A common bond that you will often find between many mixed race people of a certain age is our sense of being between worlds. Of course every circumstance is unique and my experience is anecdotal; there isn’t a Mixed Race Cultural Centre where we can share stories and experiences (yet!). But having lived in the United States and Canada but most importantly, being a person who lives in this skin every single second of every single day, I have come to a personal conclusion based on my opinion only. I believe that there are three classifications of feelings about our mixed race.
WHITE IDENTIFYING/COLOR SHAME: There was definitely a period in my life where I wanted to be that. I wanted to hang with the white kids, because they were cool. I hated my nose. There was a good month or so where I would squeeze my nose with pliers in the hope of making it smaller, “whiter”, less Filipino. I was about eight or nine at this time. I don’t remember the particular comment that inspired this bout of self-loathing, but I remember that it hurt. Rejecting your “otherness” and trying to replace it with something else doesn’t help your self-worth.
CULTURE PRIDE: You are folks I am jealous of. You are beautiful people that have that hint of “je ne sais quoi” and everyone always asks you “what’s your background” (annoying, right?). The genetic lottery has given you that perma-sun kissed look and you’ve immersed yourself in the “other” culture. You even speak the language a bit and no one is suspicious of your motivations for showing up at a cultural event. You belong, you really do. Myself and people like me envy you, we really do.
THE REST OF US: I feel like this is most of us, the “Inbetweeners”. Whether it be through a desire for one parent to not lose the “other” culture, our fairer/darker skin notwithstanding; or that despite taunting and teasing from kids on either side of our parts, we embrace our disparity and differences and still remain at a loss: should we hyphenate all of it? Do we explain to the white person making racist comments about “Asians” that they are talking about our mother or father? We’ve seen or heard racism casually thrown at our parents for their racial and cultural transgression from both sides of the family. We ourselves make comments that make people who don’t know our backgrounds uncomfortable from time to time because we can. We show up to cultural theatre, art, music events and feel both at home and uncomfortable with having to justify our right and need to be in that space again and again, while at the same time understanding the dis/advantage that our fairness/darkness of skin affords us in our work and personal lives.
If this seems confusing to you, you would be correct. It is confusing, wonderful, and all the adjectives that make up any life. We are almost always the weird cousins at the family reunions and I wouldn’t have it any other way.