my class had to do a “Family Heritage Box” project. I got super into it - with a collection of all the flags of my family’s countries - Belgium, France, Sweden, Ireland, and many more that I can’t remember. My box was decorated with stickers of old cars and cute houses. I remember being so excited to tell the class that my great-great-great-something supposedly invented the windmill cookie. The only Chinese-related thing I had on the box was a single Chinese flag among the other countries’ flags, and an Asian-looking box that we bought at a dollar store.
At the end my presentation of my box project, another Asian girl in my class raised her hand and asked, “What about your Chinese heritage?” 3rd-grader me didn’t think anything of it. My teacher though, quickly told her, “She can talk about whichever heritage she’d like.” And that was the end of that, no second thoughts about it from anyone.
Looking back, I now see the significance of this event. I understand the implications, and heck, it totally makes sense why my fellow 3rd-grader was curious. To her, an Asian girl should have an Asian family, and I’m an Asian girl talking about her Caucasian family then something must not be “right”.
There I was, a little Asian 3rd grader talking about her family tree that consisted of only white people. It all made sense to me, my white family was all I knew in my life. They’re heritage and family tree was mine too. That was all that mattered at that stage in my life, and that’s okay. Even if I had wanted to include my Chinese heritage, we wouldn’t have much to say about it. No family tree, stories, or anything. It only made sense that I present my known family and heritage. While this tree is certainly a part of who I am, I also have another tree that’s just as significant and important. It’s taken root, and continues to grow within me each day. And this time, I’ll let it grow.