Wasian: What it's like to be a half-race hybrid and no one knows it

“Where are you from?”

“What ethnicity are you?”

“What races are your parents?”

 

It’s usually not that nice though, it’s usually “WHAT ARE YOU?”

 

I look really white- caucasian, whatever. My dad’s Polish, French, English, Irish and German. My mom is full Chinese. Most people would never have guessed.

“You’re so tall," they say. “Your hair is so light though?” or just, “I don’t see it”.

I think the worst is when after they ask, “what are you” and I say “half white half Chinese”, they look at me in disbelief and go, “no you’re not!” How am I supposed to respond to that?

I’m half Chinese. That means one of my parents and half of my relatives share the same blood containing an ancient culture and history, and I do too. I love being Chinese because I have traditions to follow that are different than my friends, have grown up with a different pallet and open-mindedness to “foreign” foods, and I know words (not a lot of them though) in another language. I can empathize with the minority here in a country that is historically intolerant to different races and ethnicities. I wear my heritage around my wrist and neck with jade and around my hips in a silk cheongsam (“ch-ung sahm”, the traditional Chinese dress). I act with traditional values, work hard for my family, but fortunately am not beaten by my not-Tiger mom.

So when people ask “what are you” and then respond with “no you’re not”, they’re denying all these things about me. It denies my birthright and claim to the beauty and honor that is being Chinese… just because I look white.

My mom was born in Berkeley, California and my Por por (mom’s mom), was born in the States too. My Gung gung (mom’s dad), the legendary Johnny Jin was in the U.S. Navy and came to America through Angel Island when he was 14, impersonating his aunt’s dead son. My dad was born and raised in Ohio and must have stronger genes because I look like him and not Johnny Jin.

I think it must hurt my mom’s feelings to have children who people often don’t realize are hers. When my older brother and I were little kids, people would think she was our nanny, or that we were children from another marriage. I cannot imagine how much it would hurt a mother to have these things said to her about her own biological children. Once, during my years of club basketball in an Asian league, my mom came up with me before a game and I introduced her to some teammates. A girl exclaimed loudly, “that’s your mom?!” right to our faces. My mom and I tell this story as a joke and as testimony to the truth of our unfair treatment, but that’s just the way to laugh through the pain. My mom is beautiful and, every once in awhile, some woke person will see us together and compliment how we must be mother and daughter.

The girls in my high school used to have a little Instagram group thing going on, and all their usernames were “lilmixed” as in, “little mixed”, followed by their nicknames because they were all half Asian of some kind. They looked like it too. I was never included or asked to be apart of it. I was never asked to represent China in the multicultural festivals for school and probably wouldn’t have volunteered either because I know everyone would see me and wonder what that white girl was doing holding the Chinese flag. Similarly, I have been conditioned to believe that I may not get a tattoo of Chinese characters, not my mom’s Chinese name or the words for “older brother, younger sister” to match my brother, because I can’t pull it off.

It really hurts to seem to have to PROVE what I am to people; to feel and express one way, but to been seen as another. It’s not just one sided either. When I look into a crowd of Asian faces and feel like I belong, they sometimes look at me and wonder why a white girl, a whole head taller than their biggest kid, is doing in their myths. I’m as tall or taller than all my cousins, especially the girls, my aunts and my great aunts. I have a decent bust, which means my cheongsam has to be tailored especially to make room around the torso.

It’s not always easy being mixed and looking white because people don’t think I know what I’m talking about when I speak of racism and discrimination. When my mom was a little girl, even in Berkeley, she and her siblings were teased and bullied for being Asian. Forty years later, it was my turn on the playground at a predominantly white private school. Although there were three other Asian mixed kids in my class of thirty, I was the one who brought quail for lunch because those were the Chinese New Year leftovers. They said “ewww how can you eat the state bird?” and when I brought mochi, they told me how it looked like I was eating soap.

I feel so Chinese. I love doing and knowing things of another culture which I am entitled to by birth. It represents creativity, struggle, history, appreciation, and identity. When I wear my jade, I feel proud knowing I have earned it and that it is culturally relevant that I wear it. It is mine and it is who I am no matter if you can see it in my face. Look into my eyes and you will see it there; my folded lid and slight almond shaped eyes give me away. Race is not gender or religion, you cannot be it just because you resonate with or admire it. Race is a birthright. And you do not have the right to take it from me just because it is not protruding from my skin.

So next time you ask someone, ask nicely and believe them. Ask them about their culture, history, and heritage. Praise diversity, difference, and distinction that is around you. Do not deny others their identity, instead make the world a more receptive place to be who we really are.