The Washington Chinese Youth Club’s men’s A team, in black, competes in a Chinese volleyball tournament in New York City in July. They are playing a faster, rougher version of volleyball called 9-man, which originated in Taishan, China, and has unusual rules that encourage violent dunks and quintuple blocks. From left, David Li, Mat Moy, Shawn Swierdsiol, Kenny Lam, Patrick “2E” Chin. On sidelines, John Chin, father of Patrick, wearing blue shirt and hat, and Willy Li (No. 15)
My 15-year-old daughter had a warning for me. “You know, Mom,” she said, “you’ll probably be the only white person there.”
It was July 2012, and we were headed to our first “Chinese volleyball” tournament, in New York City. I didn’t know what to expect. In fact, I wasn’t sure we should be going at all.
When one of her high school volleyball teammates recruited Sara to play in a Chinese volleyball league, my immediate reaction was that the whole concept was racist. Only Asian or part-Asian people could play, I was told, and two-thirds of the players on the court at any time had to be “100 percent Chinese.” Those rules meant that Sara — whose ethnicity is half Chinese, half Eastern European with a sprinkling of English — could be on the court with only one other player of mixed ethnicity. This ridiculous level of racial parsing was not for our Chinese-Jewish family, I thought. Why would people whose forebears had been shut out of opportunity accept limited opportunity from members of their own community? And why join an organization that denied that opportunity to others?