ha•pa (hä’pä) adj. 1. Of mixed racial heritage with partial roots in Asian and/or Pacific Islander ancestry. n. 2. A person of such ancestry.

Hapa, literally “half” in Hawaiian, was originally used as a derogatory term to describe people of biracial ancestry. Today, many multiracial individuals of Asian or Pacific Islander descent have embraced the word as a term of prideful self-identification. Although some object to the term’s appropriation and perceived misuse outside of its traditional Hawaiian context, “Hapa” has been widely adopted by the Asian and Pacific Islander multiracial communities.

According to the 2010 Census, there are over 9 million people of multiracial heritage living in the United States. This number is expected to more than triple by 2060.

California, Texas, and New York have the largest multiracial populations in the US:

Map of the multiracial population distribution across the US

The largest multiple-race combinations in the U.S. are White and Black (1.8 million), White and Some Other Race (1.7 million), White and Asian (1.6 million), and White and American Indian and Alaska Native (1.4 million):

2010 census multiracial distribution

While many Hapas take pride in their ancestry, some find that their multiracial identity creates personal dilemmas and social challenges. Many of these issues are addressed in Maria Root’s 50 Experiences of Racially Mixed People, as well as her Bill of Rights for Racially Mixed People:

I have the right
to identify myself differently than strangers expect me to identify
to identify myself differently than how my parents identify me
to identify myself differently than how my brothers and sisters identify
to identify myself differently in different situations

I have the right
to create a vocabulary to communicate about being multiracial
to change my identity over my life time—and more than once
to have loyalties and identify with more than one group of people
to freely choose whom I befriend and love

I have the right
not to justify my existence in this world
not to keep the races separate within me
not to be responsible for people’s discomfort with my physical ambiguity
not to justify my ethnic legitimacy

Want to know more?

Did you know that these celebs are all Hapa?

Contact: hapavoice@gmail.com

5 thoughts on “What is Hapa?

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