In the name of racial purity
While surfing channels recently, I came across one of my all-time
favorite TV programs, M*A*S*H. As a teen, I loved watching the nurses
and doctors rush around to save wounded soldiers, mostly because it
seemed to extol my father's life as an Army medic for 26 years.
Hawkeye, who I had remembered mostly as a slick-talking womanizer,
came closest to displaying the kind of compassion my father held
toward anyone in need, no matter what side of the war they were on. In
the rerun titled, "Yessir, That's our Baby," Hawkeye led an
unsuccessful fight to send a mixed-race baby (of Korean and American
heritage) to America, where she could have a better life. In Korea, he
told the embassy official, the baby "could conceivably be murdered in
the name of racial purity."
The words, "racial purity," struck me. My Japanese mother (who died in
'91) used those same words to explain why her family had disowned her
for marrying a black man in the early '60s. Thankfully, attitudes
about mixed-race people have improved greatly in the last 30 years
since the show aired, especially in the United States, where Americans
voted into office our first black -- and mixed-race -- president.
But things are as not as easy for mixed-race people living outside the
United States, especially in various parts of Asia. Often referred to
as Amerasians, many are taunted for looking different, rejected from
jobs, and even abandoned by their parents. That's why Hawkeye
desperately wanted the baby girl to go the United States.
Randy Tran, the subject of a 2008 Los Angeles Times article,
eloquently captured the struggle that many Amerasians face even today.
"I feel like I belong nowhere," Tran, of black and Vietnamese
heritage, told the Times. "If I go to Little Saigon, they say, 'Are
you Vietnamese? You look black.' If I go to the American community,
they say, 'You're not one of us. You're Vietnamese.'"
In 1988, Congress passed the Amerasian Homecoming Act, allowing tens
of thousands of children of American soldiers living in Vietnam to
immigrate. But many of the people allowed to come "home" did not
receive citizenship. This policy makes little sense to me, especially
because their fathers helped to keep our country safe during times of
war and its aftermath.
Two years ago, a bill was introduced to grant U.S. citizenship to
children born to American soldiers in Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Kampuchea,
or Thailand within certain years. But that bill, known as the
Amerasian Paternity Recognition Act has gone nowhere. And itâ€™s
gotten very little mainstream media attention. To be quite honest, I
didn't even know about this bill until I watched M*A*S*H the other
That's why the issue of mixed-race identity must remain a part of the
national discussion on race, even in these progressive times. All
around the world, thousands of Amerasians are taunted, turned away
from jobs, and treated like second-class citizens. Some are searching
for the fathers who left them years ago. Others are hoping to gain
entrance into the United States, which despite tough economic times,
still promises the dream of a better life. It's the dream I have
lived, thanks to my father bringing me (and my family) the States from
Okinawa in the mid-70s.
No matter where they live, Amerasians should be given access to the
life their American fathers fought so hard to obtain. In the last few
decades, Congress has discussed numerous laws to make this happen, but
most pieces of legislation have died on the floor with scant
attention. It's time to do change all that. It's time to remind people
that it was not too long ago that people of mixed-race were abandoned
in the name of "racial purity."
For more information about efforts to help Amerasians, check out this
site: Amerasian Foundation
Posted By: Yumi Wilson (Email) | June 02 2009 at 02:32 PM