Sunday, April 10, 2005

A Whole New World - Geetha

Being out on the West Coast is a very new experience for me, and it has been interesting to see how race is played out in this very different environment. The population of Asian Americans is much higher here than I am used to in Michigan, so it has been especially interesting to see the strong presence of organizations and conversations that are focused on mixed race Asian Americans. These are conversations that I have never really had an opportunity to have because the mixed race community that I was a part of at home was mostly comprised of people who are mixed black and white.

As I am learning more about the issues that are specific to mixed race Asian Americans, I am still trying to figure out how I personally fit into it all. I do consider myself to be an Asian American, but I do know a lot of other Indians and South Asians who do not. Indian culture is vastly different than, for example, Japanese culture, but then again, many Asian cultures are vastly different from one another. Since learning the term "hapa" in college, I have always wondered if I can or should consider myself to be a part of this group (please note that I am still figuring out how I feel about this term and its etymology, but that is another discussion that will probably appear on this blog at some point). Most people who are familiar with the term see it as applying to East Asians, such as Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, etc. I even noticed that the mascot for USC's Hapa SC student organization is a face that has one side with a slanted eye. I certainly don't have slanted eyes, so how do I, as someone who considers herself to be a mixed race Asian American, fit (or not fit) into this category? What do I share in common with mixed race Asians of other heritages? How is my experience different, especially because of the way I look?

It is quite interesting to me, and slightly ironic, that much of my identity development with regard to being mixed has centered around feeling like I do or don't fit in in with certain groups, and now as I become more immersed in mixed race issues I still continue to question where and how I belong. It is a fine line to walk because clearly mixed race Asians have some issues that are unique to the fact that they have Asian heritage, but at the same time, as we break groups down into smaller and smaller categories, we create more exclusive groups. Do I have to find a group of people who are mixed Indian and white to find a group I where I "fit in"? Today at our USC event, a important point was raised that it is not necessarily worth it to worry about whether you should be "allowed" to identify with a group you feel you are a part of. Do I need someone's permission to identify as a mixed race Asian American? Does it matter that South Asians such as myself are often not seen as being a part of the Asian American community? I feel like both the Asian American and and mixed Asian American communities are groups that reflect an important aspect of my identity, so now it is up to me to make my own place in these communities, regardless of whether others think I belong there.

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