Fashion

The struggle of a multiracial family


I admit, it’s not pretty. My two-year-old daughter was lying on her back banging her glittering jelly shoes on the ground, her fists clenched, her cheeks streaked with tears. My husband was with her, he pulled out a short straw while I escaped on guard duty restaurant Preventive. The table has a perfect view of the sunset above Greek Islandand the slope where my daughter was screaming.

Beside me, two English couples sip white wine and beer. At first, I didn’t pay much attention to their comments – “What’s wrong with that girl?”; “Where’s her mother?” – that’s something I’ve never heard of before. But very quickly, the conversation took a different turn. “He didn’t even try to cuddle her. He just sat there. “

It’s true, my husband didn’t try to cuddle her. He, like me, knew that at this stage of his tantrum, approaching her would start another round. But he’s not “just sitting there”. He was whispering to her. I knew what he was saying because we said the same thing whenever she had a tantrum: “I’m okay, baby, I’m okay, I know you’re angry but we’re here this. When you’re ready, we’ll give you a cuddle.”

Then one of the men said something that made me gasp. “He is clearly not the father. He looks just like her.” I watched him put an olive in his mouth. “What if he kidnaps her? She’s fighting and we’re all just watching.” He pushed the pilot over the top of his head and reached for the phone. “That’s it. I’m calling the police.”


How to describe my daughter? She is very smart. She has strong will. She has the heart of a lion, the wits of a fox and the memory of an elephant — if you promise her something, you better deliver. She is beautiful. Her hair is chestnut and lighter in summer. From a distance, her eyes look brown but up close, they sparkle amber. She is all of this because she is completely herself and because she is our daughter. I am Singaporean-Chinese people– Dark brown hair, petite, black eyes. My husband is Caucasian English – tall, blond, blue eyes.

The Greek incident is not the first time I have faced the complexities of race. As one Southeast Asian woman living in London, cannot avoid race. I was afraid to go out when COVID hit. I got caught up in a mess of mispronounced one-letter words. I was told to go home. I am constantly mistaken for other Asians. A woman once told me that I was Japanese. I must have looked confused because she had started to spell “Japanese”. I didn’t tell her that I was a lawyer and a writer and that both of these were deeply at odds with spelling. She doesn’t seem particularly interested in the truth.

As a Southeast Asian author, race is also inevitable. Like most writers, I portray characters that reflect my own background. In the first drafts of my novel, Bad fruit, my main character, like me, has Singaporean parents who immigrated to the UK. I wanted to capture the nominal space occupied by second-generation immigrants — the right accent but not the right skin tone, the same school but not the same school experience. The feeling of never belonging to a white world or an Asian.

As a Southeast Asian woman living in London, race is inevitable.

But the setting in Greece made one painful thing clear: My experience as a Southeast Asian in a predominantly white culture was radically different from my daughter’s experience when she was young. multiethnic. However many me feel different from my parents, I didn’t really look difference. My appearance was never the basis for reporting a crime.

The fascination with how white my daughter is, how Asian, how she looks like her parents, what she is not, is not limited to white Britons in vacation. It also comes from my family — Asian relatives who regularly dissect my daughter’s features for racism. “Her eye shape is Chinese but not color.” “Her cheeks and nose are ours but not her skin.” As I heard these words, as I recalled them, a sense of despair flared up within me, causing me to hug my daughter tightly to my chest. I felt the same danger I felt in Greece, like she was about to be cut off. She is only five years old.


After the incident in Greece, I replayed this scene over and over in my head, trying to figure out what I should have said. Sometimes, I practice patience education: “Do you understand how harmful your racism is? Do you see how it excludes her from us? ” Another time, I practiced rage: “Would you like to put my family in order of color? Would you do this to a white girl? ” Looking back, I can see I was punishing myself. Because, at this point, I didn’t say those things. I stood up, shaking as I pushed back my chair, and begged, “Please don’t call the police. It was my husband and my daughter. She was just throwing a tantrum.”

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