Hi there! My name is Lauren and I was born and raised (and still reside) in the San Francisco Bay Area.
My mom is one of three to my late Portuguese-American grandfather and German grandmother (or Opa and Oma as I call them), while my dad is the the oldest of six to my Irish-American grandma and Filipino grandpa. My younger brothers and I are very mixed in that way.
I had a very European-influenced upbringing. Christmases and Easters would always involve German dishes and Hawaiian bread (that’s the closest we can find to actual Portuguese bread), there have been a couple of St. Patrick’s Days where my family and I would have actual Irish food, and when my brothers and I were little, we would receive schultüte (German for “school cones”) on the first day of school.
There was never really much infiltration from my Filipino side when I was growing up and it wasn’t until my teenage years when I learned more about the cultural aspects of that side of my heritage. In fact, I was in my college’s Pilipino Cultural Night performance this past spring.
I never thought much about coming from a mixed race family when I was a kid. To me, everything about my upbringing and physical appearance was very normal. I also grew up with friends from various backgrounds and walks of life which, again, I perceived as a very normal thing for an American girl. It wasn’t until junior high, high school, and even now that I receive a lot more questions about my ethnicity and race.
Don’t get me wrong, the Bay Area is undeniably one of the most diverse places in the United States, but even that hasn’t limited the number of times I’ve been asked “What are you?,” over the years. I’ve been mistaken as Japanese, Mexican, Native American, Middle Eastern, Chinese, Dominican, Colombian and Indian (yes, I’ve kept I list).
In my experience, I’ve noticed how not once has anyone thought, “Hey, maybe this girl is mixed.” I’ve also noticed how this question tends to come from people whom I just met or don’t know me well at all, which somewhat bothers me because I cannot help but assume that’s all they think about when they look at me.
I’ve never experienced discrimination of any sort thankfully, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been completely spared of racism of some sort. I got called a “whitewashed Indian girl” by someone on the Internet one time and when I was in high school, I got called a Nazi by a guy in one of my classes when he found out I am part German (even though my grandmother was just a teenage girl in Bavaria during World War II).
Despite the injustices though, I’ve never let these comments affect how I perceive myself. Just like how my late grandfather was, I’m a very stubborn person, and so I’ve always been resistant to peer pressure, societal norms and what not. I am who I am and not even the most racist comments aimed at me can change that.
I like being Hapa. I like the fact that I have ancestry tracing from not one, not two, but FOUR countries in the world. How often do people get to say that? A few years ago, I even had the opportunity to visit six countries in Europe — Germany being one of them — and when I stayed with a family there for a few days, I explained to them how I’m part German. That was completely unheard of to them, but they nonetheless were fascinated to learn about my mixed heritage.
America is known as a “melting pot” for a reason and so I hope that as we keep going forward, more and more people (such as all the lovely human beings who have featured on this website so far) can go about life without racial remarks and confusion to fit in a specific demographic. We’re Hapas, yes, but at the end of the day, we’re also human beings.