1 July 2011 – Family Matters

July 1st, 2011 § 16 comments

1 July 2011 - Family Matters


  • Tank: Target
  • Necklace: gift from husband
  • Bracelets: bangles from Banana Republic Factory, cork bracelet from Honolulu swap meet
  • Skirt: thrifted
  • Belt: thrifted
  • Wedges: Reaction by Kenneth Cole, via DSW

End Notes:

Can you Dress Your Best and give a round of applause to your familial heritage? Because that’s how I’m ending my DYB this year.

I’ve always taken great pride in the fact that I am hapa, half Japanese and half Caucasian. Because I grew up in a predominantly Asian culture, I perhaps feel more bonded to my Japanese heritage, but I’ve also come to cherish my Scottish and English roots and my old, old New England settler connections. To have two such different and unique histories wrapped up in my own family continues to be a fascinating thing for me.

But even though I may strongly conceive of myself as hapa, as mixed race, not everyone perceives me that way. Most people in Hawaii, many of whom are mixed race themselves, recognize me as being hapa, though they might jokingly give me a hard time for my paler skin or tall stature that makes me stick out amidst the predominantly tan, short population. Since moving to the mainland, however, I’ve found that such recognition is, ironically, more mixed. Some people recognize me as being “not white” and ask, “What are you?” Some people take guesses. I’ve been told that I look like Michelle Wie and Lucy Liu. Once, someone asked if I was part Mexican. Many people just assume that I’m full white.

1 July 2011 - Family Matters

All of this — the categorization that happens based on physical appearance, the notion that visible recognizability is a necessary part of assuming a particular identity, the very conception of “race” in general — is incredibly fraught and something that I wrestle through in my own academic work. But I know that, for me, my body plays an important role in reminding me of my heritage and seeing my future in the fat cheeks and flat nose of my son who, for all other intents and purposes, looks more like his Caucasian father.

So today I’m celebrating being hapa. I’m celebrating the height I got from 6’4″ father along with the freckles and big ears that are all from his side of the family. And I’m celebrating my big cheeks, dark hair, and yellowy undertones in my skin that come from my mother’s side. So hooray for shoes that are purple and tan even though the skirt is salmon and the shirt is navy. Hooray for a hot pink belt rather than a brown one. Hooray for silver and cork bracelets, worn together. The mixing is what makes it interesting.

Bracelets and Belt

1 July 2011 - Family Matters

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§ 16 Responses to 1 July 2011 – Family Matters"

  1. grace says:

    What a great post. You look fantastic.

  2. Alisha says:

    I can really relate to you on this post, E. I am mixed race myself (Indian mother, Caucasian father), and growing up, I also got a lot of “what are you?” questions. As a kid, it used to irritate me when people would ask me that, to which I’d snappily reply “I’m human”, even though I knew what they were asking. Now that I’m an adult, I’m pretty comfortable with my appearance, and actually find it quite fun when people try to guess “what I am”. I’ve gotten everything from Mexican to Lebanese to Greek! I am proud that my heritage draws from places as diverse as Trinidad, India, Germany, and Ireland! And my husband (who is also mixed raced, Chinese and Caucasian) can’t wait to see how cool our kids are going to look. :)

    On another note, you look so fantastic! I am so envious of that diaphanous salmon skirt! I’ve got to find one.

  3. Wonderful! I love this post and so appreciate you sharing your complicated relationship to the already complicated notion of race. I have a lot of trouble with the visible versus hidden race issue; I’m Jewish, and from an immigrant family, so I grew up in a Jewish enclave, very much outside of the dominant “white” US culture. And yet I have white skin and get white privilege and don’t get seen or perceived as being “other” most of the time. It’s a blessing and a curse, because I can pass and avoid most prejudice, but I also become an agent of the dominant culture, in ways I sometimes don’t like. And then when I stop being able to pass — when I turn down a slice of pepperoni pizza because I keep kosher, or say that I don’t celebrate Christmas, or mention my upbringing — people are often confused or aggressive, as though I’d betrayed them by not being the white person they assumed I was. It’s all very frustrating. So I love seeing you celebrate your heritage, your “what are you?” moments, your amalgamated self. It’s very inspiring!

  4. Michelle says:

    I very much relate to this post, too! I’m also hapa (Taiwanese/Caucasian) and about a month further along than you. I’m really excited to see what our baby will get from what will be her pre-dominantly Caucasian heritage and what will carry through from my Asian one. While my brother has never been comfortable with his mixed heritage (and was often thought to be Mexican where we grew up), I’ve always embraced the ways in which it has made me stand out and find it amusing when people don’t know how to categorize me.

  5. Angela says:

    This resonates with me. I am multiethnic, with a Caucasian mother and Filipino/Native American/Mexican father. Some people walk up and start conversations in Spanish (I’m not even close to fluent and learned any Spanish I do know in high school). Some people say they can see the Filipina in me. Others, both white and Filipino, have said “you just look like a white girl.” The latter aggravates me, because it’s usually in the context of making me feel like I don’t belong, am not Filipina enough to “count”, or like I’m a poseur. I’m culturally very American, but ruffled at the implication that American = white. Not much of any of my ethnic heritages have trickled down to me in cultural practice, so I don’t think about it at all until someone asks, “what are you?” I suppose I have more Caucasian features than my siblings, who grew up in the 70s when there was less tolerance/understanding of mixed-race, and I am glad not to have experienced the occasional but scarring prejudice that they did. But it’s a hot button for me all the same. E, I think you are beautiful, and your family is beautiful, and I’m glad you wrote about this. Also, your color mixing looks great in this outfit!

  6. Frances Joy says:

    Beautiful, beautiful post. I’m not “mixed” per se, but as a Puerto Rican, I am racially mixed. And I’ve gotten the “What are you?” question everywhere I’ve been in the world, with guesses ranging from Korean to Indian to Turkish to white. I was realizing just this morning how many of the features I’ve chosen to highlight are wrapped up in my ethnic identity and my family connections. It’s a strange a beautiful thing, all that mixing, and I love the way your outfit pays homage to that.

  7. Kelly says:

    Great post today! I work with an Aboriginal community here in Australia & also teach in Aboriginal studies along with Aboriginal academics. We discuss culture, race, identity and ‘whiteness’ early on in the subject & it really gets people thinking about their own culture. Many western/white students consider themselves uncultured or culture as the other, so it’s always interesting to turn the looking glass on yourself …

    Kelly xo
    Elegantly Academic

  8. SJ says:

    Love this look, I actually paired the exact skirt and color with a heather grey tank……lovely tones together.

  9. RK says:

    Thank you for this post. Your post made me think of a documentary film on hapa identities by Jeff Chiba Stearns called “One Big Hapa Family,” which I think you might enjoy. I’m not hapa, but I am what you call a 1.5-generation immigrant, which also causes a fair bit of “where are you really from? from both my “home” country and in Canada, where I’ve spent most of my formative years. It’s taken me awhile to accept my existence as an Asian Canadian and I’ve also meditated on the issue of family and identity, but I’m getting there.

  10. Eleanorjane says:

    Is ‘What are you?’ considered a rude question in the US? ‘Cos I think it would be in New Zealand. We’re all foreign so we don’t really discuss it unless we know someone well. We’re an immigrant nation – only been about 200 years of settlement of English, Scots, Irish, Dutch, Croatian, Spanish etc. etc. folk into the country that was (and still is) inhabited by Maori. We’ve also had waves of Pacific Island and various Asian immigrants (Korean, Chinese, Taiwanese etc.). My city is the gateway city for immigrants so we’re a lot more used to people from all over the world than people living in remote rural areas who can still be a bit racist.

    • admin says:

      Eleanorjane – I mean, *I* think it’s kind of a rude question, but given the frequency with which I’ve been asked that, I’m guessing that other people think it’s acceptable. It’s really the phrasing that bothers me, as if everything someone needs to know about me can be summed up in my ethnic heritage.

    • I’m going to definitely say that I think it’s considered at the very least rude and in the worst situations a little racist. I mean, the implication is “you don’t look normal , like me, so what kind of a human are you?”

  11. Julia says:

    You go, hapa girl! Being full haole, I was always jealous a little of the hapa kids in school in Hilo (not only did they not get teased as much, but they got to legit do things like Japanese school and bon dancing!)

    I love your concept of mixing colors and patterns and shades to celebrate it too. :)

  12. Aimee says:

    I love the pink bow on top of your big belly. You look amazing!

  13. [...] unusual pattern mixes, and I still trawl the archives of Academichic looking at E’s stylish, wonderfully put-together solid-color [...]

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