Watching “Crazy Rich Asians” evoked such a sadness, in me, that I couldn’t get passed even with the Disney fairy tale ending. I, personally, would’ve loved to see Rachel walk away from it all and the ending carry a more realistic premise. Some immigrant Auntie’s are not that easily swayed and are too prideful to actually look outside of culture and tradition. I, too, have been Rachel.
Although birthed Black American, I and many people that I know have experienced the upturned nose due to what some assume they know about what it is to be American.
In the movie, Rachel sits with her boyfriends mother (Eleanor) for a game of Mahjong. During the game, the mother tells Rachel that she is not of
“their kind” due to being American born. Even though Rachel is also Chinese, she is seen as lesser because she is far removed from the culture. My heart sank. It sank because I was always seen as an outcast, but in my own home, much like her. There was a time that I had been interested in a guy from Ghana. The idea that he was a foreigner or spoke a different language or had different cultural nuances is what intrigued me. I always thought it was cool to learn new languages, try new food and immerse myself in the world. Having lived in 4 countries, it is something I’ve learned to do very well.
At some point, he was interested enough in me to tell his mother and siblings. He wanted the mother to meet me because he was smitten and thought the next step could be marriage. I wasn’t nervous because my parents taught me manners and respect and I was prepared. I was excited because I was also taught that me being Black linked me to the rest of the world. Unfortunately, his mother did not see it that way. She told him that if he were to continue dealing with me, she and the rest of his family would disown him. He would be on his own.
I thought that this was quite absurd and outlandish. I just didn’t get it.
Unlike Rachel, the mother had never met me. She knew nothing about my family or upbringing or what I truly valued in life. The only thing she knew, as told by her son, was that I was Black. The interesting part of it is that I was always taught to believe that my blackness was a strength. I was molded and groomed into being proud of where that blackness came from. But, I was also confused at what the mother misconstrued about my Black American identity. However, I was not naive in knowing the stereotypes that white supremacy has spread about us, worldwide. But Auntie needed a fucking clue!
I didn’t understand that if she felt so much love for her culture, which apparently was much different and better than mine, why did she raise her children in my country? The disdain that she had of me being Black American did not seem to be enough for her to make sure her children got an American education, spoke with an American accent or indoctrinated American culture. I thought that if the idea of her son marrying an American girl repulsed her so much, what the hell did she come there for? Did she believe she would raise her son in one of the biggest melting pots, in the world, and that at no point he’d have an interest in a girl who wasn’t Ghanaian?
While watching Crazy Rich Asians, Auntie Eleanor made another statement that speaks of a lot of immigrant Auntie mentalities. She said to Rachel,
“we know how to build things that last, something you know nothing about!” Well Auntie, that’s where you’re dead wrong. Unfortunately, this has hit close to home with many people that I know, including members of my own family. So, let me fill Auntie in on what America is and what truly makes it great! Yes, I am American and I do not come from parents, or grandparents, or great-grandparents of immigrants. My bloodline in America is very deep and that is something I am very proud to represent.
The formulation of what is known as “America”, today, was built by the blood, sweat, and tears of indigenous people and chattel African slaves.
Without the work of my lineage, you would have nowhere to send your children in the hopes of living the ultimate “dream”. Without the sacrifices of people who were mentally, sexually, and physically abused, even to present-day, you would have nowhere to come and build your businesses or create a life for yourself and children that we are not even afforded. The healthcare and medical advances that are as a result of the experimentation of black bodies without their consent or use of proper anesthetic, you can thank us for!
No, Black Wall Street didn’t last. No, the Civil Rights Movement didn’t last. Yes, we have lost some of the greatest pioneers, businesses and communities to advance our people, as a whole. But, do you know what has lasted? Our resilience has lasted. We have endured everything that has been thrown at us and still have the fight to go after our dreams and desires. Our hope has lasted. Through it all, we never give up on who we are and why we are who we are. Our faith has lasted. Our belief in something greater has kept us constantly striving to push forward, through adversity. No matter what has been done to tear us, our communities, or our families down, we are progressive, pick up the pieces and rebuild.
Maybe where you’re from those aren’t great qualities to have in your bloodline. Maybe where you’re from those aren’t things to be revered and commended. Maybe it’s more important that the dumplings or jollof rice are properly crafted, as opposed to creating generations that can reshape the ignorance in the world. I can learn to speak a different language or make tea, but what it is to be American is inherited through greatness far more important than simply setting the table. We are the table. You can choose to have a seat or get back on the plane to where you’re most comfortable!