Q&A: What Does Being Multiracial, or “Hapa” Mean To Us?

Definition of Mixed Race: Denoting or relating to people whose parents or ancestors are from different ethnic backgrounds” (Oxford English dictionary).

“Hapa” stands for “half Asian, part American” or “half American, part Asian.”

Keiko is a first year Liberal Arts major at Colorado State University. She grew up on Oahu, Hawaii. She is a fourth-generation Japanese American, a song-writer, artist and unicycle rider.

Amanda is a fourth year Economics and Journalism double major at Colorado State University. She is from Los Angeles, California and identifies as Chinese, Filipino, and white. Amanda hopes to move back to LA one day to fully embrace her inner beach bum.

Q: What does being Mixed Race mean to you?

(Amanda): My family has a military background, so I lived in about 6 or 7 different places growing up. The majority of my childhood was spent in California, Colorado, and Alabama, and we lived mostly in predominantly white neighborhoods. It wasn’t until college that I consciously thought about and reflected upon what it means to be multiracial.

I identify as part Chinese, Filipino, and white; however, growing up I felt more strongly related to my white identity. I remember a point in time where I was started to reject my Asian identity because I felt like I didn’t completely fit in. I rejected going to Chinese school because learning the language was too difficult for me at the time and I hardly ever ate any Asian food because I was allergic to most of the key ingredients. I think this “rejection” is what led to a huge culture shock in high school, after moving to Torrance, California where my high school was about 80% Asian.

I think it was the transition between high school and college, moving from Torrance to Fort Collins, Colorado, where I began to truly understand what being multiracial means to me. I love Fort Collins and Colorado State University, but living back in an area where it’s predominantly white has made me miss aspects in California that helped me embrace my multiracial identity. Of course your identity can be shown and embraced anywhere you go, but there are some aspects about your peers, surroundings, and location, that make you feel comfortable about the way you act and present yourself.

Today I fully accept, love, and am proud of my multiracial identity. Working at the Asian Pacific American Cultural Center at CSU has allowed me to learn more about my identity, educate others, and surround myself with other individuals with similar identities.

(Keiko)For me, being “hapa” has always been a trivial fact of who I am; growing up in Hawaii meant that no one was the majority. The variety of faces, traditions, and foods all around me was my version of normal. On trips to the mainland (continental USA) I noticed the absence of this diversity. Yet it has not changed my identity.

Nowadays I am more conscious of being Japanese-American, as well as Caucasian. I never feel the need to add a hyphen and “American” to that identity, however. My partial white race retreats into the normalized backdrop of American society. Meanwhile, my “asianness” flags me as different, though not enough so to push me somewhere else. I rarely think of the physical traits that demarcate my ancestry, instead I have let my my interactions with the world become my sense of self.

In moving to Colorado, I have gained an appreciation for the richness of culture I grew up with. Although I do not feel completely a part of either the “Japanese group” or the “White group” on ethnicity surveys, I refuse to be explained fully as “other”. “Mixed Race” is a comfortable label, as is “hapa”. On good days, I notice my Japanese features and think of my mother’s family, hard-working and knowledgeable farmers and fishermen, and feel proud of that inheritance. On bad days, I feel less beautiful for those same physical differences.

Finding diversity has truly aided my continual self- acceptance. I work in one diversity office at CSU, and frequent another. By drawing on multiple identities, I seek an intersectional approach to being authentic. The task of belonging rather than “fitting in” is my perpetual objective.

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One Response to Q&A: What Does Being Multiracial, or “Hapa” Mean To Us?

  1. Sara Hayden says:

    “Working at the Asian Pacific American Cultural Center at CSU has allowed me to learn more about my identity, educate others, and surround myself with other individuals with similar identities.” It’s such a powerful experience to find a community! I’m so grateful to APACC and other groups like it for giving me that opportunity. “The task of belonging rather than “fitting in” is my perpetual objective.” I’ll carry that sentiment with me. Thank you for sharing your stories, Amanda and Keiko!

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