Hello, my name is Jace Barton. I am 19 years old and was born in Wichita, Kansas. My Oma, Virginia Astrid Davis, was born in Holland but moved to America with her family to better the lives of our family and future generations to come.
Growing up I was always teased at school for having squinty eyes, people would call me chink or ask me all the time if I was Asian; this put me into a shell and made me hate my face. Even in high school after the Asian jokes stopped, I was still being teased. I loved my culture and wanted to tell everyone what I was. Many people told me I was just a white American and that I need to stop pretending to be something I’m not, since I was born in America.
The story of my family is one that I will always cherish. My great Opa, Henricus Martinus Peeters, or Henk for short, was a retired sergeant major for the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army. My Oma was born and raised in Solo, Indonesia. She was the daughter of a Dutch-Indonesian mother and a Dutch father.
After the World War II was over, Indonesia gained its independence from Holland. My Oma, Hetty had to leave with her mother and sisters to live in Holland, a place unfamiliar to them. My great Opa had perished as a prisoner of war in a Japanese prison.
My Opa had been held for four years as a prisoner of war in a Japanese prison camp. He was sent home on the same ship as my Oma and her family. My Opa and Oma met and fell in love. They married and had two children while living in Holland for 7 years.
After much consideration, they decided to move to America and become citizens of the United States. Hours upon hours they worked to learn English and be the best parents they could be to their children: My Oma, Virginia, my Uncle Henk, and my two aunts, Anita and Tania.
My Oma and aunt Anita’s lives were changed drastically after coming to America. Going to school was hard for them, they were constantly teased for having dark skin and hair and for speaking Dutch. This prompted them to stop speaking Dutch and to be more American in their day to day lives. As more generations were made in our family, we lost the Dutch tongue in our households. While the heritage is not as apparent, it still resides. My aunt Tania always has hagelslag in her home, something I loved eating as a child and even to this day. My Oma and aunt Anita always love telling me stories of Holland and our heritage.
I know now that as a young adult it is my job and passion to bring our heritage even more so into the family: The language, the food, everything that makes us Indo’s who we are.
The past generations as well as the new may feel as though our heritage is dying, but not on my watch. I will always make sure people know what I am and where I come from, my family did not sacrifice their entirety to have their heritage forgotten and left to the books.
I was asked what it’s like growing up Indo, and while I may not have been raised in a complete Indo household, I still think that I am one of many amazing and diverse people who will not be forgotten and will thrive for many more generations. I am proud to be Indo.