My name is Elham (Arabic for “inspiration”) and I am half Filipina and half Bahraini. I am also mixed with Egyptian and Cuban. I was born in Bahrain (a tiny country near Kuwait), but I grew up living between the Philippines, Bahrain and the US. I will be moving to New York this summer and I can’t wait to experience this melting pot!
I’ve always been proud of being multicultural and multiracial. The world with its rich cultures and languages moves in me.
I’ve definitely faced situations when I was younger where people discriminated against me because I’m Hapa. There was stigma growing up in the Gulf where Filipinas were seen as maids who would immigrate to middle eastern countries only to marry Arab men.
I’ve gotten the usual, “you are not really one of us.” People have told me that I was adopted, and some even bluntly told me that I’m not Arab or Asian enough to be friends with them. I’ve also conducted business meetings where people would be discussing my background, not realizing I could understand them. (Good thing I speak 4 languages fluently: Arabic, Tagalog, English and French. I also understand Spanish).
I face these situations with grace and take any challenges that arise from my heritage as an opportunity to educate others about issues of race. I try to move conversation that start with “What are you?” to “Who are you?”