Dear Kip Fulbeck,
I am a full-blooded American. I am a 19-year-old Asian American. I am also part Caucasian. My dad’s parents lived in southern China like most other Sacramento Chinese. My mother, though, is very Caucasian looking. My other Chinese classmates in high school used to look at me as if they could see right through me. They assumed they could relate to me with the greatest of ease and with complete understanding. That has not been the case.
I cannot pretend to claim that being hapa makes you automatically different from your two halves. All I can say is it makes me different. The reason why I mention my classmates in high school is because they all thought that I was a full-blooded Asian. Their mouths gaped with astonishment when I said I was half and half. “You look so Asian, though,” they would say in mock protest. Well, I may look so Asian, but on the inside I am just as American as I am Chinese, if not more.
Despite how I look, my Hungarian, French and English blood courses through my veins. Maybe it’s in my imagination, but I feel as if there’s an invisible force between other Asians and me, pulling us apart. Besides, I am awkward. I have hidden it well, but sometimes when I talk to people they look at me like, “What?”
And that is the golden question: What? What makes an Asian American, Asian American? Some say it’s martial arts, and some say it’s technology. I say that’s a bunch of bull. My dad’s friend has an album cover on his wall that has a picture of an Asian boy eating a watermelon, and it reads: You don’t have to be black to love the blues. What’s the significance? Only the very definition of my identity!
These are the musings of a young, hapa teenager. There is also a positive side, as in all things, and it probably outweighs the negative. I am tall, taller than most full-blooded Asians. My uncle once said to me, “Girls like tall Asians.” It won’t matter if you’re awkward, but at least it helps. I can also relate to both worlds. I feel equally comfortable around White people as around Asians. However, my mind cannot be 200%: 100% Chinese one day and 100% White another. It can only be 50/50.
In my opinion, the Confucius code of morals and mannerisms often dictates Chinese Americans’ way of thinking, whether they like it or not, and especially in the second and first generations. I think I was influenced by this too; however, what sets me apart from the norm is that I was never taught to speak Chinese. As a result, I am not confined to the Chinese Churches or Asian basketball leagues.
My allegiance is to no one. I am an explorer in life. I didn’t stick to one race of people in high school or only play basketball with the other Asians. I love jazz and have a passion for classical music. I can speak a little German. I am a full-blooded American, one whose spirit is free from race. Not to say I don’t like the other Asians too. No. I have simply embraced who I am. I cannot relate fully, so I’ll just be who I am, a hapa: Hawaiian for half and half.
This brings me to your book, Part Asian – 100% Hapa. It was an entertaining read because it broke down my barriers and let me peer with objective eyes into the psyches of other people around the world. Also, the people in the book were oftentimes just plain witty. I also think you tried to paint a picture of humanity and, at the same time, break down the debris of what humanity thinks of certain types of people, i.e., racially mixed Asians. It worked on me, and I am not a person who usually thinks in those terms! Whether they admit it or not, I think everyone has stereotypes of certain people; however, much more than making me see past White and Asian, your work has made me realize that there is no molded appearance that matches with certain personalities. This should be obvious, but I think the opposite notion is not just an intellectual exercise. It’s wired into our DNA.
One first-generation Chinese boy once called me a bak guey (“white devil”). That was derogatory and mean, but at least he recognized me for who I was. My name is Miles Tsue. I’m 19 years old, and I am mixed as well.