Share Your Hapa Story: Elsa
Share Your Hapa Story 041: Elsa @eofeij24601
As a mixed-race person, it has occasionally been difficult to pinpoint my identity. After all, we live in a world that thrives on mono-racial standards. People will often tell me that I look too white to be Asian, to which I usually reply that even so, I look very much like my Malaysian Chinese mother. This is true, we look almost the same, but my hair color is lighter than hers! Once, I’ve had a classmate laugh at me in disbelief after I told him that I was only half white. Because of my appearance, some are surprised to know that I love eating so-called “exotic” (read: non-western) foods, that I’ve been studying Mandarin for years, and that I was born outside the United States.
Growing up hapa, you get used to others trying to categorize you, and it can have an impact on what you think of yourself. Throughout my teens, I felt awkward claiming my Asian identity. It felt like I was an imposter, an “egg” trying to get people to recognize my Chinese blood. I’ve been accused of lying about my heritage, which is both ridiculous and hurtful. But the more I live, the more I realize that I can and should be proud to celebrate my mixed heritage. I can be both Malaysian Chinese and Caucasian (mostly Scandi), and the fact that I am simultaneously these things is a reason to feel empowered, not weak.
Hapas are often told how they should feel and act in relation to their own identities, but the fact is that our experiences are as dynamic as our backgrounds. Today, I feel incredibly connected to my Asian heritage and I know that, despite what others think, I can claim it. Rest in the knowledge that there is beauty in your difference and power in your existence.
Originally published April 2, 2020 on Instagram, #ShareYourHapaStory041