Think of it as a racial mashup. We’re living in an era when the President of the United States is multiracial, and we’re changing our perspectives on ethnic identity — especially what it means to be Asian American. We’re moving beyond single cultural identification. Many of us are connected to our ethnic heritage and add the layer of American culture. Hence, I’m both Japanese American and Asian American.
In addition, the richness of mixed-race America is going to continue to have a huge impact on the U.S. in the future.
For example, the Asian American community of the future will be a multicultural tapestry with a bright thread of mixed-race Asians. In the Japanese American population, the mixed-race fabric is already very evident — since the 1970s, JAs have married outside our own community more than any other group. So we’ve been familiar with the term “hapa” for decades.
I remember when I was a kid, my mom used to call mixed-race JAs “ai noko,” which literally translates as “love child,” or maybe “hafu” (“half”), and she would say it disparagingly (sadly, she’s not PC at all). Likewise, “hapa” is a Hawai’ian term that means “partial” — and it was used originally in a derogatory way, for “hapa haole,” or “half-white.” Although I know people who are offended by the use of the word hapa, it’s become a common term for mixed-race people of all ethnicities, not just Asians. I’ve heard it used within the black and Hispanic communities.
Because of the importance of the mixed-race AAPI community, Erin and I are proud to announce our next interview for visualizAsian.com: Kip Fulbeck, an artist, author, performer, slam poet and….uh, professor! Kipâ€™s ethnic background is Cantonese, English, Irish, and Welsh, and he’s nationally known for his exploration of mixed-race identity.