I've been a bit reluctant to ask my mom her honest opinion about my blog. Of course, I told her about it and hoped that she would read it, but I was scared to truly engage her because I didn't know what she would say. I was scared that she wouldn't understand.
In the past she's told me that she believes that I generalize too much. "People are people," she says. "There are good and bad in every race." Of course she's right, but that's not what I wanted to hear. I'm angry. I'm hurt. I need to be validated. And I was scared that she would rebuke me the same way that many white folks had. And then I would feel alienated. Alienated from my own mother. At the same time, I desperately wanted her to know what I was thinking. It seemed like without that knowledge, she wouldn't know who I was.
But last night, on the phone, she brought the blog up herself. She had reserved a copy of Killing Rage, a book that I often refer to as "the book that saved my life," and it was finally ready for pick up at the library. My soul started beating faster. Maybe I didn't have to feel like there was this unspoken elephant between us anymore. I asked her about her thoughts about my blog and I held my breath.
And then she said all the things that I had worried she would say. I generalized too much. She felt that my writings created an "us and them" stance that was more divisive than unifying and constructive. She worried that my tone would turn people off and thus my message would be lost.
I grew desperate. How could I make her understand? There was more at stake than with other folks before. While I didn't need her to agree with my completely, I did need her to understand why I felt the way I did. Unlike with other people, "agreeing to disagree" wasn't an option, it seemed like failure.
So I spewed everything I could think of: the primary goal of my blog isn't to convince people of anything, it's just to talk; I feel like I'm going crazy and just have to get these thoughts out; writings like this are important because it's validating to know that people struggle the same way you do; that yes, not all white people are bad, but by virtue of being white they have white privilege and experience this world differently and that shapes who they are; I'm in an angry, hurt phase. And then she asked, "Why are you so angry?"
I was taken aback. Wasn't it obvious? And then I realized, of course it wasn't obvious; how could it have been? As much as I've discussed to death these issues and my experiences with my peers, I've never told my parents.
I've never really had the ability to show weakness to my parents. I don't like them to know when I'm hurting. I'm not sure why. Part of it is because I know they're happy when I'm happy. Part of it is because I want them to be proud of me. I want them to have the kind of daughter that's capable and successful in this life, and for some reason in my head that translates to never unhappy. I remember when I came out to my parents they were super supportive, but my mom did mention that she was worried that this would make my life harder. I think instinctively I'm reluctant to tell her about homophobia that I've encountered: I don't want them to know that sometimes I'm hurt by things that they can't protect me from.
But this was my chance and so I told her everything. I told her about how alone I feel because I'm pretty sure that most of my classmates are uncomfortable with who and I and what I say. I told her about how I don't even feel comfortable in my own living community because I think there are people there who bully my girlfriend when she visits because we're queer. I told her how since I left home for college, I've never had a Chinese home to return to and how much I miss that comfort and familiarity sometimes. And I cried. I cried because these are hard things to admit to anyone. I cried because all this time, she never knew how I felt. I cried because I wanted her to understand.
A few years ago, my friend, Jia's grandmother passed away. Since at the time I wasn't particularly close to my own grandparents, when I first heard the news I was sad for her but was not particularly struck with emotion and didn't realize that she might feel any differently. But then I heard the despair in her voice and I remembered. Jia was born in China and when she was younger, her grandparents raised her while her parents worked in another country trying to establish a new life. Unlike my grandparents who often played a more peripheral role, her grandmother was like a second mother. There was the sadness of saying goodbye to a cherished relationship. But there was also the despair of not being there when it happened. And I remember at one point, Jia looked at me, locked my eyes, and said with the conviction of someone who believes with every fiber of their being, "I don't think that people were meant to be so far from each other."
Has my mom converted over to my belief system? No. She's still a voice of reason and moderation. She will always be the wonderful person who can patiently explain how she feels without anger. She will always adamantly state that people are people are people are people. She will never be overwhelmed by the number of white people around because it will always seem like there's more and more Chinese people everyday compared to when she first moved here. But, I feel like she understands me better now.
As we engaged in post-climatic eye-drying and strolled downhill through our thematic resolution, my mom pointed out that because of immigration patterns and modern ambition, we don't have the abundance of family around. You hear about families that just seem to have cousins and aunts and uncles at every street corner in town. As my mom said, "it's like they have this clan." [At this point, I refrained from making a white people, Ku Klux Klan joke.] I know what she's talking about and I remember hearing about my friend's families when I was younger and thinking, "that's not my family." But we still have each other. We're not alone in this world. We can offer each other comfort. And we should be proactive about it. In the end she's right: people are people. We're all the same. And like many children, I don't call home enough.