After several years of casino visits, the mother felt too weak to continue. She passed away from late lung cancer.
Meanwhile, the child continued to attend university, prioritizing school above all else.
That was a version of my childhood story.
Of course, there are lots of questions like, “What do you identify as?” “Who are your parents?” Or more commonly, “Are you Chinese?”
The truth is, I don’t know. I kept my original birth certificates that say my biological parents are from the “People’s Republic of China.” But if you’re smart enough not to put words in my mouth, you’ll learn that my parents disappeared—one to Colorado, the other to Taiwan—and that “People’s Republic of China” is a useless indicator of my ethnicity. Better yet, it’s not even close to what I identify.
My mother’s passing continues to present new challenges. Often, I wonder if I should kill the Elsea name, given it’s nearly extinct. Or if I should just let the name die with me. This is what individualism looks like, folks. Having to be the one who ultimately decides whether a name survives past my generation. Being the only one in my family who understands that hard work is not the answer to everything. Being a person of color in White America who, without choice, carries the legacy of a white name that I either benefit from or not—I don’t know.
My heart is in my Samoan and Pacific Islander community, and over time, it became clear we are part of a resistance effort against White America. I aspired to fight with what I have for my community. Yet questions of my identity still ring, loud and clear.
I don’t even know which side I’m on. Is it possible to be colonized and to be a colonizer? Many times, I don’t trust myself.