kid in elementary school, when he struggled with what he calls the “check one box only” question. Here, we aren’t talking about getting rid of the boxes or just adding more boxes but creating more flexible ones that can hold more going forward.

大家知道,这其中是有差别的。为了旷日持久的Hapa Project,艺术家兼电影制作人基普·富尔贝克(Kip Fulbeck)曾游历全国,给成千上万名混血儿拍照。该项目的一个关键要素是,拍摄对象自己发声。一名女子对观察员说:“我是有色人种。但我不是半个‘白人’,也不是半个‘亚洲人’。我完全是‘其他种族’。”在这里,种族细分受到了抵制,人们把叙事掌控在自己手里。富尔贝克自己也是一名混血儿。还是个上小学的孩子时,他就有了这个想法。他说自己当时无法面对他口中那个“只在其中一个框里打钩”的问题。我们在这里讨论的不是去掉选项,或仅仅是增加更多的选项,而是创造更灵活的选项,能在未来承载更多含义。

There will be surprises in my own household when it comes to racial identity. According to the Pew study, biracial Asian-whites are more likely to identify with whites than they are with Asians. This line made me sit up: It never occurred to me that my sons could possibly identify only as white. I’m forced to think more carefully about what it is that actually makes me uncomfortable with that idea: It’s not that I want my sons to experience discrimination, but if they do choose to identify as white, there is something about being a racial minority in America that I would want them to know. As a child, I most wanted to fit in. As a young adult, I learned how I stood apart and to have pride in it. In the experience of being an “other,” there’s a valuable lesson in consciousness: You learn to listen harder, because you’ve heard what others have to say about you before you even have a chance to speak.

说到种族身份,我自己家将会出现让我吃惊的情况。皮尤中心的研究显示,有亚裔白人混血儿认同自己是白人的可能性,比认为自己是亚裔的可能性大。这一发现让我坐直了身子。我从没想过儿子可能只会认为自己是白人。我被迫更仔细地思考,真正让我对此感到不舒服的是什么:不是我想让自己的儿子经历歧视,但如果他们真的选择认为自己是白人,那么我想让他们知道,关于在美国作为一个少数族裔的一些事情。还是个孩子时,我极想融入。年轻时,我学到了如何保持自己的不同身份并以此为荣。在身为“其他种族”的经历中,珍贵的教训是要有意识:要学会更认真地听,因为在有机会开口前,你已经听到别人说了你什么。

But the truth is, I can’t tell my sons what to feel: more white than Asian, more Asian than white, neither, both. Other. I can only tell them what I think about my own identity and listen hard to what they have to tell me in turn. If that isn’t practicing good race relations, what is? Much as I hate to admit it, what they choose to be won’t necessarily have to do with me. Because my sons are going to be the ones who say who — not what — they are.

但事实时,我没法告诉孩子们怎么去想:认为自己更多的是白人而非亚洲人、更多的是亚洲人而非白人、两者都不是、两者都是,抑或是其他。我只能告诉他们我怎么考虑自己的身份,并认真听他们想要告诉我的话。如果这都不是在奉行良好的种族关系,什么才是?虽然我很讨厌承认这一点,但他们选择的身份不一定和我有关系。因为我的儿子将会决定自己是谁,而不是自己是什么。

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