SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2003        Personal Memory Ethnographies

Amy Pang

Date Your Own Kind


photo     I was raised in a very conservative Anglo-Baptist family.  My family and I moved to Arizona from the mid-west when I was eight years old.  They brought with them all of the ideals they were raised with concerning, politics, religion, and unfortunately the belief that it is unacceptable and a sin to marry or even associate with someone of color.  As a young girl I was never brave enough to ask why.  But, as I grew up and matured I found myself questioning the rationale of opposing interracial relationships, whether they are friendships or partnerships.

I am a first generation Mexican immigrant.  I have lived in the states since I was nine   years old.   I love the United States, at the same time I embrace the Mexican culture of my homeland.  When I met my future wife, Amy, it never occurred to me that there would be dissention in our families regarding racial differences.  At that time my, rather large, family had been exposed to many interracial marriages.  It wasn’t apparent to me problems would evoke from our relationship or conflict with either my family or Amy’s family.

    Throughout High School I was the dutiful daughter and only dated Anglo boys.  Not to mention the fact that I went to a High School whose population was predominantly “white.”  But, after graduation I was working and going to a community college where I was finding a new world, so to speak.  I was interacting with diverse groups of people and loving it.  My first boyfriend out of High School was Mexican.  This was very hard for my father to accept – a big disappointment.  My mother wasn’t as prejudiced as my father.  She was more concerned that I was being treated well and happy.  That relationship came and went pretty quickly.  And I could sense a relief from my father once it was ended. 

It must be noted that my mother had some unusual ideas of the “kind” of person she wanted my siblings and I to marry.  She felt it was important to improve our race by marrying someone with lighter skin, softer features, higher social class, and someone whom was educated. Now it comes time to explain her misled rationale.  She didn’t necessarily think we should marry someone who is Anglo, just someone with lighter, more refined features.  She felt her children should be with someone who was from a class at least as equal as what we came from.  All of these thoughts stemmed from her wanting her grandchildren to be better than what she was – she, in a sense, wanted her grandchildren to “evolve” into a more improved race (for lack of a better term).
   Once I was out on my own and self sufficient, I didn’t think it should be of concern for my family to dictate who I associated with, whether it be an Anglo, Mexican, African-American, Chinese, Indian, etc.  I was my own person, and felt strongly against racial segregation. I would report to my father from time to time about who I was dating and, every time he wouldn’t ask: “Is this young man good to you?”  Instead, he would ask:  “What is he?”  Of course, I knew what that meant – what ethnic background is he from?  When I met my future husband at age 21, I called my father from my small studio apartment in a very questionable part of downtown Phoenix, to tell him about the man I was dating.  As I was making the call I so vividly remember the roaches that had made themselves so comfortable in my modest residence.  The roach infestation of that apartment has been ever so imbedded in my head as the response that my dad gave me that cold February evening when I called him with so much apprehension.  When my dad answered the phone I greeted him as usual and then got to the main reason for calling him to let him know that I had met someone very special.  And, yes, he asked “the question” – I told him he is Mexican AND Chinese!!  There was lingering silence on the other end of the phone – and his reply came forward and will forever be with me until the day I die – “Can’t you date anyone of you own kind?”  I responded and said, “I will date a person who is kind and who I enjoy being around, regardless of the color of their skin.

My mother’s thoughts on bettering her race come from a Mexican immigrant woman with a third-grade education.  These desires for her children were shared amongst her siblings.  Although I love my mother and admire her enormous strength for bringing us to a country for a better and prosperous life, I don’t agree with her thoughts on why I should marry a lighter skinned woman.  I married my wife because I fell in love with who she is not what she is.

    The discrimination I frequently heard from my father regarding the “other” never appealed to me.  And, soon after I moved out on my own I fell in love with one of those people he talked so poorly about for those formative years of my life under his care.  I questioned my relationship with Joe all the time due to the horrible things spoken about in my home regarding interracial marriages.  Would we make it?  Would we survive the possibilities of not being accepted because of our differences (culture/color)?  My father’s initial disapproval of whom I was dating  impacted me so deeply because I fell so much in love with a man that my dad judged so harshly just because of the color of his skin. 

    My father disapproved of the men I dated who he categorized as the “other.” I often wondered if I was trying to date the “other” to spite him.  I have an estranged relationship with my father for numerous reasons.  How much I would love to have a healthy relationship with my dad.  But, after all of these years of pain, I know I love him and he loves me as much as he can.  But, we won’t ever be close.  Had I wanted to go against my father’s distorted beliefs so much that I married a man he saw as unacceptable? --- NOT!  I married a man who I fell in love with for everything that he is: Mexican, Chinese, smart, loving, kind, caring, sensitive, humorous, handsome, and my love.

    I married Joe after two years of dating and we have been happily married for 14 years.  By now my father cares for Joe and respects him for the wonderful person he is.  Unfortunately, I still see him discounting people of color.  My hope for him is by seeing someone he loves being able to live a fulfilling and happy life with the “other,” may enable him to broaden his abilities to be more understanding for the need of embracing diversity.  We all love the same; we all cry the same; we all have the same basic needs. We, as a society have made small baby steps towards the acceptance of diversity, but like my father there are so many people trapped in the white-supremacist mentality.

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