The first time I was in China, I became one of her lost girls. As I was taken from my birth mother’s arms and placed at a nearby train station, I became a statistic ― another baby uprooted by the country’s one-child policy. At 11 months old, I was plucked from China’s embrace and placed into that of my parents. My roots began to grow in the soil of a different land.
When I was old enough to comprehend the gravity of my truth, my parents sat me down and told me that I had been adopted from China. This supposed revelation did not alter the trajectory of my life as my parents feared it might. It was fairly easy, even as a child, to recognize that I did not look like those around me, especially my parents. In fact, I found it quite awesome to be different ― to have come from a country so rich with history and culture.
However, the reality of living in a town with a predominantly white population is that many of its residents ostracize anyone who is different. I tried desperately to fit in with the other kids, but it became clear early on that despite my parents’ whiteness, my Chineseness would always make me an outsider.
Growing up, I listened as friends discussed which parent they resembled the most, and I grappled with the guilt that came with wishing I could participate in those discussions. I laughed along with others as they asked me to talk to them in “my language” and proceeded to speak gibberish in a way that was supposed to imitate Mandarin. For years, I didn’t know how to feel, or if my feelings were even valid. I didn’t realize that these seemingly small acts of aggression were racist and that they would grow into hatred in the future.