“Chino-Chicano”: A Biblical Framework for Diversity (Part I)

“Chino-Chicano”: A Biblical Framework for Diversity (Part I)

Jesus for Revolutionaries: A Blog About Race, Social Justice, and Christianity

Robert Chao Romero, Associate Professor of Chicana/o Studies and Asian American Studies
University of California, Los Angeles

I’m a “Chino-Chicano.” I was born in East Los Angeles and raised in the small town of Hacienda Heights. My dad is an immigrant from Chihuahua, Mexico and my mom an immigrant from Hubei in central China. The Romeros lost their family fortune during the Mexican Revolution by siding with Pancho Villa, and eventually immigrated to El Paso, Texas. They moved to East Los Angeles in the 1950’s and we’ve been here in Southern California ever since. My mom’s family immigrated to Los Angeles from China via Hong Kong and Singapore in the 1950’s. My maternal grandfather, Calvin Chao, was a famous pastor in China who launched the first Chinese branch of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. The Chaos fled their native land because my grandfather was on a communist “hit list.” As an interesting side note, my Mom’s family traces directly back to the founding emperor of the Song Dynasty!

Growing up “mixed,” I had a lot of struggles with racial identity. I was very proud of my Mexican heritage, but at a young age got sent the message that being Chinese was a bad thing. On the first day of first grade a kid walked up to me, pretended to hold an imaginary refrigerator in his hands, and said, “Here’s a refrigerator, open it up. Here’s a coke, drink it. Me Chinese, me play joke, me do pee-pee in your Coke.” Kids are so mean.  I was so scarred by that event that I denied my Chinese heritage for the next 18 years.  Once I even remember telling a friend that my mom was our housekeeper because I was embarrassed that she came to pick me up from school…

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