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Unpacking personal feels about race and privilege

I was born to a mother whose Scottish family left the US colonies during the American revolution and a Chinese-Malay immigrant father. I am simultaneously first generation Canadian and ...300 years of generations Canadian. Currently, I am visiting my dad's family in Malaysia for the first time in almost 20 years (I was 12 last visit).

In the meantime, I have experienced significant white privilege while identifying as a visible minority and feeling really guilty for it. I felt like I was "Chinese when convenient" in My home country, particularly as I aged and more and more people told me that "I'd never guess you were Chinese" or "you don't look Chinese". I felt like maybe I wasn't really Chinese - after all, I grew up in Canada and passed for white. What do I know about being Asian? What value does my perspective add to the often complex conversations about race? Am I abusing policies designed to help "real" people of colour by calling myself Chinese when I am so "obviously" white?

When I arrived in Malaysia, my aunt said "welcome home". Totally innocuous, but I've never identified Malaysia as home. And yet, it really stuck with me. There was no question as my cousins instructed their children to call me Goo Goo and Yi Yi (auntie in Cantonese depending on the gender of the cousin I am related to) that I am part of this family. Visiting my (now deceased) grandmother's home and seeing dozens of pictures of my younger self made me realize that even though I may not feel it on a day to day basis, I am just as Chinese as I am white. I am also learning what that means to me, to my dad's side of the family and how it all fits/doesn't fit into untidy boxes of race and culture in the grander scheme.


I'm hoping to revisit this and be more articulate and thorough when I get home, but this trip is helping me confront and organize all kinda of feelings and thoughts about the global village and what it's like to occupy multiple checkboxes on a census form for me. There isn't often a place for mixed race folks such as myself in discussions on race. I stop myself from commenting a lot because I feel like my contributions will be seen as derailing because of the privilege I experience as someone who wholly passes as white. I imagine it might be similar to how folks who identify as bisexual in a het relationship feel in discussions of sexual orientation and identity.

But my perspective is not that of a white woman, or a Chinese woman because I occupy both simultaneously, and I hope there's room at the table for voices such as mine.

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