This story is one of three stories about mixed race experience, each told by a different member of the Black-Chinese American Malone Family. We encourage you to listen to the short audio pieces, each roughly 3-4 minutes long.
My father’s words ring in my ears as I close the bedroom window to block the sirens noise of police cars and ambulances which often compete with the neighborhood shouting matches.
“Think clearly, little Wei, about your future. You haven’t finished college and he’s going to the seminary. How will you survive and where will you live? What happens if you have a baby?”
“Dad, I’ll continue school after we get married. We’ll find part time jobs. Don’t worry, Dad, we love each other and things will work out!” Unfortunately, my father’s concern is right, at least for the first several years of our marriage.
After 2 years of marriage, instead of starting my junior year at UC Berkeley, I become a mom and live with constant fear in a poor, predominately-black neighborhood. Cars with squeaky tires zoom by. People drink in broad daylight and sell drugs on the corner. This environment is completely different from the neighborhood where I grew up.
The door knock quickly interrupts my thoughts. It’s Mrs. Wong, here to see our new born baby. She quickly shuts the door behind her and says, “You need to be careful. Don’t you know you live in a dangerous neighborhood?”
She continues. “When my husband and I arrived in the USA with our three young boys, we were told to stay away from the black neighborhood. Don’t you know you’re putting your life at risk?”
Quietly I say to Mrs. Wong, “My husband is black.” Her mouth half-opens; her eyes widen with disbelief. Before she can say a word, my husband comes into the living room with our baby. He greets her with a smile and asks her to please sit down. Mrs. Wong manages to say, “Nice to meet you too. You have a beautiful baby.” She has never seen a Black Chinese baby before. Later, she holds the baby and chats with us for a while.
As time goes by, our two families continue to be part of each other’s life even after I was no longer her sons’ tutor. Later, when her youngest son gets married, the Wong family invites us to the wedding. My husband is the only black guest -- and the tallest one too. Yet, he feels very welcome during the joyful event. How I wish my father could have been at our wedding.
Eventually I finish college, have a good job, with my father’s help, our growing family has moved to a better environment that is very similar to where I grew up. Yet, my father comes to visit us only once and sees our children only when I take them home, which isn’t often.
It’s not till my father has passed away 4 years ago, I find all the photos of our children he has kept nicely in his study: photos from baby to adult, photos of our family vacation, father’s day and birthday cards, letters and gifts from us. I realize that my father has loved us from a distance but sadly it has cost him to miss many important events of our life!
Our marriage of 41 years in many ways has served as a bridge between Blacks and Asians. Some hesitated to cross that bridge. Others, like Mrs. Wong, despite their fear, said, “It’s nice to meet you…,” building friendship with people from the other side of the bridge.