It goes like this. As a boy I went through a phase in which a developing self-identity was important to me, and I was very fortunate to be able to identify with a long line of family going back to the early days of settlement in Australia. My identity was therefore positive and in no way confused.
I've therefore wondered at times about boys who can't so easily identify with a particular tradition. Does this affect their developing sense of self?
A short time ago I wrote a post on Andrew Bolt, a prominent journalist here in Australia. Bolt has described his own difficulties with identity this way:
I am the son of Dutch parents who came to Australia the year before I was born.
For a long time, I have felt like an outsider here, not least because my family moved around so very often.
Bolt tried at first to identify with his Dutch ancestry but then gave it all up in favour of a radical renunciation of any kind of ancestral tradition.
Note that Bolt had difficulties even though it is relatively easy for Dutch people to assimilate into the mainstream Australian tradition, given that the ethnicity is so closely related. So how much difficulty would a boy have who, say, had a white father and an Asian mother?
I'm sure that there are differences in how such boys respond to their situation. But some don't respond well. Here is one negative reaction:
Whats it like being Half-White and Half-Asian? Thats an important question for a changing America. With the flood of interracial relationships, and with mixed-race being the fastest growing race in America, there are going to be quite a few Hapa males around...
So what is it like? Humiliation, degradation, terror, fear, embarrassment, shame, self-hated, angst, debasement, sadness, hopelessness, pain, anger, rage, etc etc need I go on? You can’t imagine the internal conflict. The brutal civil war inside all Hapa males. The Hapa Paradox. We exist because Asian men are humiliated and emasculated, and yet we are Asian males. We are at war with ourselves from birth. The idea that an Asian man like me, is genetically 50% white, and carries ONLY the white-male Y chromosome. The Asian Y-chromosome is dead in me. Asian maleness is dead in me. I’m a Eunuch. I’m an Asian male inside a dead Asian male. That is what it means to be half-white, half-asian.
He has a belief that Asian women go for white men because they prefer white looks/genes to Asian ones and yet he himself, as an Asian looking man, is the very thing his mother rejected. That seems to be one source of his angst.
He goes on to complain about a lack of a clear identity, that young men like himself feel:
Homeless. Raceless. Strangers to strangers.
I don't know how representative he is of those in his position. But it does at least raise the issue that there are going to be a lot more young men who won't be able to form a positive sense of identity as easily as in a more traditional society.
As for my own son, I've already started to go through the family history with him. He's very interested, particularly in those relatives who served overseas in the army. I do believe that one role of fathers is to bring their sons into the larger tradition to which they belong. That not only means being the kind of father that sons would want to emulate, but also making sure that they have a positive sense of their family history, their national history and the larger Western cultural tradition.