My grandfather immigrated from the Philippines to the United States in 1967. He married my grandmother in 1968, and my mom was born in 1969. I don’t know a lot about my mom’s childhood, but I know that being half Filipino growing up in a more poor area of Louisiana during the 1970s-1980s caused a multitude of challenges with the people around her. My mom was the only of my grandparents’ children, to leave Louisiana for college, going to Columbia College to receive her degree, but she went back to live with my grandparents after she became pregnant with my older sister. She has always talked about the issues she faces with other people commenting about her race whether it be a stranger yelling at her in Japanese to being questioned whether or not she spoke Spanish and if she was really sure that she didn’t. My story with my ethnicity, however, has been different from that of my mom and sister. I don’t usually get the comments that play off the high presence of Asian features in my face but more toward how I look extremely white, which isn’t to say I don’t get similar types of comments. I’ve dealt with people doing the oddly “classic” Asian stereotypes of me being good at math or having yellow skin or my personal least favorite of my eye size. They just haven’t been as prevalent as the, “Oh, you don’t really look that Asian”. It’s hard to say why, but those comments hurt more than the classic stereotypes. Maybe it’s the feeling that something is being taken away every time it’s mentioned; maybe it’s the feeling that people just don’t believe me. Whatever the reason it’s still a pain that I will never be able to escape. It’s hard to understand why people find it necessary or amusing to say anything about my race, especially when I’m not the one to bring it up, and it’s extremely upsetting when they talk about it for the sole purpose of saying that I’m really not Asian. It feels like a slap in the face not because I think I look Asian, because I really don’t, but it’s a form of disrespect to the joy it brings to my grandfather feels now that he is able to share that culture with me. Maybe erasing my heritage isn’t the goal that people have in making ignorant. After those comments are made, it feels like I can’t keep the air in my lungs long enough to survive the rest of the day, hour or minute. Maybe I should just ignore the words, or maybe others shouldn’t say them. The second option probably won’t happen, which I’ve accepted, but it’s the easiest option to avoid any fights that I’d inevitably lose. I’m making the choice to avoid the topic at school so that people don’t feel it’s their right to share an unwanted opinion, and others may make the same choice, or they may continue to say what they want. That decision is theirs to make.
“I will continue to celebrate Filipino culture as much as I want even if, biologically, I’m only a quarter Filipino; it’s still a part of me and there is validity in my celebration.”
I will continue to celebrate Filipino culture as much as I want even if, biologically, I’m only a quarter Filipino; it’s still a part of me and there is validity in my celebration. The one thing I can hope for would be that people aren’t overly rude about it in the future or that future generations learn that certain things shouldn’t be said.