GUEST POST BY BETSY KANAGAWA
MEET THE KANAGAWA’S…
NO SHE’S NOT ADOPTED!
I met my husband, Niko, in September of 2009. We met on a free dating website. His pictures on the site were decent. I remember when I met him for the first time in person thinking “He’s better looking than in the pictures.” Nice surprise after meeting many guys on the site who were a disappointing version of their photo. While I knew he was Asian from the first virtual contact, I didn’t think too much about it. He shared that his ethnicity is half Japanese and half Filipino. Because he was raised in a predominately upper-class, Caucasian community, we didn’t have many noticeable cultural differences.
Fast forward, to 5 years later and the birth of our beautiful half Asian and half Caucasian daughter. Her first doctor’s appointment, a few days, after birth included a plethora of paperwork and the first time I had to mark her race. I think it was then that it really struck me. I started to think of the rest of her life and the multitude of events that would require one to mark a race. I don’t think twice about marking white or Caucasian. I wondered what that would be like for her. What if she could only select one? Which would she choose? How might she be categorized or stereotyped because of her choice?
Just like many girls, I grew up playing house and school. I knew I wanted to grow up and get married and have kids. 3 kids in total, a girl first, and one boy. In my master plan, marriage would happen around age 22 with kids shortly afterwards. In reality, things happened a bit more slowly, but I did have a girl first. When Anika was born she definitely had prominent Asian features:, dark almond eyes, dark hair, and chubby cheeks. I spent a lot of time looking for a recognizable feature of mine. And then the comments began. ”She looks just like her dad!” “She has her dad’s eyes!” “She has a Filipino nose” Where am I? I spent all this time carrying her and caring for her, which of my features did she have? Where am I? I found baby photographs of myself and compared us. I convinced myself that we shared some qualities; that my biggest fear wouldn’t come true; that people wouldn’t think she was adopted when just she and I were out together. I grew up constantly hearing that I looked just like my mom. I think this is why I expected I would have a daughter who would look like me. In fact, I was looking forward to it.
“NO SHE’S NOT ADOPTED!”
It took a little while, but one lovely Sunday morning at church, I was approached by a girl who helped with the children’s ministry. She always loved seeing Anika and helping with her. She talked about how cute she is and wanted to hold her. Then she asked the dreaded words, “Is she adopted?” As I told her no, that I had definitely carried her to term and birthed her, she exclaimed she only asked because she doesn’t look like me at all. Of course this girl has met her dad, who Anika clearly does look like, but wasn’t around while I was pregnant.
Another time I remember being at the grocery store checkout lane with Anika and without Niko. The cashier noticed Anika and asked if she was part Asian. I was pretty surprised. I really just see her as her unique self and think little about her biracial looks. As a Caucasian female, no one has ever asked me if I am white. No one asks what European countries make up my white ancestry. I wonder how Anika’s experience will be different. What obstacles might she face, that I won’t be able to understand, due to being biracial?
While I want my daughter to face challenges and learn resilience and problem solving skills, racism, intolerance, and hatred are not obstacles I want her to face. I hope she sees other girls at school, in the community, and in the media who look like her. I hope she finds an American girl doll that looks like her and a baby with almond eyes and brown hair. I hope our society can continue to evolve. A friend of mine once told me that she hoped she and all her siblings married and reproduced with someone of another race. She thought that would make the world more beautiful. I definitely agree. I hope Anika has friends of many races. I hope she looks around and sees kids who look like her and vary greatly. Although she may not look like me on the outside, I plan to instill my best qualities and values in her. And I’m told she already has my strong-willed, sassy attitude.
Do these sentiments resonate with any other parents? I know they do with us. When Amaya was born the hospital we were at automatically put down Asian as her race. I thought to myself what about me? I’m African-American and I know that she does look more like her Indian dad and her last name is Gupta. However she isn’t 100% Asian, she is biracial. Write us. Post a comment. SHARE this post and like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter at Growing Up Gupta.