Editor’s Note: Earlier this month, new mom and business owner Michelle Worth became the focus of a controversial Instagram post praising the features of her “blonde blue-eyed baby,” adding “Well suck it people I have a white baby.” Many took the context of her post to be of a self-hating nature, outlining the “superiority” of Caucasian features over Asian ones. Worth didn’t expect the critical comments that followed, and while many also came to defend her right to be proud of her bi-racial baby, Worth also took it upon herself to address the controversy, set the record straight on her background and explain the real reason she is a proud new mom. Here is her exclusive response to NextShark:
I am a mompreneur. I run several businesses, and I post many pictures of myself working accompanied by my baby girl.
I recently posted what I thought was a cute picture and caption about the obvious visual differences between my daughter and me. I’m quite tanned for an Asian woman, and my mixed-race baby is very pale, even in comparison to her olive-skinned Caucasian dad. What happened next was a shock and an eye-opener of sorts in how a posting like this could be misinterpreted and cause a wave of what I like to call “digilanteism” in social media. To understand the absurdity of some of the accusations and even allegations of racism coming from complete strangers, let me begin by giving a bit of background about myself and my upbringing.
I was born in Toronto to parents of Indonesian-Chinese descent and moved to Jakarta when I was very young. We experienced the 1998 riots Jakarta, of which the city was torn apart by economic and political issues, resulted in many rioters targeting Chinese-ethnic residents. For our safety, my recently-divorced mom took us to start a new life in Singapore. When my American step-dad came into our lives, the concept of multi-culturalism was brought back onto the table to enrich our upbringing — and enrolled us into an International School. It was in this community where I developed my global identity. Many of my classmates were third-culture kids, expatriate kids, and kids from mixed marriages; everyone identified as global citizens. Race and roots were a badge worn with pride, and they were stuff we talk about openly everyday, even when discussing more sensitive issues; however, this is where what my parents taught me about mindfulness and respect comes in especially when discussing these topics. There is a line between mocking and joking, no matter how fine it is, so I’ve learned to take a pinch of salt with things now and then.
My post sparked a heated debate. It started as a thread on Reddit where many slammed my caption and called me a “non-White neo Nazi” and a self-hater, amongst many other things. Some even took to criticizing a tribute I wrote for my high school friend who had passed away a few months ago. The “digilantes” don’t even know me and surely didn’t know that I had dealt with racism myself. While I was studying fashion in Milan, I was commuting to school on my bike when I had been called a “piece of shit Chinese,” and was told to “get off the road and go back to Korea.” At the time, my Italian was already quite fluent, so I called them out and told them that the Chinese are from China and Koreans are from Korea. Caucasian “chavs” in London spat on my hair. In Hong Kong, I was told by a lady that I should speak Mandarin more than English because I am Chinese, seemingly not knowing or caring that not all ethnic Chinese live in a predominantly Mandarin-speaking community. The variety of racism I have experienced is wide, but none have turned me against my own race or other races. Instead, it inspired me to be stronger not just as an Asian, but as a person. If anything, I indulged myself in learning about my own culture and history. I am the complete opposite of a self-hater. I started my fashion label designing and making qi pao or cheongsams! It is a beautiful culture of dress that I want to share it with the world, and today proves to be my main business.
I was also accused of strategically seeking out a Caucasian man for the sole purpose of having white children. Seriously though?? I never had a racial preference when it came to dating, but I knew for sure he had to like my type of music, he had to like to travel, and he had to be accepted by my family — their approval was my approval. I had dated guys hailing from many parts of the world. For me, love is colorblind. I’m a total fangirl for both Chris Pratt and Aaron Kwok. However, it was most important that my future husband could adopt and respect my culture, as much as I would reciprocate with his culture.
When it comes to compatibility, above visual appearances, I would prioritize compatibility in spiritual beliefs, family values, and life goals. When my husband and I got engaged, my mom threw for us a traditional Chinese engagement and dowry ceremony, a practice where the groom’s side of the family presented trays of dowry to the bride. He also took the initiative to learn how to play mahjong properly so we could enjoy quality time with my grandparents and other older family members who aren’t so fluent in English (but love their mahjong!)
Last year we were blessed with the birth of our baby girl. She inherited, not surprisingly, features from us both — she has my almond-shaped eyes with my husband’s blue eyes. When I was pregnant, I mused how much of me and how much of my husband she would look like, and I hoped it would be an equal amount of both. When I wrote that I “always dreamed of having a blonde blue eyed baby,” the “digilantes” were quick to type-cast me as the Asian girl who would actively seek to couple with a Caucasian man. Let’s not deny that many mixed-race people are beautiful, but what appeals to me most is the ability to represent more than one culture at once, which contributes a great deal to a tolerant and multicultural society. However, I never made it my life’s work to produce mixed-race children. It was just pure coincidence that the person I fell in love with was a Caucasian man.
“Digilanteism” unfortunately has become part of the unexpected consequence of social media and the veil of anonymity it affords to those unwilling or not used to voicing their views in a public manner. Nonetheless, there are lessons to be learned about being too quick to criticize others without knowing the personal circumstances of those you are attacking. I have chosen to celebrate the colorful world I live in and make it an integral part of my life. I don’t question the choices of others but look to celebrate the positives. This doesn’t make me a better person, but it does make me perhaps different to those digilantes and certainly fulfills my role as a daughter, mother and wife.