Those three short words have followed me around since childhood. And while the words may look harmless on paper, the question they form has carried a surprising amount of weight over the years. What are you? Instead, people are wondering about my ethnicity. They want to know exactly what I am. What most of these people have in common has nothing to do with age, gender, or skin color. The sudden question fazed me a lot more when I was younger, but I learned to expect it over time. But most of the time, the questions result from confusion about my physical appearance. This surface level query concerns the color of my skin and the shape of my eyes—it has little to do with anything deeper than how I look. And while most people are innocent in their curiosity, the question is the result of a culturally-driven need for labels.
Faces of TRCP
When it comes to identity, I can frame myself two radically different ways: I am a gay person of color on a large amount of financial aid, and I am a white male legacy student at Duke. Both descriptions are technically accurate, but fail to illustrate the nuances of my competing identities. I feel like I fluctuate between being white and Korean depending on the scenario or group of people I am around. In college, we are often engaged in discussions about identity and privilege, and I have struggled to pinpoint my place in such conversations. Before I can quantify my privilege, I need to clarify my identity. Am I a person of color or am I white? I make it seem like I am both, but can I really be both? I am not white-passing, meaning I do not appear to be white to the standard viewer. For that reason, I tend to label myself as a person of color in most situations and then add on that I am half-white.
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13 Beauty Problems Only Half-Asian, Half-Caucasian Women Will Understand
Growing up as hapa — meaning "mixed race" in Hawaii and half-Asian, half-white in my circles — comes with its own set of problems. I'm not just talking about when I had to check "other" under the race box during standardized tests: I'm talking about beauty problems. There are many misconceptions when it comes to being hapa, and I'm here to set the record straight. A little background: my father is Chinese, and my mother is Irish, and I've found it difficult to find the balance between being too white and too Asian. There were only about five Asians in my entire graduating high school class, and because of the lack of diversity, I thought you had to be blond and Caucasian to be beautiful. When I got to college, Asian students made up about 40 percent of the student population. Although it was great to see more diversity on campus, I didn't feel like I fit in with that cultural group either.