Being Hapa has been a transformative experience for me. As a child I was told or asked the following on a daily basis:
“Well you don’t look Asian.”
“Have you been to China?”
“Do you speak Chinese?”
“Your last name doesn’t sound Chinese.”
As trivial as these comments or questions may be, they take a toll on you after a while. Looking back I realize I became ashamed of who I was. When people asked “what” I was, I didn’t want to tell them I was a mix of Chinese, German, and Scottish.
I didn’t want to hear the same things over and over again. I didn’t want to explain that Cantonese was my first language, but I lost it at a young age when my Goong Goong (grandfather) died. I didn’t want to explain that I haven’t been to China, but my Pau Pau (grandmother) raised me to be knowledgeable of Chinese culture and its traditions.
I didn’t want to explain that my name didn’t sound Chinese because it’s a Scottish surname. I didn’t want to explain all of these things because explaining them made me question my identity, or lack thereof. Belonging to three ethnicities and feeling like an outsider in all of them can really have a negative effect on a person.
I reached my 20’s and began searching for who I was, and I had to start at my roots. I began doing research on my heritage and saw a depth to my identity I hadn’t realized previously.
I realized that I belong to three worlds. I fully belong in each of these cultures. I was raised with Chinese traditions but that doesn’t discredit my German and Scottish heritage. I may not look like I “belong” to any of these ethnicities, but I belong to all of them. My features show it on the outside and it emanates from my heart and soul on the inside.
Although I still struggle with a sense of belonging and a lack of identity at times, I try to be cognizant of this and remind myself of the following:
I am not part Chinese.
I am not part German.
I am not part Scottish.
I am Chinese.
I am German.
I am Scottish.
I am Hapa.