Monday, August 29, 2005

Roots


When I was a child, I did not know that it was too soon after World War II that my father married my mother, Nellie Kim Yuen Ching. When my father took her home to meet his parents in Cabot, Arkansas (just north of Little Rock), my grandmother looked at my mother, then at my father and said "We sent you over there to kill them, not marry them." After I was born, the first grandchild, my Grandmother warmed up. When I was two, she used to put me on her lap as my granfather drove around downtown Little Rock and have me yell out the car window "HEY JIGABOO!" to the Black people.

I'm what we call "Chonky", half Chinese, half Honky.
I was called "Chinky-loo" on the playgrounds in elementary school. My father was transferred to Taiwan in the early 60's and I was a half-breed there too. The Chinese kids saw me as "White", the white kids saw me as "Chinese". It was just wierd to both of them that I brought peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch in a brown sack and not rice in a rectangular tin box.

By the time I got to high school we were far enough removed from the War that only the reddest of the rednecks would make fun of me. Then Cheech and Chong put out their first album and Bruce Lee became popular. For once in my life, I was actually racially cool. For the last 35 years I've not experienced anything like my childhood. Here in Arizona people ask me if I'm Mexican sometimes, or Indian (casino Indian, not tech support Indian...). Some guess Chinese. It is no big deal, but there always seemed to be a part of me that was like some old pictures and souveniers of a nearly forgotten time and place pushed far under the bed in a shoebox. You know its there, you even know what's in it, but you only think of it at odd times, and you never take it out to look at it or show anyone.

I became Orthodox and learned about all the great Saints of the Middle East, Russia, the Balkans, and even America, but even they were Russian or Aleut. I was a stranger of race once again. Then I saw an icon of the Saints of the Boxer Rebellion. Chinese Orthodox Christians, martyrs. One of my kids bought it for me for last Christmas. And it drew me in.

So tonight at the supper table my wife says, "Its time to cut your beard." She has seen me looking at the icon of the saints of the Boxer Rebellion. At 53, I'm Chinese. I'm white bread American. I'm Orthodox. And I'm home.

13 comments:

Philippa said...

You are way cool s-p! Way cool! And I totally love your look. Glory to God brother. Glory to God.

jessenicholas said...

I think in any other case I would have been weirded out by the not so new, new look. But when you cut all your long hair and beard to look like Elvis for the talent show, it took some getting used to, but you were still the same guy. When do we get to go to Taiwan?

Danielle Cuthberta said...

Aren't race and heritage bottomless to explore? In our family, we have strains of your experience like a "drone" running thru the music of our days.

Applauding your celebration, s-p! (even though I had just gotten used to the look in that sweet bird pic lol)

Tracystribe3 said...

This is off topic but on the radio show who is who? In my mind, you're the one who talks the most and has been there the most lately (as one has been out sick lately, out of town, etc.). I ask because your voice doesn't match the picture I have of you in my mind, which is not surprising :) When I look at the Our Life website I don't see that either in the picture looks like you.

I listen to your show so much that I kinda feel like I know you so I want to clear it up. And btw you're radio show is awesome!

olympiada said...

Thanks Sp for sharing. As you may or may not know my child is AfricanEuropeanNative American...My mom grew up in Oakland. Her mom grew up in Chicago. Italians and Blacks go way back...It is so good to read other Orthodox writing about racial issues, so good, thank you.
My dawta has dreadlocks, put 'em in my self, as does her daddy,my x.

Danielle Cuthberta said...

Olympiada, amen and amen. Just back from having one dd's hair done yesterday and looking into ceramic irons. Yes, it's sooo good to hear these discussions among Ortho-folk. Thank God.

s-p said...

Hi All,
My kids have seen my "look" morph from Woodstock I to Woodstock IV, to Elvis, to skinhead, to "monk" to now Shaolin monk....I'll post some reflections on race/change etc. on the blog later.
To tracystribe: That is me on the right on the radio show picture. Yes, I'm the "main" guy. I've been doing the show for almost 7 years. Bill joined me about two years ago as co-host when my former co-host went to seminary.

Ian said...

Thanks for sharing. Beautiful.

justanotherjim said...

Only in a post Cheech and Chong world would you be confused for a Mexican :)

Underlying this post are some deep waters of cross cultural issues. I really appreciate how you have so simiply expressed your coming to terms with all those complicated issues.

Mimi said...

Thank you, as always, S-P. It was wonderful to read your heritage!

olympiada said...

Danielle - I learned how to do my daughter's bradelocks from a web site calle her special hair, if you are interested.

Danielle Cuthberta said...

Olympiada - sure, pass along the site - info is good to have on-hand. Thanks! DC

Nektarios said...

Great post. I'm married to an Indian (tech support variety) and we're both Orthodox. So, our son is half Indian/half honky. We have icons of many non-European saints in the house to show others (and our son) that Orthodoxy isn't "an Eastern European" thing.