Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Hapa

When I was a little girl, particularly after my Mom and Dad got married, people tended to think that my sister Erin and I were adopted, while my sister Amanda was their birth daughter.

My sister Erin and I, when we were little.

All three of us girls, with my Dad.


All three of us girls with my Mom and Grandma Betty.

That's not actually the case.  My mother married a Hawaiian and had my sister and I before they divorced.  My youngest sister is actually the one who is adopted.  As I've previously mentioned, I'm half Hawaiian.


My sister and I with our biological Father.

There are only two instances I ever remember being made to feel bad about my ethnicity.  The first time, I was about 8 and had spent all summer seeing how dark I could get:  Classmates accused me of being half black.

The second time was after my youngest sister was born.  My family was at a Holiday work party for one of my parents and this woman came up to me and told me, "It's so kind of your parents to have adopted you and your sister.  Especially considering they can children of their own."  I was surprised and shocked.  And pointed out that Erin and I were actually the biological children, thank you very much.

When I was 13, I heard my first racial slur joke.  I don't even remember what it was.  What I -do- remember is that from that moment until we figured it all out, my sister and I were on a quest to discover what our ethnic heritage would be in racial slurs.  This was NOT an activity my mother approved.  We'd found Chink (Chinese), Nip/Jap (Japanese), Kraut (German), Mick (Irish), Jock (Scottish), Nitchy (Native American) and Redcoat/Limey (English).  But we got stumped on Hawaiian.  When I asked my Mom what the slur they'd use for us in Hawaiian was, she laughed and said they'd call us, "Haole" -- which is Hawaiian for white.


My family at my wedding.  Yes, that's my niece trying to eat my bouquet (;


I have to admit, I didn't think about ethnicity at all when Mark and I got married.

Although I -did- have a couple of conversations about in the four years living with Mark's Grandmother.

Referencing her own Granddaughter's marriage, she told me the story of the bird and the fish that fall in love, and asked me where they'd build their nest.  My response was that it was more like a blue bird and red bird making pretty purple bird babies....

Another time, when the conversation turned to race, I told her that I'd always worried that she would object to Mark and I marrying.  She looked surprised and asked why.  I told her, "Because my father is Hawaiian."  She said, "But they're white, aren't they?"  I told her no and showed her pictures of my biological father.  Afterwards, she got very quiet, and said, "....Well...I always liked you, Janin."

So this morning, I read my friend Kim's blog about visiting the Smithsonian Race: Are We So Different? Exhibit.

And learned that I'm Hapa, as are both of my boys!


Mark and our two little boys, when they were VERY young (:

It's a slang term that is gaining popularity, to mean: of mixed ethnic heritage, with partial roots in Asian and/or Pacific Islander ancestry.

And it actually originates from the Hawaiian derogatory term my mother told me, oh so very long ago:  Hapa Haole:  Half White.


I think I'm going to purchase the book, Part Asian, 100% Hapa, to show my children a glimpse of the diversity they are a part of.

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