Guest Post: That 4th of July When I Met My White Girlfriend’s Racist Grandpa

A few weeks ago, I sent out a call for guest post submissions from Asian men. Well, my first guest poster who responded also happens to be one of my new favorite bloggers — Big Asian Package (Hung Asian Man Talks Sex Politics – Straight Up). So excited to run this post!

Do you have a great story or experience you’d love to share here at Speaking of China? Check out the submit a post page to learn how to get your writing published here!

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The blogger behind Big Asian Package (https://bigasianpackage.files.wordpress.com)
The blogger behind Big Asian Package (https://bigasianpackage.wordpress.com)

I’m an Asian American man. I started writing my thoughts to contribute my point of view to the social environment that injures me through stereotypes and racism. It hurts Asian men, our friends and families, and it hurts our partners. The predominant public commentary is critical of me and everyone who looks like me; they belittle me (why, even?). So why wasn’t I hearing from more Asian men?

I think I felt tempted too… it’s social withdrawal. Put it this way, how rational would it be to participate in a social system that starts you at the bottom, keeps you at the bottom, and laughs the whole time doing it? I think Asian men have seen enough to know that they’d be painted into another angry minority caricature (“angry black man,” “bitch feminist,” &c.)  I suspect this is a major reason for the lack of Asian male voices.  In the end, the racism in the echo chamber of the Internet proliferated, possibly exceeding overt anti-Asian sentiment displayed publicly. It’s too much already.

In the context of the Asian Male White Female (AMWF) relationship, something unique has emerged. As AMWF couples encountered unique difficulties, ones stemming from prejudice, the women started speaking out in large numbers. They told their stories, shared them, and built a community of support and celebration around one thing, and it wasn’t Asian men, it was love. It was being allowed to love in the way they wanted, to love whomever they wanted… however hot and sexy this Asian man might be!

This experience is one of the events that led to my unease when I’m invited to a family event with a… well, more conservative family. They’re tricky places to encounter hostility because around folks I know, family, I’m usually relaxed, not on guard, and trying to have a good time.

(Photo from the US National Archives via Flickr.com)
(Photo from the US National Archives via Flickr.com)

It couldn’t have been a more poetic holiday for this memory. It was Independence Day in Ohio, the Fourth of July, and my girlfriend, who was white (Czech, Polish, and German heritage) brought me to her family’s barbeque and picnic in their newly completed solarium. There was potato salad, macaroni salad, and a number of other misleadingly named things that cause heart disease by the mountainous bowlful. The Stars and Stripes were gratuitously displayed. Kids risked fingers with low-grade explosives. It was a good time. The centerpiece to the whole affair was the barbeque which they managed to overload with some forbidden pyramid of smoking meats. I used to work at a grill, and even I thought that was an obscene amount of meat.

Well, I’m a vegetarian (yes, vegetarian grill cook, I know) so when I was offered some, I politely turned down my sector of the pyramid. Whoops. People looked over at us.

I learned that, at least in the 90s, this was an American social faux pas on par with sneezing in someone’s face. There was murmuring. I heard an aunt exclaim, “How?…What?…”

I tried to redirect and talk about how good all the salads were, but this was like trying to wipe the sneeze off of their collective faces with my bare hands. I could feel people’s eyes still on me. It was too late. I had declined the centerpiece of the American Independence celebration.

“I have to go to the bathroom,” I said. I put my red, white, and blue plate down on a small table and strode over to the bathroom, shut the door, and breathed again. I’m a teenage boy so it’s not like I have a whole lot of composure to begin with, but I muster together what I can, and go back outside. People had resumed doing whatever they were doing and I wasn’t noticed. I picked up my plate, ate a few bites of the potato salad, and went back to the tarp covered table for more.

Potato salad (Photo by Christina via Flickr.com)
Potato salad (Photo by Christina via Flickr.com)

“Are you happy about those secrets?” said a voice from beside me.

“What? I’m sorry?” I said. It was my girlfriend’s grandpa.

“The nuclear secrets. I know you came here to steal from us,” said her grandpa,

“I go to school…” I say, protesting.

“You’re Chinese, I know you are,” he says quietly, triumphantly, like he’s got me checkmated.

“Yes,” I say, now seriously confused, not quite believing what I’m hearing.

And here’s where having a lady with a sharp social sense comes in handy. Because where I might turn to look at a guy friend and receive some eyeshot that says, yeah, pound that racist, I got an arm around mine, a brisk walk out to the street, and a fresh piece of cake for me to eat as she drove us home. What a sweetheart.

We didn’t talk about Grandpa Bigotnasty much after that. She apologized for him; I told her not to, and we just went home. I never saw Grandpa B. again either. My girlfriend was mortified by her family and understood I wouldn’t go anyplace her grandpa would be. I guess you could call this an incident of social rejection. I think I like the term social withdrawal better because it implies that it was more of my choice. It doesn’t really matter in in the end. I’m not there at her family events anymore because we broke up.

If I’m in an interracial relationship now, I sometimes try to talk to my partner about this anxiety over family gatherings. Sometimes I keep it to myself though…and hope that next time around, there won’t be a Grandpa Bigotnasty at the table.

I’m an Asian American man in my 30s living in the U.S., Northern California. I was born and raised in the Midwest and in a predominantly white community that seemed to embrace every stereotype ever heard about Asian folks. I write about my sexual experiences and the politics of sex for straight Asian men. Don’t get a little bit of the truth, get the full package – http://bigasianpackage.wordpress.com.

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44 thoughts on “Guest Post: That 4th of July When I Met My White Girlfriend’s Racist Grandpa

  • May 22, 2015 at 7:03 am
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    Aw, BAP! I want to go back in time and mock grandpa bigot in the best Ricky Gervais fashion for you. Seriously.

    My Chinese-American Guy Andy never had to deal with that from my family (they like his potstickers way too much), but I was always kinda hoping someone would step out of line so I could rush to his defense and smack the unlucky racist around. Verbally. Well, MAYBE verbally.

    So far, no smackage.

    Reply
  • May 22, 2015 at 7:29 am
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    Funny post, Big Package. You describe the 4th so well. I feel like I was there. Hell, I was there. It’s like every 4th of July. Horribly fattening food, unbearable family, and the red, white, and blue.

    And it reminds me of a quote from a movie, “What? You don’t eat no meat?!” (everyone turns and looks) “Here, I give you some lamb.”

    The bigoted grandpa (or grandma). So many of us have/had one. I did. I loved him, but he drove me nuts with his racist comments and I started arguing against them even as a kid. I didn’t know know how he’d take it when he found out I was engaged to an Asian man, but he didn’t care. At that point, it wouldn’t have mattered anyways.

    Most of that generation is gone now and I think my parents generation (the Baby Boomers) is significantly less racist and more open-minded about things. Gen X and Gen Y more so. I’d like to think things are moving in the right direction.

    Reply
  • May 22, 2015 at 9:17 am
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    Sorry that I’ve been gone for awhile. I think in my family we tend to be open minded towards different people and respectful of their beliefs, although it did take a while to get there.

    Reply
  • May 22, 2015 at 9:23 am
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    When I read about these episodes of blatant racism, it sounds so crazy that it is almost ridiculous. How can a grown up man seriously think a Chinese-American teenager has something to do with Chinese nuclear strategy?? I mean it must be a joke! Just it was not.

    What I find very interesting about the US (I’ve never been there yet!) is that it is the country with the biggest presence of interracial couples and mixed families, yet racism is also extremely widespread. How contradictory!

    I understand when racially homogenous countries like Japan or China have episodes of racism, they are just not used to people from other races yet. But the US, really?

    I thought they knew better than this.

    Reply
  • May 22, 2015 at 12:05 pm
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    Quite frankly, I think diversity in the US is part of the problem. It’s been a problem ever since immigration started. I honestly think it’s part of the human condition to suppress those who are different and there tends also to be a fear of these differences. Autumn wrote a response to a post several weeks ago talking about this. And it’s interesting because those who are singled out and discriminated against has changed over time. For awhile Italians were looked down on. . . and the Irish. These days Hispanics. Of course there are huge issues with black Americans due to slavery and segregation and myriad other issues. It is complicated. In a more homogenous society, there is less to fear. People have similar religions, languages, and cultures so there is less opportunity for discrimination.

    As far as China, it is really not that homogenous of a society, it just seems so because most Chinese nationals look Asian. There are over 50 ethnic groups, such as Mongolians, Tibetans, and Uyghurs and many you or I have never heard of. There is also plenty of discrimination in China, towards ethnic minorities, towards other Asians, and most definitely towards blacks.

    Reply
    • May 22, 2015 at 12:47 pm
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      While I would agree that China is not free of discrimination, the lack of homogeneity you speak of in China is hardly comparable to that of the US. Whereas the diversity in China exists along cultural/ethnic boundaries (more akin to the “diversity” amongst the white populations of continental Europe), the diversity in the US is dominated by divisions along RACIAL boundaries. This difference plays an important role in the way that discrimination is manifested in the two countries.

      At the end of the day, Marghini is basically right because — the many ethnic groups notwithstanding — China’s dominant ethnic group, the Han, makes up 91% of the population… If you want to argue that China is not homogenous, you may as well argue Japan is not either because of its Ainu and Ryukyuan minorities.

      Reply
      • May 22, 2015 at 5:28 pm
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        D-Maybe, I’m not trying to compare it to the US. I just think it’s rather simplistic too assume all Chinese people are the same and there is no discrimination in China. It’s not like the US, for sure, but there are a lot of issues due to differences in ethnicity in China. The most obvious one, known internationally, is between Han (the majority) and Tibetans. Even more problematic is the issues surrounding Uyghurs.

        Reply
  • Pingback:Speaking of Racism… the Fourth of July Incident | Big Asian Package – Hung Asian Man Talks Sex Politics – Straight Up

  • May 22, 2015 at 3:14 pm
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    That is bizarre. Nothing like racist elderly white people.

    Is he aware that China already has the nuclear bomb…?

    Also, on an ironic note I often offend people in China by being vegetarian. I think it’s a traditional thing anywhere in the world, people don’t respect personal diets. Real cities in America respect vegetarians, but Middle America is quite close-minded, and big cities in Asia are getting better.

    Reply
    • May 22, 2015 at 7:18 pm
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      True story Ray! I feel being vegetarian is still an issue in so many parts of the world. A lot of people take offense at a vegetarian as it was a personal insult or something..

      I wonder if this will ever really change.

      Reply
  • May 22, 2015 at 7:53 pm
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    “How can a grown up man seriously think a Chinese-American teenager has something to do with Chinese nuclear strategy?? ”

    For the same reason that an Australian Boutique store thinks that the daughter of a Chinese multimillionaire is a thief. And even today in many places folks of Asian descent are not considered “real Americans”.

    “What I find very interesting about the US (I’ve never been there yet!) is that it is the country with the biggest presence of interracial couples and mixed families, yet racism is also extremely widespread. How contradictory!”

    And the professor at Duke University thinks that there is no racism against Asians in the US because all of them assimilate by adopting “American” names. He also thinks that there is widespread dating between Asians and whites, because Asians assimilate…how ignorant of the real situation. Perhaps he has not read posts on the Asians like this blog….While Asian women and White men date and marry in large numbers, there is not much evidence of the other way around except in blog such as these, the professors blatant false statements not withstanding…..

    http://abc11.com/news/duke-professor-makes-controversial-comments-about-race/726470/

    “I understand when racially homogenous countries like Japan or China have episodes of racism, they are just not used to people from other races yet. But the US, really?”

    Try reading about Asian Sundown towns by James Louwen. Back in the 1960s an Chinese American woman married to a white guy disappeared in San Marino, CA. Everyone whispers and continues to whisper although the town is now overwhelmingly Chinese. Back in the 1950s two Japanese women married to white men disappeared in the middle of the day in Humboldt county, California. To this day people whisper but no one officially knows what happened to them. Any official and legal white sundown towns in the past in China or Japan? Perhaps Jocelyn can shed more light on this regarding China and Texan in Tokyo can shed more light on this regarding Japan.

    Reply
  • May 22, 2015 at 8:02 pm
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    I witnessed something similar back in the summer of 1984, when I was a graduate student in the state of Indiana and it was bad, really bad. By the time the conversation ended one woman had thrown up literally, and a couple of others at the home sat stunned. I remember the day very well as President Reagan announced the Teacher in Space program during a campaign stop somewhere. This guy invited me to his home for dinner. His Texan sister in law who was in her forties was visiting. She was not a very friendly kind. I did not think much of it until there was a phone call and she was summoned. It began with screaming…”my son is dead, oh my God, my son is dead! and then “someone please talk some sense to him.” She became very ill..threw up. I got up and left really thinking that her son is dead, canelling the dinner appointment. I gave my sincere condolences on the bereavement and left. It was not until ten years later that I found out what had happened. Her son announced his engagement to a Japanese American woman from Hawaii. His mother wanted him to marry a real American, someone perhaps from the south…she could not take it..she became very ill. I do not know what happened after that..but I dont think many incidents can beat this. I have travelled to over seventy countries since then…never seen anything like this.

    Reply
    • May 23, 2015 at 5:56 am
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      Hi David,

      Your anecdote of your encounter with the Texan woman was so funny especially when she vomited upon hearing of her son’s engagement to a Japanese woman. I cannot imagine how you must have felt upon finding out that her vomiting was not due to the death of her son but because he was going to marry a Japanese woman. I only wished that I could have been there to laugh.

      Fred

      Reply
  • May 22, 2015 at 8:06 pm
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    People dont respect other people’s diets…jobs are denied on that basis. People dont respect other people’s drinking habits. If you dont drink you will very quickly loose the job in the US State Department as one of the primary duties of the Foreign Service Officer is to entertain…and if you dont loose the job, they will send you to a moslem country….where you are probably screwed if you dont drink and dont eat meat!

    Reply
  • May 22, 2015 at 8:11 pm
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    @R Zhao…there is always racism against the largest minority, their economic status not withstanding. Professor Jerry Hough of Duke University may think the world looks like America…then again for a cat, the world is made up of fish and for a dog the world looks like a bone. In Seattle, there is very little discrimination against Asian Americans…but go across the border to Vancouver…the Asians are the most despised group…and that too wealthy Asians. Many whites dont want to mix with them. Go to Australia, you get the same situation…the Asians are targeted…it really depends on who the largest minority is. If blacks and Hispanics were to disappear from the US tomorrow or migrate elsewhere, the police will be shooting unarmed Asian women and the whites will be calling all Asians thugs.

    Reply
    • May 23, 2015 at 6:09 am
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      David,

      Your views are very extreme when you wrote about shooting Asians and about Canadians and Austrians despising Asians. I am certain that racism exists everywhere and I even countered some against me. But the vast majority of the time, I was left alone. I often hear from Blacks that they are the target of racism but I do not hear many complaints amongst my fellow Asian peers about racism.

      When I was younger, I did not want to date any Western women and only wanted to go with Asian girls. When I made this view known, I heard through hearsay that some Western girls alleged that I was a racist by not giving consideration to dating White or Black girls. After considering this allegation, I was hurt a little but to a certain degree they are right. If I was not willing to consider giving a girl of another race a chance, then it can be viewed as a form of racism. So, later I changed and I started to give those pretty white girls a chance and now I find them so attractive that I am married to one.

      So, you can say in my case that “once I went Caucasian, I won’t go Asian!”

      Ha. Ha.

      Fred

      Reply
  • May 22, 2015 at 11:02 pm
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    “The nuclear secrets. I know you came here to steal from us,” said her grandpa

    In my mind, this is a joke. I would laugh. But if it is serious, then this person’s IQ is at kindergarten age. Treat him as one.

    Reply
  • May 22, 2015 at 11:23 pm
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    @David

    “If blacks and Hispanics were to disappear from the US tomorrow or migrate elsewhere, the police will be shooting unarmed Asian women and the whites will be calling all Asians thugs.”

    My enemy’s enemy is my friend. There is no forever friendship except forever interest.

    Without 9/11 by Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda, J.W.Bush would have started war with China already. Common enemy is best way to create friendship. This principle works even among white people themselve. Homogeneity is not a protection from human conflict. Without common enemy, homogeneous population will start new fraction based on slightest difference and start fighting. (Example: arab nations, black on black conflict, white on white wars, white people civil wars, Ukraine vs Russian who are very genetically similar, ect)

    It is human nature. Utopia does not exist.

    Learn to deal with it.

    If China under threat from USA, best chance is ISIS victory to draw USA attention away from China or even need coorperation from China. North Korea also can help lol.

    Reply
  • May 23, 2015 at 12:06 am
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    @IC: Eventually East Asia will rise for one major reason…Arabs and moslems with the exception of Turks will kill themselves and the west will be helping them with all their resources…

    Reply
  • May 23, 2015 at 12:09 am
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    And by the way they are not shooting Asian women in Australia becuase it is less of a gun culture than the US.

    Reply
  • May 23, 2015 at 1:53 am
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    @David

    This is the very reason I like to have more black and hispanic in USA. More trouble they create, safer my position. At work place, it is the same. Do not go to the place that nobody else hold bottom for you.

    Like one biologist said famously: I do not need to out run the lion to save myself. I only need to out run you.

    Reply
  • May 23, 2015 at 6:12 am
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    @IC…the reason I like to have more black and Hispanic in the USA is that no one will be a majority. More Puerto Ricans should move to Louisiana, Mississippi and particularly, Alabama.

    Reply
  • May 23, 2015 at 6:19 am
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    David.

    You sound like a crazy maniac when you espoused those extremist views about killing and about creating enmity and divisiveness. I wish that you would stop. Just concentrate on LOVE.

    I do not know if you are married or have a girlfriend, but I think that you should get yourself a hot and sexy white girl and make love to her. Then you will change your antagonistic views of Westerners. I am now married to a White Brazilian girl and I love those Western features (i.e, bigger buttocks, bigger breasts, wider hips, heavier set, etc.).

    Please remember: Once you go Caucasian, you will not go Asian!!!!!

    Reply
    • May 23, 2015 at 2:31 pm
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      ” I think that you should get yourself a hot and sexy white girl and make love to her. Then you will change your antagonistic views of Westerners. I am now married to a White Brazilian girl and I love those Western features (i.e, bigger buttocks, bigger breasts, wider hips, heavier set, etc.) Please remember: Once you go Caucasian, you will not go Asian!!!!!”

      What kind of pedestal bullshit is that? Don’t put white women on a pedestal , hell don’t put any women on a damn pedestal.

      Reply
      • May 26, 2015 at 3:14 pm
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        @ Xeonfuzion.

        I agree not to put any woman or white women in general on a pedestal. I was just trying to inspire David to stop spreading hate and negative views of Westerners. Not all Westerners all bad.

        Reply
  • May 23, 2015 at 7:07 am
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    Maybe I am not sensitive enough. If it was me, I would shrug it off as long as the girl liked me. I would ask the old man directly why he asked the question and waited for his answer. I don’t think you can get away with a set of culture assumptions when people see you are an Asian – the same way when you see a white girl. The older man certainly is being rude. I would just confront him and ask him why.

    Old people are more defensive. Most of them are actually nice when you get to know them later.

    I think the generation gap definitely exists. In China the older generations are even more different.

    Reply
    • October 9, 2015 at 12:54 am
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      If he ask me that question then I will said this to him “Yes, I am not here to steal but I am here to take your secrets, your grand daughter and all the things I needed! HAHA” And Finally I will said to him “DEAL WITH IT” old man!

      Reply
  • May 23, 2015 at 11:54 am
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    @IC
    “This is the very reason I like to have more black and hispanic in USA. More trouble they create, safer my position. At work place, it is the same.”

    As the economy in th USA gets worse, no one will be able to save you. Please check out “Angry Asian Man.” You should also keep in mind that what you are doing is stereotyping people. Being Asian does not make you exempt from racism, descrimination, or violence. The Blacks who you refer to as troublesome, marched in solidarity with Asians, and other groups during the civil rights movement, and participated in the fight for esquality for all people. Today it is the troublesome Blacks and Hispanics…tomorrow it could be you.

    Reply
  • May 24, 2015 at 12:40 am
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    Sorry, meant to say equality, and not esquality.

    Reply
  • May 24, 2015 at 3:33 am
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    @namenotgiven

    To be honest, I have no idea what you try to say.

    You can not prevent discrimination from other people like you can not prevent lion from eating meat.

    If you want to survive, either you kill the lion or keep lion well fed with other’s meat (out run the weakest prey).

    Survival skill.

    Socially, I keep friendship with both black and white. Getting rid of black in USA will end up something like David said.

    Do you know why American Jews always politically allied with black and democrat? To survive in any ecosystem (society or nature), it is about balance of all factors involved. Like Mao said, one contradiction resolved leads to new contradiction. Destroying your enemy only leads to emerging of new enemy which can be worse than current situation. Keep the balance or learn to dance to the tune is philosophical answer.

    You might not like black people. But politically black people are your ally for your own safety. Learn to like the people you do not like. Respect people in their own nature state. If they are born trouble maker, do not try to change them. You are fighting against nature.

    Reply
  • May 24, 2015 at 8:29 am
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    @IC
    I am no longer sure what you are trying to say. I have explained myself to you without providing a long drawn out explanation. Human beings are uniquely gifted with the ability to transcend the self, and work cooperatively for the common good. Perhaps I am more idealistic, but I believe that there were Jews who understood the nature of oppression, and worked hard to make a difference to benefit not just Black people but everyone. They understood that a society goverened by racism ultimately benefits no one. It is not the natural state of Black people or anyone to be troublesome. I wish that I could respond to you on a more in-depth level, but I am unable to. For now I would encourage you to read the following books:
    Before The Mayflower by Lerone Bennett
    The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B Dubois
    The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
    Some Google searches I’d recommend are:
    Red Summer of 1919
    Jim Crow
    Civil Rights Movement
    Black inventions
    Black Inventors
    Historically Black Colleges
    Hopefully, this will help you to understand better who African Americans are and the contributions they have made and continue to make to American society. Another useful Google search is a video by a man who calls himself Dixie Honkey he explains where the fear and distain of “those troublesome Blacks” really stems from. I think I have said enough here, and in honoring this blog which is dedicated to AMWF relationships I am going to end here.

    Reply
    • June 1, 2015 at 11:23 pm
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      D-Maybe, I’m always glad you’re sharing your thoughts here and I appreciate your voice on the blog. That said, referring to black Americans as having a “troublesome nature” comes across as racist. Even if there’s an entire article that allegedly backs your assertion up.

      One of the things I hope this blog can accomplish is to make people think differently about AMWF relationships and to bust stereotypes about Asian men. I also hope in the process, we can all find ways to transcend ourselves and think about how we can empower people of all colors, backgrounds and even sexual orientations.

      Reply
      • June 2, 2015 at 9:31 am
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        Jocelyn, did you actually read the article I linked? My point was that black Americans are NOT troublesome by nature (note the use of scare quotes, too).

        Reply
        • June 2, 2015 at 5:34 pm
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          Oh, sorry, I didn’t realize that you were making the point that black Americans are NOT troublesome! I am so embarrassed. Please accept my apologies.

          I scanned through the article but obviously I didn’t read it clearly enough. My bad.

          Reply
          • June 3, 2015 at 10:10 am
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            No worries.

  • May 26, 2015 at 8:01 am
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    Like right from a scene of Serial (Bad) Weddings.

    Reply
  • May 28, 2015 at 4:57 pm
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    Thanks all for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I should say that while it’s sometimes useful to use race as a proxy for people, it’s not a fixed thing. There is no biological distinction of races. There’s a fascinating book called “When the Irish Became White” on the subject and another called “White,” in the critical race theory camp on “whiteness studies”. Here’s my minor contribution to that conversation…
    https://bigasianpackage.wordpress.com/2015/04/16/race-exists-only-because-of-our-need-to-be-racist/

    Reply
  • June 13, 2015 at 3:11 am
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    Sorry I was on vacation for 4 weeks!! I missed out alot here.

    D-maybe, I’ve traveled to many countries and other states . I know the problems in America and the problems in Black communities. You really need a man in the home and the willingness to hold the family together. Family values and education will free you from troubles.

    Reply
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  • October 9, 2015 at 1:35 am
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    The real trouble is in Africa. The social system, the corruption, the low level of education, the wars and the environment. The thinking of a lot of black people are not focus on what they can do to make a change in their society for the future good, instead, a lot of them are focus on how to gain the most out of the present! This is a culture and historical problem!

    A lots of help are need in that continent but as they say “freedom is not free” and help often came with a cost as well!

    And the worse thing is there are still many of them are ‘WAITING’ for help or even making themselve suffer instead of start do something to help themselves.

    I always think that the reason that China is developing so fast is because the people in China did not wait for help, instead, they are actively trying to work on things and solve problems even there is no help available!

    Reply
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