To those who are mixed, melded, and molded by a variety of races and cultures,
My name is HanLing Petredean, a name that inspires a paradoxical sense of isolation and increased connectivity. Presently a student at Harvard University, I’ve had the chance to break from my Californian roots and experience what it is to be Hapa on both coastlines. Raised by racially divergent yet emotionally compatible parents, I grew up in the sun and surf of California’s central coast.
My mother is Chinese, a native of the Jiangsu province, and was persuaded to move to the US after my American father met and eventually wooed her during his time in China. The two of them have inspired a respect for my Asian heritage quite unique to my predominantly Caucasian hometown.
Identity I believe, is enmeshed in personal identification, not necessarily confined to race nor heritage. In my eyes, the best aspect of being Hapa is the buffet-esque quality of our backgrounds. Think about it. We can essentially pick and choose the choicest qualities of our respective cultures. From China I have been gifted with the sport of Wushu, a form Chinese martial arts. From my “American” side, a love for individualistic expression and an appreciation for the diversity found rampant American society.
We Hapas essentially have access to a greater array of information, traditions, and history–all stemming from the smorgasbord that is our genetic makeup. Though I too find it difficult to cleanly identify with one nation, one culture, or one race, I believe this blurring of the lines serves solely to benefit. Think of the increased connectivity we possess. We function as veritable bridges between two or more cultures. Prejudice is diminished. Understanding is increased.
There are times in which I imagine if the US went to war against China. Where would I stand in a battle that pitted both my relatives against one another? As such, there are instances in which being Hapa is like standing in the middle of a tug-of-war, both sides of our heritages plucking and pulling our limbs in divergent manners. The solution is not to resist nor to identify with one particular side, but rather attempt to peacefully reconcile each opposing member.
Being Hapa means serving as a veritable amalgam. Our physical characteristics display our unique heritage as well as our individual identities. While at times I feel as if I straddle two divergent cultural plates, the benefits largely outweigh the discomforts. If identity is contingent upon personal identification, than I identify with what it means to be Hapa.