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hapa378My name is Alex. I am 19 years old and currently studying at San Francisco State University. My mom is Japanese and my dad is Italian, English, and Irish.

I was born and raised in California. Growing up, I took many visits to Japan where I spent the summer with relatives. It is because of these trips that I feel more connected to my Japanese heritage than I do to my European heritage.

It’s been a difficult journey to accept being Hapa. I always identified as more Japanese than caucasian but people always protested and said I look more white. This led to identity issues and I had a hard time figuring out who I was. It was difficult to identify with groups of people, which in turn hindered my ability to make friends. I wanted friends to accept who I am and not to tell me that I can never belong in any group since I am not “full blooded.” Many people also assumed what I was. I’ve been called Filipino, Mexican, and Samoan without even being asked. I felt offended that they characterized my heritage based on what I looked like.

But I’ve learned to love my mixed heritage. I get to experience traditions that my mom grew up with, like taking off my shoes before I enter the house and putting on house slippers. Most people I tell this to find this odd, but I grew up with it and I embrace it. I do celebrate some Japanese holidays, too. In Japanese culture, you’re viewed as a foreigner even if you’re half Japanese, so these holidays help me feel more connected to the Japanese people.

I also get to experience the Italian culture as my father is more Italian than English and Irish. This came with special perks like eating pasta and washing it down with wine (don’t call the cops on me).

Getting to experience many different cultures has helped spark a curiosity to explore other cultures outside of mine. Being Hapa is a blessing and I wouldn’t change my mixed heritage for just one as I love them all.

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