Growing Up Hapa

“You’re not white, you’re Asian!”

“You can’t be Asian you look white.”

“She is so fake, pretending she is into Asian culture like that.”

This is a sum up of my childhood. This is the darker realities of living and growing up Hapa. It almost disgusts me how we’re glamorized and thought of as these extremely blessed beings who seemingly have the best of both worlds. That’s a shallow way of looking at it because the sad truth is for me, it has only began to become acceptable to be so many things.

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Growing up here in the Bay Area, it was only truly acceptable to be one race. That race had to be an option you could checkmark in official government documents when asked what ethnicity you are.

Sorry guys, I’m going to make fetch happen by using Mean Girls to explain this. Remember the scene where Janis Ian (not a dyke, btw) explained the social hierarchy that existed in the cafeteria? Remember, we had the cool Asians, the cool blacks, the testosterone-filled seemingly only white sports team, and of course, at the top of the pyramid were the white girls. One of them couldn’t seem to believe that a white girl could be from Africa.

In high school, most of my classmates were one race. There was no one I could talk to or be in a clique with. I simply did not belong. Let’s get real, if you’re Hapa where exactly would you be in the Mean Girls’ Cafeteria? The answer is the bathroom, where Cady Heron the white girl from Africa had to go. Back then, Hapa wasn’t a thing, but oh how times have changed.

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Today, it means you are essentially an extremely cool genetically blessed human being. Luckily for me, when that became a thing my looks had just decided to waltz in and I was suddenly socially acceptable. I was seen as something so original and different, but that interest in me was total bullshit.

I got questions such as, “You’re so lucky you’re in the culture filled with hot men like Fahrenheit, can you get me one?” or “So you’re British, do you know *insert some British slang term I do not know*”

Back then, I would tell people to go to Taiwan if they wanted a guy. As for the slang question, I would use a funny word like hob knocker from iCarly. I pray to all the gods they knew I was just playing them. Just to further illustrate how annoying it got, the amount of British obsessed lovers would attempt to talk to me and befriend me solely because I am British. In their heads, it was to further prove their theory that all things British are amazing.

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I remember an incident when I was 12 where my Taiwanese grandparents let me meet an aunt for the first time. To sum it up, the moment she laid eyes on me she told me I was fat because I wasn’t thin in Asian standards. I was ugly because I looked white and I didn’t speak our native language. Essentially, she was insulting my mom for teaching us how to be useless white people. It was safe to say I cried like no tomorrow and as expected of my grandparents, they didn’t even try to deny it nor defend me. Instead, they brushed it off.

The sad perk of being part Asian in a hardcore Asian family is that you don’t have to look full on Asian. As long as you resemble a pretty white girl, it’s fine. That’s how you avoid the bullying I received from my family. Sadly, I didn’t look like that until my teenage years where I pulled a Laney from She’s All That. I chopped my hair, dyed it blonde, and got contact lenses. It’s the sad truth that I was only accepted in the family because I was a pretty white girl to them.

As for the British side, I suffered a huge disconnect with them because my upbringing was so divided. I spent a huge amount of time being with my Asian side and even though they did reject me, it didn’t stop me from picking up the tendencies from my Taiwanese culture.

I do admit, my British grandparents did hold back from certain remarks but at the same time, we were disconnected. So many times, my grandma would stare at my brother and me, baffled at the things we do or even the specific food we would ask for. At some points, my grandma had told my mom that the table manners my Asian grandparents had taught me or the way we went about things were inappropriate for us.

It created a huge confusion within me because what I was taught within my Asian culture was not allowed in my British heritage. I went back and forth between both worlds with neither really accepting me.

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There are its perks, though, you tend to be more socially accepting and you can eat some really good food. Being of a mixed heritage, you realize that the world isn’t as accepting as it seems. People pride themselves in being accepting but does that mean they understand?

There are layers and layers to cultures within a person. Your heritage makes up a huge chunk of who you are and your beliefs. Sadly, most people only look to the stereotypes. Being Hapa, I found myself more or less misunderstood at every corner, because I had to blend my two different heritages and decide what ideas or traits would make up who I am.

Being of a mixed heritage isn’t this golden ticket to being amazing or beautiful. It only means you have to work harder to carve your place in today’s society.


Allison Hill is a proud Hapa living in San Francisco. She blogs on the daily at Broke Hell. You can stalk her on Instagram here.

 

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2 thoughts on “Growing Up Hapa

  1. Extremely interesting from a point of view that isn’t mixed in terms of latina or black cultures like I am experiencing! Xoxo

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  2. yeah, you’re telling me — I’m half white and half Indian (parsi) — so parsi men don’t accept me then go and marry white chicks! Ugggggggggggggg. But I’m over 50 now and couldn’t give a f*ck! As for rest of humanity, it baffles me sometimes how insensitive and bigoted people can be!

    Like

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