Integrity means listening. It means taking the time to reflect on what it is that you have to do, and however large or small the task is at hand, to always have good intentions. Integrity is always the first step.
"Hapa," the term many mixed race Asian Americans embrace as their own is under attack. Myriad social media accounts are casting its use as "cultural appropriation." In more hostile examples, some assert it is a subtle form of colonization, evoking the cultural genocide inflicted upon Native Hawaiians for generations, by Whites and Asians alike. It is a term that evokes colonial "divide and conquer;" it is theft. So they say.
I don’t use the term myself; I don’t particularly relate to it. But I’m paying close attention to this “debate.” And the reason I have debate in parens is that social media has yet to hear the other side.
Who is going to stand up for “Hapa?” Is there enough behind “Hapa” as an I.D. that those who used to use it, that those who sometimes use it will publicly defend it?
In Wei Ming-Dariotis’ 2007 article The Word of Power, she says: “Native Hawaiians have never colonized anyone.” This is a widely cited article in the “debate.” It is a good read, though that particular statement is terribly shaky. Any visit to a Hawaiian museum, or a Maori cultural center will clearly show how proud any and all of the Polynesian peoples are of their nautical heritage. The Hokule’a and other outrigger boats were hugely advanced for their time; coupled with advanced skills in wayfinding, navigation and seamanship the Polynesians had no trouble populating the Western and South Pacific- a long time ago. There is a distinct “warrior” heritage, differing slightly from Island group to Island group, but exemplified in the Maori “Haka.” The historical narrative in the United States of the Hawaiian peoples is that they were powerless. But ask a Melanesian. Ask an islander from an island group who was displaced by Polynesian naval power. They might suggest, in fact, the Hawaiian peoples represent Polynesian conquest. Most of them do not exist anymore- and the story is more complicated than we might think.
Is any non-Hawaiian use of “Hapa”“cultural appropriation?” That seems to go too far. Does intent matter? That people might use it as a term of endearment- does that change things? History is complicated, language is complicated. If you think it is worth fighting for- if “hapa” means something to you, why would you fold on the basis of a single interpretation? Is there a real debate to be had?
But just because you respect a culture and it's only a nickname doesn't mean it's not appropriate. (and if you aren't japanese you don't get to decide) I'm not saying you're disrespectful or anything like that, I'm saying having a japanese or asian sounding name is probably not a good idea. You can pick whatever the fuck you want for a new name, I don't really care, you just shouldn't pick something that's asian if you aren't asian. Point blank: It's culturally appropriative, and really weeby.
I understand where you’re coming from, but I will ask that you refrain from cursing in your messages to me. This page is not the forum for this, and if you’re going to bring this topic to the table, which is perfectly fine, I ask that you met me at my level please.
If you want to talk further, you can come off of anon and message me using your tumblr, otherwise, I’m going to have to refrain from messaging me further.
May I ask if you, yourself, are Asian? If so, then I’d love to continue the conversation so I can better understand your perspective.
Robinson possessed a rich, varied varied biography that showcased him as warrior-poet of sorts, an accomplished boxer and a man of letters who authored books and wrote highly literate articles widely read in the Netherlands[ii]. He was also interned under the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies during WWII. The sheer force of his life experience was probably enough to give Robinson an audience- but he cared deeply about all things “Indo,” affording him a special authority.
These photographs (photographer unknown) are from an exhibit at the 2009 Tong Tong Festival in Den Haag, Holland. The idea was to peek into the living spaces of contemporary Indos, that is line of people descended from Indo-Dutch heritage who once resided in The Dutch East Indies, pretty much all of whom now live in Holland, gleaning what we can.
Most importantly, “Hapa” is in decline because Gen Z is rising, fast. And they have a different take.
"Hapa" is the ultimate "Millenial" term. It is cheerful. It is "multicultural." It is "here and now."
Generation Z is entrepreneurial, and they want to be experts. They have lived the Great recession; they understand that to get a job they have to think about the future- they need to anticipate where the jobs are going to be, what the challenges and opportunities of the global economy mean to them. They know that conversational ability in five languages is less valuable than dual fluency. They know that to survive they have to be resourceful- they have to have solid skills and knowledge, that is going to facilitate critical cross-functional work. In all of this, they want to be impactful. And any way you slice that- it means global.
"In our family, we have the additional complexity of overlaying all these tough conversations with being “mixed” — falling somewhere in between our nation’s incrediblypolarized White-constructed racial extremes, and also being left uncomfortably off the spectrum entirely and existing in some sort of ambiguous racial ether. Sometimes I imagine the conversation with my son unfolding like this over the years:
Yes, honey, separating people into races is illogical, but racial categories do exist and they are nasty. No, you’re not White. Well, yes, your paternal grandpa and maternal grandmother are White –- but you’re still not White. No, you’re not Black, either — or Latin@ or Native. You’re Asian, but other Asians might not accept you on that count, so be prepared. Then again, if non-Asians see you as Asian, that might have repercussions for you too. What race are you and how should you prepare? I’m sorry, honey. I should know, being mixed-race myself, but I think I really might have no idea.
All this complexity and insufficient language leaves me with the million-dollar mixed-race parenting question: How do you prepare your multiracial child to exist in a society that persists in being racially divided, when he’s one of the many stuck straddling the divide? How do you give him a straight answer to a question to which you don’t even have the answer? How do you foster a meaningful discussion on a topic most adults typically avoid talking about because it’s so overwhelming confusing and painful –-before your son even starts kindergarten?
I feel for Sharon and the appraisal she is making about the issues that both a mixed individual and a mixed parent face.
She raises some themes that are all-too-familiar to those of us who follow the mixed race, and/or mixed Asian topic with regularity. The idea of “becoming,” not “being” swims through the piece. The idea of irreconcilable contradictions, harkening back to the Tragic Mulatto rears its head. The idea, indirectly, of the uniquely American “One Drop Rule" arises when Chang (hypothetically) says definitively to her child "No, you’re not White."If there are non-American readers of her piece- Brazilians, for example, they mightn’t "get" what she is talking about because in Brazil you can be both, openly without fear of being challenged.
I added the boldface to denote when I thought the argument/word choice was too harsh, and flatly too negative. I just finished reading 12 Years a Slave, the tragic and bracingly hopeful 1850’s narrative by Solomon Northup- and he has earned every one of the metaphors he uses. Yes, the mixed race “experience” is confusing, it is challenging, and surely there are uncomfortable moments, even obstacles on the journey. I am mixed Chinese and White, and in California and Hong Kong, I have add experiences that I can compare against what Chang is talking about. Nonetheless, we need to put this into perspective. Mixed people- on the whole- have a lopsided basket of positives in this world, against the negatives. The challenge is to be real about that- to do something that augments the assets, in a positive, practical, and hopeful way, while also trying to help others along the way.
I appreciate the sentiments that Chang raises- and they are valid. But for the pragmatically minded of us- what gives? She, and others leave us hanging. On the tips of every readers tongues is the question: Now what?
But from this post, I think mixed Asians could be asking more productive questions. I can think of four:
1. Why does it have to be complex? Could being part-Asian just be that- simple? I’m not saying it is- but could it be simple?
2. What can I affirm? Humanity? Citizenship? Language? History? If my identity has lots of complexity to it, fine- but I don’t get very far from just denying things, do I? Can I build something up from the basics?
3. What is happening locally? Mixed in Hawai’i is vastly different than mixed in Iowa or Ireland. What can you say about the local context- might that provide some leads as to how you define your identity? If all “politics is local” and mixed identity inevitably involves some politics- what can you say about what is going on locally, and what are you doing to shape that context?
4. What is happening globally? Mixed in a world of America vs. Soviet Union is different from mixed in a world where the developing world is prospering and connecting to the internet. If Western business and politics changes to deal with a more dynamic Asia, and Latin America, MENA, and Sub-Saharan Africa- what does that mean for you? Wouldn’t your ability to negotiate your identity reflect global patterns in some way?
I invite any and all questions and/or comments. I am keen to drive forward this discussion, and specifically the Mixed Chinese and Western one, with my forthcoming book “Capricorn Monkey,” at my new website capricornmonkey.com and my existing tumblr ouyaculture.