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Growing Up a Chong

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  • multiracialbookclub
    Growing Up a Chong Actress Rae Dawn Chong Reflects on Ethnic Shame and Her Famous Father by Paul E. Pratt, Nov 18, 2005
    Message 1 of 2 , Jan 16, 2012

      Growing Up a Chong

      Actress Rae Dawn Chong Reflects on
      'Ethnic' Shame and Her Famous Father

      by Paul E. Pratt, Nov 18, 2005


      Being the daughter of a world-famous 
      comedian and movie star is not always easy.

      Add in `identity' issues of a Mixed-Race home,
      and you have an outright challenge on your hands.

      Just ask Rae Dawn Chong.

      One of the frustrations of being Tommy Chong's daughter is 
      that my grandfather was embarrassed of being Chinese,' 
      reveals Chong, whose father is best known as one half 
      of cannibis community superheroes `Cheech & Chong'.

      "I think my grandfather had great racial 
      shame, which was hard on us growing up."

      Chong's father is half Chinese, half Scottish-Irish.
      Her mother is Cherokee Indian and black.

      "You get used to being on the outside 
      looking in", Chong recalls. "You are either/or.
      You're not Chinese … you're not full-blooded Chinese.
      There's a little bit of shame to it."

      Chong's paternal grandfather left a very poor … home in  China  
      to live with an aunt in  Vancouver  during the `30s and `40s.

      Then, Chinese-Canadian immigrants were mostly 
      sequestered in a small area in downtown  Vancouver  
      and he grew to feel a shame from his heritage.

      "It was overcrowded, horrible and difficult", Chong says.
      "The experience left her grandfather `very broken, heartbroken." 

      "I think he aspired to be gaijin, to be white", Chong says.
      "He was definitely the opposite of Shanghainese.
      He wasn't proud to be Chinese-Canadian at all." 

      As a result, he married a white Scottish-Irish 
      woman and did his best to `Westernize.' 

      Though his family lived in  Chinatown  for a portion 
      of Rae Dawn's childhood, her grandfather shared 
      little of the Chinese culture with them.

      Though he spoke fluent Cantonese, he refused to 
      teach any of his children or grandchildren.

      We grew up desperate to know anything 
      about our Chinese culture,' Chong relates.

      Eventually, she met extended family who 
      were very proud to be Chinese-Canadian.

      Later in life, even her grandfather saw the 
      error of his ways and embraced his heritage.

      One bit that did not escape from her was the use 
      of chopsticks, the first utensil she learned to eat with.

      She recalls Grandma Chong as often cooking 
      excellent Chinese food for her grandfather.

      But "Race" and `Ethnicity' were only two of 
      the prisms that shaped Chong's life views.

      She also lived a life of celebrity.

      "It was filled with adventure.
      It had tragedy and lots of humor", 
      Chong says.
      " … I wanted him to be more 
      of a dad and less of an icon."


      Her father married multiple times, often seemed distant, 
      and was, of course, heavily involved in the drug culture.

      All in all, many times it made him less than accessible.

      "It's been lovely on a lot of levels, and painful and 
      just super, super hard on others", Chong admits.

      Still, having a parent in the entertainment 
      industry opened doors for Chong and her sister.

      Soon, she rose to national fame in her own right 
      with roles in films like `Commando' opposite Gov. 
      Arnold Schwarzenegger and `Quest for Fire'.

      This year also marks the 20-year anniversary 
      of the Steven Spielberg epic, `
      The Color Purple'.

      Though she was `lucky to get swept up in that wave,' 
      she says her experience with the film was `a mixed bag.'

      The big, big scene we auditioned for, the one that might have 
      been considered maybe an Oscar scene, got cut,' she says.

      As a result, the film had little impact on her career.

      Most recently, Chong filmed `Deadly Skies', a made-for-
      television disaster movie also starring Antonio Sabato, Jr.

      Chong plays the lead, a scientist trying to save the earth 
      using a super secret military laser to shoot down 
      a giant asteroid about to collide with Earth….

      Chong says she had a really good time making the film.

      " … I carried this thing like it is Shakespear", she says.

      Though it's only a disaster flick and not an awards-contender, 
      Chong says, " I worked my butt off, and I'm proud of it."


      Chong is also proud of her 23-year-old 
      son, a senior at  Brown   University .

      She says her father was an example 
      of what not to do as a parent.

      "I was given the gift and honor to have my baby and be 
      given the responsibility of raising him", Chong says.


      "I knew my son was going to be priority, more than anything.
      If it meant a job or an opportunity versus taking care of my kid, 
      being with him or being his mother, I always picked my son first."

      "I've never been one to think of my body of work 
      as anything more than 90 minutes of popcorn", 
      Chong says of her acting career.

      "That may be one of the reasons they've never 
      done one of those `Intimate Portraits' about me.

      Not that I don't think my work is good, but 
      just because I don't do it for that reason."


      Rae Dawn Chong's Lineage is considered to be that 
      of Quarter-Racial and consists of being 1/4-White; 
      1/4-Black; 1/4-Asian; and also 1/4-Amerindian.]]



      Chinese, Scottish-Irish, Cherokee Indian and Black    


      February 28, 1961


      Vancouver ,  British Columbia ,  Canada


      Daughter of Tommy Chong of Cheech & Chong and Maxine 
      Sneed, son Morgan and divorced to actor C. Thomas Howell


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