I’ve been called Hapa my whole life and it has been a source of pride and problem for me.
Pride because most local people see my Asian heritage as something to connect to. Problem because there were more than a few Japanese kids who didn’t view me as Japanese. Haole (white) kids didn’t see me as Haole because I wasn’t. Not culturally. Not even heritage wise as I later found out.
I embraced my Japanese heritage fully but because my mother was adopted I didn’t know I was Jewish until she told me when I was dating a Jewish boy in college. Suddenly there was a huge space filled where there was just a void before. And things began to make sense. For example, I’m my mother’s little bubala. Her mother giving her up for adoption was a source of personal pain which is why I think she never told me my heritage.
I would say though that as far as culture goes I am local Hawaiian and Japanese. I go to Obon dances and wear a yukata. Both of my parents surf. I hunt pigs with a compound bow. I like to fish and scrap opihis off of rocks and eat them raw. I do hula. I am a supporter of Hawaiian sovereignty. I am passionate about Native Hawaiian rights.
I am also a member of the gothic culture which local Hawaiian culture has no particular opinion on except, “Tita! You look hot! Arn’t you hot?”
I would say that my biggest struggle is the frustration I feel when the media refuses to put someone like me in it. I had a barbie once called “Oriental Barbie” produced from Mattel and my dad was just proud that they had made an Asian barbie at all.
I’m moving to the south soon and I’ve already come to the startling realization of how “exotic” I must look to mainland people because in Hawai’i everyone is Hapa like me. It’s weird but hopefully they’ll move past it and just see me as me.