Hapas: The Other Half

By Hanna Inoue on October 21, 2012

San Francisco is a big melting pot of different cultures. You’ve got Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Koreans, Pakistanis, Afghans, Iraqis, Indians, and Jordanians, Italians, British, Scottish, Irish, and many other people with all kinds of cultural backgrounds. A lot of people in the Bay Area are not of direct descent and are actually of mixed-heritages.

In a multi-cultural place such as San Francisco, it’s common to meet Asian-Americans. I should know, since I’m one of them. Yet what defines Asian-Americans is not as simple as it seems.

There are Asian-Americans who were born in the United States, but are full-blooded [insert Asian race here]. Then there are interracial people who are half American and half Asian by blood. The two are not the same, yet they are both termed Asian-American.

Growing up as a mixed-heritage person has shown me the way people need to judge those who are different. When I visit Japan, most Japanese people call me white. When I’m in the United States, people call me Asian. People judge me solely on my appearance, and I have wrongly been judged as Chinese, Hawaiian, and even American Indian on one occasion.

On a website such as hapavoice.com, however, it is apparent that I am not the only one being accused of being the wrong race. Hapa is a Hawaiian word that means ‘half’ that is used to describe someone with Asian or Pacific Islander ancestry. After reading through some of the submitters’ blurbs, I found that some people have been told by total strangers that they are not the mixed-heritage race they say they are. Only because they don’t appear as what the stranger thinks they are.  But websites like these encourage people to be proud of their heritage, and to not be ashamed to spiel out their lineage to anyone who is willing to listen.

I felt like I was the only one having these racial problems, but when I found out that there’s a whole website dedicated to people like me who have partial Asian blood, I felt connected at last. Still, it’s hard to have one-on-one talk with people over the Internet in order to really emphasize the type of criticism and even racism that hapas encounter.

Hapavoice.com says, “According to the 2010 census, there are over 9 million people of multiracial heritage living in the United States”. That is a lot of multiracial people! More than anyone could imagine, right? And 1.6 million are white and Asian mixes. I’m one of the 1.6 million.

So to anyone out there who may be feeling the same kind of alienation—you are not alone.

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