Tuesday 8 November 2011

InCulture Parent: What’s an Asian? Race and Identity for a New Generation

My latest column for InCulture Parent has now been published: "What’s an Asian? Race and Identity for a New Generation" is my response after reading and thinking about another article in the same magazine by J. Claire K. Niala called "Mama, What Colour is Me? How My Child Defines Race":

My eight-year-old daughter did something a few weeks ago that surprised me. She asked me what “Asian” meant. In Britain, Asian is usually taken to describe people of South Asian origin—Pakistani, Bengali, Indian and Sri Lankan, unlike America where Asian generally denotes East Asians. People my age and older have been grouped into one of a few broad categories: white, black or Asian, with little ambiguity about this. It surprised me that my daughter did not identify herself with this label.

The way my children have always described people physically is not by their race as we always did, but by their physical, apparent characteristics. So for my kids, a person is either brown like us, dark brown (which could mean Sri Lankan or Ghanaian) or yellow haired. It struck me as strange that white children were not described by their skin colour, but by their hair colour, until I realised a small child wouldn’t have a word for the range of colours that can constitute what we call white. Perhaps a child wouldn’t think of calling that skin colour white, because it isn’t literally white.

Please do take a look, join the conversation and leave a comment, the full article is here.

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