I’m both American and Filipino.
Growing up I never thought of being Hapa as its own unique identity for I embraced my Asian side.
Well, that’s what I perceived everyone identified me as (which would apparently be Chinese). I also had a very strict Asian parent that loved to remind me if I acted too American.
My childhood was spent in a conservative, very caucasian 90s Orange County, California. Almost everyone was white at school. I was spit on, got the racial slurs and remarks for being in the minority by my peers and even some parents, and this only solidified my belief in identifying with Asians.
I felt alone, though this didn’t hinder me from having friends of any ethnicity.
I also went to the Philippines every summer as a kid and it was the polar opposite.
My classmates noted that I was generally bigger and lighter-skinned, and it didn’t help not being issued the standard uniform. The kids were friendly; I simply felt different in any country. There wasn’t anyone to really identify with.
Nobody on TV that looked like me either (well, the Philippines might’ve been an exception).
High school in Las Vegas was a more multi-cultured experience. There were over 4,000 kids divided into the stereotypical groups. The Asian groups never accepted me, some stating I was “too white,” “banana,” or “twinkie.”
This felt unfortunate because I couldn’t share my experience of living in the Philippines — something third culture kids yearn to share with each other. I later found out that those groups were mostly Filipino Americans that have never set foot in the archipelago anyway.
My friends were other ethnicities once again, and I began to embrace my white side, but despite that I loved the Japanese anime subculture and was still considered the “token-asian” among my friends — the unashamed geek that I am.
Something I think most of us Hapas share in common is the questions from random strangers regarding what we are. It can get tedious in American high schools. Many students that don’t mean to come across as racists make blatantly racist statements in these conversations, simply out of ignorance. I hope we learn better etiquette appropriate to these matters in time.
It was after high school that I began to embrace being mixed. It’s a fortunate thing. We tend to get along and empathize easily with a more diverse group of people. Our multi-racial identity forces us to adapt to many different cultures and remain open-minded. Anyone can choose to be this way, but as a Hapa you simply have to.
Nowadays I love promoting Filipino culture and being part of the festivals of my ancestors. I go there to visit my family and college friends, sometimes staying for years at a time independently. I just as easily stay anywhere in the USA, meeting individuals from any country. I’m a citizen of the world, and I’m glad to be Hapa!
I also live in Orange County, but where I live and grew up in the 90’s it was mostly Hispanic and most people just assumed that’s what I was, even though I’m also half Asian/half White. Of course now in 2011 OC it’s super hapa-fied!
@Michael Thank you for sharing your story as well. I’m sorry to hear about how you were treated. I hope things are better now and you surround yourself with people that look beyond race and ethnicity. :)
Great story Dale. I went through the same stage when I was in my teenage year when I moved to a small town in Northern California. Pretty much everybody in town is Caucasian, maybe some Hisapanic and Native Americans. I was the only Asian kid in school, even though I’m half white. People see me as Asian with a fro. Student was very mean to me, they used to call me names, spit on me and threw rocks at me. If that wasn’t bad enough, my father (white guy) was racist towards Asian people and used to called me names and beat the living crap out of me.
I grew up around Coto De Caza in a 90s racist neighborhood too. Remember it vividly. Thanks for your story.