Friday, January 29, 2016

Classical music and Asian-American adoptees

Reading this essay by Kay Garlick-Ott, "The Truth About Growing Up As An Adopted Chinese Girl In White, American Culture: Walking the in-between,"  rang a few bells for me, particularly the reminiscences of what it's like to be involved in classical music as an adopted Asian kid. Classical music was the first place I ever felt like part of the racial majority in anything. I don't think it ever gave me quite the sense of discomfort or rejection that Garlick-Ott writes about—I was more likely to laugh or make jokes about it myself. But I do remember occasionally wondering at competitions if I was being perceived as "just another Asian kid," as many a young Asian musician has. I was always more of a contemplator than a technician, but I think I shied away from even wanting to play the big flashy Liszt pieces and the like because I didn't want to be technically accomplished in the stereotypical way. (Not that I actually had the technique to play them even if I'd tried, but that's a different story.)

I think I've always felt more at ease with my race, ethnicity, and mix of European and Asian heritage than Garlick-Ott seems to have been. And as I've read more writing by interracial adoptees, many of it quite anguished, I've wondered why this is the case. I'll write more about this on a different occasion, but I think I had the good fortune to encounter very little racism, whether overt or latent, at any point in my life—and it just never felt like a determining factor in anything I did, even when it was something I contemplated at the edges, like in the case of classical music. With only one exception, I never felt discriminated against, and I certainly never felt oppressed. Those are the conditions that we should aspire to create for everyone, of course. And those of us who feel like we avoided feelings of discrimination, oppression, or alienation actually feel (or should feel) a strong compulsion to create those for others. The question is why, given certain similar experiences, some people experience those ills much more strongly than others; and that is a long-term project to work on. 

No comments:

Post a Comment