By Carolyn Bick
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Describing herself in pieces makes Sharon Chang cringe.
Chang is the mixed race child of a Taiwanese father and a white American mother of primarily European descent. But describing herself as “half” or “part” anything makes her feel as though she is being pulled apart, viewed as a strange creature stitched up by blood, rather than a whole person.
Still, Chang doesn’t quite know how else to describe herself, but it’s a question she has pursued for much of her career as a writer and activist, even publishing a book on the subject. Growing up, she said, she straddled the worlds of her Asian father’s heritage and her white American mother’s reality.
But unlike the environment she and her husband — a mixed race man — try to create for their son at home, Chang found herself unable to talk with her parents about this strange liminality.
While she was a generally happy child, Chang admitted she also felt a sense of loneliness and encountered invisible, but firm, barriers between herself and her peers, as well as between herself and adults that didn’t seem to exist for fully Asian or fully white children.
“For me, it was a really strong sense of ‘othering,’ expressed through people’s fascination with the way I look. So, for white folks, it would be like, ‘Oh, you’re so exotic, what are you?’” Chang said. “In Asian communities, a fascination with, ‘Oh, you’re mixed! What does that mean? It’s so fascinating.’ And it’s different, almost in a zoo animal kind of way.”
Harry Dixon knows this feeling well. Raised part Korean and part white American, Dixon said he made “massive adaptation efforts” in order to mask his feelings of discomfort in both communities.
“At school, I would have to do more adaptation efforts to show my friends, ‘Oh, no, I am one of you guys, I am white. Ignore the fact that I am bringing kimchi to lunch,’” Dixon said with a laugh.
This feeling is only amplified, especially in the Korean community. Dixon is a queer man, who also currently works as a licensed mental health counselor at the Asian Counseling and Referral Service in south Seattle. Sexuality and mental health are not typically topics the Asian American community talk about.
“In the … Korean community, there isn’t an acceptance for people like me who are queer and in the LGBTQ continuum, and so, with that, especially in the queer community, I am more having to pass as white,” Dixon said. “Being in the mental health field is also not allowed in the Korean culture.”
Dixon’s Korean mother is also unsupportive of both these aspects of her son, preferring to believe being queer is a choice, and he is only “choosing” queerness to harm her, while also believing that he “quit” after getting his master’s degree, instead of pursuing higher education.
In the white, LGBTQ+ community, Dixon said he often feels tokenized. Too often, he has gone on dates where the person he was with admitted he was interested in Dixon only because, as a part-Asian man, that person views Dixon as exotic.
Still, Dixon gravitates more towards his white heritage, choosing to blend aspects of his Korean heritage with the more accepting space of American culture.
“It’s definitely more about finding those places I feel comfortable accessing my culture. … Every so often, I might go out and get Korean food. … Sometimes, I’ll find … a Korean-owned establishment, and I can converse with the owners in Korean,” Dixon said. “Sometimes, I might just listen to K-pop, or watch a Korean drama, as a way of really connecting back to my heritage.”
Chang finds herself in a different space, choosing to surround her family with the diverse cultural influences she finds around her home in south Seattle. She said she and her husband keep open lines of communication with their son, and try to avoid describing him in the pieces that make her so uncomfortable.
“We don’t say things like, ‘You are part white, or you are part Japanese.’ We just say things like, ‘You are … an Asian mixed American,’ or ‘You are mixed race,’ or ‘You are a Japanese American, or a Taiwanese American,’” Chang said. “And he has an affirmation in his parents that my husband and I never had.”
Carolyn can be reached at email@example.com.
Veronika Kersten says
We are all human. My children are biracial … beautiful and intelligent, but most importantly kind. That’s what it is all about. Of course they have encountered discrimination in the past and will certainly face the same in the future. I hope I have raised them to be proud to be who they are. We should all embrace our respective cultures and backgrounds.
I have something to say to all mixed-race people who think they have identity crisis: YOU ARE MONGOLOID.
Forget your half White origin. No one cares about that. Every single person on the planet sees you as what you are: ASIAN AKA MONGOLOID.
No one cares you are mixed race. Even one drop of Asian blood makes you a full Asian. Whiteness is all about purity which you don’t have.
You are just another full asian person. Only you yourself are obsessed by your Origin. We all see you as full Asian because that’s what you are.
The Great Eurasian says
Looks like you are making a fool of yourself then and living in your fantasy realm. You are denying the facts or truth. You need to go and get some more education about Mongoloids, Eurasians and Caucasians and learn on how to distinguish between them better. We Eurasians are not even trying to be white barbarians like you or Asians so don’t worry about that. We are not like many whites who are trying to be something that they are not such as poor white peasants from Europe who moved to US and trying hard to be Americans while they are not and also stealing native’s land. Historically, white race is the guiltiest race too. We are not pretending to be anything but being only ourselves based on our own genetics. We are proud of being ourselves and we got both the good part of Asian culture and European culture. Many whites were also considered as barbarians by Romans in the past and they are not from Europe either. Germanic people are Asians too but not indigenous to Europe just like the Vandals, Huns, Venidae or Proto Slavic, Scythians, Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Hungarians, Bulgars, Finnish people, and Turks. They are all from the continent of Asia before they migrate to Europe and caused problems to the Romans. Go and educate yourself, white trash! You are nothing at all and thanks for making yourself look more stupid. Many of today’s whites owe the Romans too otherwise you could still ended up being nomadic. Oh and try to retake Constantinopolis city after you lost it to the Mongoloids, you loser! I don’t think that you are powerful enough to do that anyway! White trash! The Turks had beaten you!
Hatred does not cease hatred. Remember that. Go back to a preschool, white trash.
Retard, uneducated asshole . Check your DNA and you will find out half of your brain is missing
It was meant for Basil the retard the purbread
Thank you. As a multirace person and a parent of two multirace (Asian+) children, I appreciate hearing the voice and one that resonates with me. My children are 5 and 2, so there is a lot to think about in regards to making sure they feel whole, not in parts.