This came up again a few days ago but DD a bit older dealt with it to her satisfaction. Not exactly the same context but a Chinese friend of hers was surprised that Indians were also Asian. She had assumed only people from the Far East countries are considered Asian. I would not blame her, there are lot of adults who assume that and that is generally the case. DD this time put her foot down and asked the friend if she was going to believe her or another person who had no knowledge of the fact and with the advice to go check in an Atlas if India belonged in Asia or not.
This also brings another incident to mind, one of DD's classmates is from Taiwan(T1). The conversation between him and another boy went like this.
B1: Where are you from?
T1: I am from Taiwan.
B1: So you are Chinese?
T1: NO! I am Taiwanese?
B1: You are Chinese!
T1: NO, I am not Chinese. I am Taiwanese.
That answer pretty much sums up the apathy which is so bothering. All these incidents clearly illustrate that kids though not expressed openly (at least in our home it is not) take their identity seriously. The country that someone is originally from might be as important as the ethnicity. I also have to add through all of this their pride in being American never wavers.
From the food we eat, clothes we wear, customs we respect and traditions we follow are all inextricably linked with our identity. Even saving, spending habits and educational achievement are all identified by who we are and where we came from. Of course this identity also comes with certain stereotyping like this comment from one of DD's classmates again "Asians don't have a life!". It can be taken as a compliment or a commentary IMO. It could just mean that Asians as a group are hard working and value education more than frivolous pursuits. Again I am stereotyping here but with a spin. But this stereotype could be true of Asians only when applying to a small group of immigrants, but surely back home it is a different story.
I imagine it is hard enough being an immigrant kid trying to blend in and also carrying the burden of defending who you are. It is good to be part of the melting pot but would be best while retaining the good and leaving the bad when you melt into that pot.
When you live in your own home country advice, support and help is only a plane or train ride away. Elders guide you towards the best of possible choices and serve as sounding boards and steer you in the right direction. But when you are far away this support and clarity of thought is not always available. What is readily available though is the practises and customs that are part of your identity. Most times decisions based on those age old practises turn out to be the best for any situation.
I have not always been aware of my identity or its significance till I moved away from home. The older I get the more I realize that identity is very important to what you are as a human being. Teaching kids the language and food habits are just the most obvious way to connect to that identity. But the other not so obvious ones are what is essential for living a better life.
The problems with this identity manifest themselves in the lunch room at schools. I am sure parents of school age kids have resorted to packing peanut butter jelly sandwich just to keep peace at home.
DD hates peanut butter so we had to figure other foods that tasted good and were not junky. Broccoli Carrot Quesadilla is one of those things though ethnic has blended into the mainstream that no questions are asked. She has also learned to deal with the eeyews and what is that? and does not hesitate to take easily eatable Indian foods to school. I like quesadillas as they provide a great canvas for me to work on. No No I am not suggesting I am artist. I am not that creative :( It also takes very minimal time and a tasty lunch is ready in minutes.
DD's version of the recipe: Quesadillas with Broccoli and Bell Peppers
Broccoli and Carrot Quesadilla
1. I head of broccoli florets (about 1/2 cup of cooked broccoli)
2. 1/2 carrot grated
3. 1 tbsp shredded cheese
4. 1 large whole wheat tortilla
5. Variation: scrambled eggs, roasted bell peppers
1. Microwave the broccoli florets with a sprinkle of water. Once done squeeze out any extra moisture and chop them up.
2. Heat a pan and heat the tortilla on both sides for a few seconds.
3. Spread the broccoli and the grated carrot.
4. Sprinkle the cheese on top and let it melt a bit
5. Fold the tortilla over, turn over and cook a bit on the other side.
Lunch is ready with a side of yogurt. I am not fond of broccoli but give me as many of these quesadillas and I am ready to eat them, no problem.