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I am the very proud grandma to this beautiful little baby-Malia Grace. As you can see by this picture, Malia is a Hapa baby. Her mother is my daughter Katie and her father is my wonderful son in law Norm.

I am honored to be the full time caregiver of Malia and I recently had an experience that left me determined to make sure Malia knows who she is and is always proud of her mixed heritage.

Malia and I were out shopping when I approached the fitting room to try on some pants. This is the conversation that ensued:

Fitting room attendant: Is that your daughter?
Me: No-this is my grandaughter.
FRA: What is she? I mean she looks Chinese and you aren’t Chinese.
Me: Ummm…excuse me-
FRA: She’s like a mutt-you are going to have to tell her she is mixed.

At this point I left the store completely flustered. Now I am not some bitty little grandma; I recently graduated from UCLA with a double major in Political Science and Asian American Studies. I spent many hours in classes listening to these kinds of horror stories from mixed students and always vowed to try and make the world a better place where race is irrelevant. But even I, with my education, couldn’t find the words to express my feelings at that moment.

The good outcome of this is that I am more determined than ever to pursue my Masters Degree in Asian Am studies at UCLA next year. My sweet little Malia must grow up in a better world and I want her to have the strength to combat this kind of behavior from others. From now on-should this occur again-Malia will have her granny to help fight her battles!

malia2I have posted before on Hapa Voice about my experiences with my beautiful little grandaughter Malia and some of the reactions I get when I am out in public with her. Malia is half Filipino and half-well…alot of other things.

Recently she and her parents, (my daughter and son-in-law) were out to dinner. My daughter left the table to go to the restroom and a couple came to the table and in a joking manner, asked my son-in-law if Malia was speaking Chinese yet.

My son-in-law Norm is the kindest and most gentle man I know and I’m sure he good naturedly laughed it off, yet when my daughter told me about the incident I was bothered. I guess what bothers me is the assumption of many people that if someone has Asian features, it automatically means they are Chinese.

Many years ago I may have not thought this was a big deal, but after majoring in Asian American Studies at UCLA, I have become sensitive to Asian Am issues. The importance of recognizing the history and contributions of every ethnicity cannot be overlooked and when we lump all Asians into one ethnicity, we overlook their individual stories and struggles.

Norm, my son-in-law, was born in the Philippines, but came to the US as a baby. His father joined the US Navy and served the United States during Vietnam. His mom was in Hawaii with 5 small children managing the household while her husband was away, they made these sacrifices so that their children would be Americans and have the kind of lives that we take for granted.

I know that Malia is growing up in a world that is more progressive than the world was in the 1960’s, but I am still reminded of the prejudice and ignorance of some people when I hear comments made to her and about her. As her very proud Granny, I am also her protector and cheerleader.

My wish for the New Year is that Malia will never know the discrimination that her Lolo and Lola faced as they came to the US, and that she will always be judged not by her ethnicity, but by her nature. I am continuing my education so that I can speak out on her behalf and for all the other Hapa children. Malia is the result of the love between two people who may be of different backgrounds; she is proof that ethnicity, skin color, etc. are not as important as the love between individuals. As I like to say: Hapa children are mixed with love.

Happy New Year to all of you, I hope that 2011 brings tolerance, love, and understanding to all people.

5 thoughts on “Filipino, Mexican, Irish, French, Italian

  1. Malia is soooo adorable and beautiful! I too am a hapa girl : )
    I guess I have been fortunate to have been raised in Hawaii where most of the population is mixed because I never had to experience any sort of discrimination. Most people in Hawaii WANT to have hapa babies! Bring malia to Hawaii and she’ll feel right at home!

  2. High five G-ma! First and foremost, congratulations for continuing your education (even though i went to USC across town ha!). Unfortunately some people are just ignorant or absolutely lack tact. I agree with Michelle, I’d like to think I could also walk away but I dunno, there’s a chance that I would have had a field day or just said something equally as offensive back.

    The point is, it will be great for your granddaughter to see that her bi-racial and bi-cultural background is something to be celebrated and can be a source of strength. Also how great for your daughter and son-in-law to see that they have an elder family member who supports such a cause!

    Good parenting never goes out of style =)

    Cheers!

  3. I am proud of you Robin for just walking away, I probably would have had a few thousands words to say to the FRA. Malia has a great family to show her that there is alot of love in this world and to overcome the stuff that come out of some people. Malia not only has you to back her up, but the entire family. She is a love and the most beautiful little thing put on this earth.

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