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Hybrid Vigor

American Heritage DictionaryCite This Source

hybrid vigor
n. Increased vigor or other superior qualities arising from the crossbreeding of genetically different plants or animals. Also called heterosis.

In a recent discussion with an African-American friend, he made the comment that contrary to common understanding, black people have a great deal of ethnic diversity within them. Many American black people have Native American, Hispanic and white blood in them, but that phenotypically (to borrow a word from 7th grade biology), they are still black. They are still treated black and accepted into black culture, well, because they look black.

Are children of Asians mixed with other races still considered Asian?

In my experience, the answer in the immigrant church is “no”. The homogenity of the motherland causes a great number of immigrants to consciously or unconsciously discount their inheritance besides physical ethnic features. Children to “army wives” are simply left to figure it out themselves in terms of who they are, but in reality, they take the form of who many 2nd generation feel as though we are inside. My only advantage (or perhaps, disadvantage) — I still look Korean.

The problem bothers me more when I realize that my own child (none yet, negotiations are heating up however) will not be of full Korean descent nor of full South Indian descent. While my wife and I have had conversations that perhaps the mixing of our genes will result in hybrid vigor, the biological phenomenon that the mixing of our genes might strengthen our own weaknesses, we worry about what our child may miss out on. Instead of inheriting the best of both worlds, we are afraid that our child might miss out on both.

It saddens me that ethnic church would persist without addressing the fact that we have something to contribute to those who have lost that sense of identity, that sense of motherland, as opposed to mother’s land. In the many ethnic churches I have grown up in, these hybrids, do not return to ethnic church, they aren’t welcome and they don’t need to return. They are strangers often in their own homes, where they neither fit in quite comfortably with one parent or the other, that is unless they are black of course. Because black is black, but Asian, well, I’m still wondering what Asian is and is to be.


About David Park

Christian 2nd-generation Korean American; Atlanta Georgia; more details to come.

8 responses to “Hybrid Vigor

  1. John Lee

    “Are children of Asians mixed with other races still considered Asian?”

    Black + Indonesian = Black (Tiger Woods)

    Black + Korean = Black (Hines Ward)

    Black + White = multi-faceted, cultural, cool (Derek Jeter).

  2. djchuang

    Part of the racial history in America dictated what is black with that “one-drop rule”, cf.

    In the South it became known as the “one-drop rule,” meaning that a single drop of “black blood” makes a person a black. It is also known as the “one black ancestor rule,” some courts have called it the “traceable amount rule,” and anthropologists call it the “hypo-descent rule,” meaning that racially mixed persons are assigned the status of the subordinate group.

    And, at seminary, where one is supposed to get theologically enlightened, I remember a brief conversation with a Korean seminarian, who was dictating a “one drop rule” about how a person who was not 100% Korean was no longer Korean.

    It’d be remarkable if churches, be they ethnic churches, or mainstream churches, actually would live out the exhortation throughout Scriptures, both OT and NT, to actually welcome the strangers and aliens in the land.

  3. Great insight DJ. That is what I long to see and become.
    As for the reverse one-drop rule that you heard from the Korean seminarian, I beliieve that’s the first time I’d heard it explicitly said that way, but implicitly I’ve seen it in our communities.

    My concern then, is not only that we have racist tendencies, but even among those who are half our race, they are not deemed one of us. Our exclusivism has not diminished as a result of our faith, which grieves me even more.

  4. elderj

    These are phenomenally insightful comments DP. I would add that for Blacks, particularly in the post-civil rights era, living in and accepting one’s “Blackness” is a choice and people like Tiger Woods and Mariah Carey who are biracial and who have chosen to downplay their Black heritage somewhat are controversial. There is a sense in which they have betrayed “Black” by opting out of the struggle. It is a touchy thing in the Black community because back in the day all of us would have been, “on the back of the bus” so to speak.

    Because Blacks are mixed race mostly, there is a very expansive definition of being Black that actually goes beyond phenotype since some Blacks could easily pass for white or Latino.

    The Black church has played a key role in inculturating people into “Blackness” even those who might be mixed race or otherwise. From what you say the Asian church seems to do the opposite by somewhat exculturating people so to speak.

  5. ElderJ, an interesting tangent to your comment is that we are gravitating towards identifying ourselves with what we do, not what we look like. We are in essence, defying what we cannot control with what we can.

    Tiger Woods for instance does not want to draw on the fact that he is Black and Indonesian (as John Lee points out) playing a white man’s game. He’s just a golfer. The rest is irrelevant to him, and so he implies, it should be with all of us.

    Mariah Carey is a biracial singer. She doesn’t see that playing into the fact that she’s singing R&B music. She is saying, “Look at me for what I do, not who I am”.

    Many Asians have a similar mentality, partly because success, as defined in American economic terms, is productivity-driven. In short, it’s the mentality that Dave Chapelle has when he screams, “I’m rich, b!@#~!”

    It’s not “I’m black and I’m proud” any longer. That’s the real shame in it. Those who are racially mixed, inherently have to draw their identity from an “objective” third opinion that seems to transcend cultural norms — money.

  6. elderj

    Which is the quintessentially American thing to do and is, in my mind, a rejection of God’s confirming hand in shaping our identities, cultures, etc. The love of money is the root of all evil and I would say the evil that comes from this love of money is a denial of who God made us to be and a rejection of “our people” which we know frm scripture is critically important to God since the whole Bible is dealt with in the comtext of community, family, & nation (ethnos)

  7. tj ⋅

    you know, when i first moved to seattle and met some of the first half-koreans at my new church(i didn’t know any before that because i lived in champaign, Illinois), it was a bit of a shock.
    what i found though was that many of them WERE accepted within the koram immigrant church. now obviously i can’t assume and say that what i notice can go for all mixed korean kids in the church since i’m not one of them, but generally there was no “outing” of the mixed kids, regardless of if they attempted to pass or cover at other social settings(example, julie, who is half-korean, half-white and at school blending in the white crowd)
    perhaps it is because we are in close proximity to fort lewis and we have more interracial army families in our church than others but as far as i can tell i haven’t seen overt discrimination within my church.
    there is a theory that the communities won’t “out” mixed kids because of the sensitivity knowing that mixed kids already need to deal with enough without being discounted by the full blooded community.

    passing (in which the underlying identity is retained but masked), and covering (in which the underlying identity is retained and disclosed, but made easy for others to disattend)

  8. TJ, great comment. I actually have noticed the same in army towns, such as Clarksville, TN and Jacksonville, FL (two places where I’ve lived) where the numbers of mixed couples seems to be greater.

    My wife mentioned this the other day, and although she’s no sociologist, she thinks that there is a “critical mass” at which the ethnic population reaches before it takes on exclusive and “clumping” characteristics (obviously, I’m no sociologist either). So perhaps, the “outing” doesn’t occur in those places where ethnic solidarity would be threatened, but it does happen when marginalization doesn’t hurt the social fabric, at which the cost of fragmenting isn’t as high for the group as a whole,in larger metropolitan areas with fewer (or less visible) mixed children.

    I would agree with you that although there might consciously be a sensitivity that “mixed” kids have enough to deal with, I would also contend that the mixed couples that make those mixed kids are already seen as “borderline” Asian, consciously or subconsciously – thereforme making any kind of “outing” a little bit easier. For instance, I’ve been told that the fact that I’m married to an Indian-American may hurt my chances of being a big-time pastor at a Korean church, something that I never had once thought of aspiring to, but now that it’s been so presented that I couldn’t somewhat irks me. I realize that people can acknowledge that a problem exists, but would not acknowledge that their own behavior contributes directly to the problem, thus perpetuating it and implicitly denying to resolve it.

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