I learned my first Chinese phrases from my daughter, Alana, when she was 4 years old. Nay ho mah? Qua huan how sheh sheh. How are you? I am very well, thank you! She was taught this greeting and response after an impromptu Cantonese lesson from her friend on the swings during recess. Growing up in Cambodia from the age of 5 months until she was 14, she was the epitome of a TCK (Third Culture Kid).
In their book, “The Third Culture Kid Experience: Growing Up Among Worlds,” David C. Pollock and Ruth Van Reken share this definition. “A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture. The TCK builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture are assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, a sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background.”
What I love about my 3 TCKs is that they grew up in a world surrounded by families from over 40 different countries. Many of the countries were Asian. So, a huge part of my children’s worldview was shaped and formed within a decidedly Asian context.
They have never needed lessons in tolerance, because demonstrating acceptance was a part of their DNA. Far from being colorblind proponents, they could not wait to experience the vibrancy of all the cultural nuances and traditions of new friends and relationships. There was almost an urgency to welcoming the new student in town. Because they, too, had once been the new student in town. But, more importantly, it was somehow personally rewarding to hear the other person’s story. It was as if their story was somehow wrapped up in their own. As if they couldn’t fully relax until they knew their neighbor. There was an intrinsic need to know them. An authentic curiosity about their language, traditions, religion, food, music, etc.
So now, I’m grieving with my family of TCKs for you, my Asian American family. Knowing the answer to the question “How are you?” is not “Very well, thank you.” It’s in deep mourning. Beyond fatigue. Numb. Angry. Fearful. Anxious. Impatient for justice. This past year of violence and indignities against your community has broken my heart. All were fueled by the vitriolic coronavirus rhetoric from the last president. Over 3,800 hate related incidences were reported by the not-for-profit coalition “Stop AAPI Hate” over the last year. Likely a countless number of unreported cases. Because people don’t know you. Have not felt an urgency to see your story as strongly resembling theirs. Have not become acquainted with you or your history in the U.S. Have no idea how deep the wounds are seeing your revered elderly family members brutally and violently dishonored. Even at times with deadly force. Instead, non-engagement and white supremacy has allowed racism, misogyny, Hollywood hypersexualized versions of you to be perpetuated. Tossing your humanity around as either a model minority to be exploited or the latest villain to be terrorized. You deserve better. Every part of your story matters. Your Asian Lives Matter.
The Korean word for “thank you” is “Kamsahamnida.” I am thankful and grateful that my TCKs understand that loving your neighbor is actually for their own good. That knowing and loving your neighbor makes you a better person. Makes you better acquainted with a world full of people created in the image of God. Introducing you to a world outside yourself that speaks a heart language that God wants you to know. That makes you better acquainted with God.
#StopAAPIHate #StopAsianHate #LoveYourNeighbor #TCKsRock