Being Mixed Race

I’ve had this topic title floating around in my head since 7th September 2015. I know this because Notes told me so. I’m not sure why I chose now to actually write about this, but I feel better for writing it. I actually brainstormed before doing this, which is not something I usually do, but I wanted to be sure I included everything that has been floating around my head.

Where do I start?

Who am I? Hmm… maybe that is too existential? Let it be noted that is not a topic I’ve ever written about before, and so I’m not really sure where to start? If I think about it, it’s kind of hard to get the words on paper on what it means to be mixed race. This is coming from someone who can write probably 1000 words about food, or travel, or television at the drop of a hat. I guess when it’s a topic super close to my heart, what makes me me essentially, it does become sort of difficult trying to explain how it makes you feel, why you feel that way, etc. 

I am of Jamaican and Filipino ethnicity.

My whole life I’ve been told that I am so lucky and that you have such an exotic mix. I can’t lie, it made me feel good when people would say those things because let’s face it; everybody has a little narcissism in them. However, I’ve never really known how to identify myself. For example, do I identify more with one race over the other? Throughout periods of my life I have always felt that I do identify with one race more than the other. This was not something that I actively sought to do, but I guess it happens to everyone even if it’s liking a particular genre of music or only watching certain films. 

If we’re getting into stereotypes, I don’t even think I fit into any of them… I hear all around me of black people being told that they “speak good for a black person” or how Asians are always smart, and yet I’ve never encountered any of these. I find it really difficult to relate sometimes with people of my own races because when people see me they’re usually confused and then excited and then that’s it really. There would be times where people would speak about black people’s issues and stuff and I just couldn’t relate, and I had nothing to say, and I felt bad. But it was also felt like people would forget that I’m black as well. Kind of dismissed.

This is not to say that they are dismissing me in a bad way, but more like they can’t figure out who I am. Much like myself.

I have always struggled when it comes to someone, more specifically guys, asking me where do I come from? I understand that it’s cool to find out about someone’s race, culture, etc., but for me this is the question that I get asked the majority of the time when I meet new people and it gets tiring, you know? I usually come back with a quip like, “London” because I mean that IS where I was born. It’s not until they press that I reveal my mix and then wait for them to be all like, “Omg, I knew that!” or “I wouldn’t have guessed the black side but I can see the Filipino side” or “Wow, what an exotic mix”. For some reason, it makes me uncomfortable nowadays because I’m not really sure how to respond.

To some, this is not a big deal and in the grand scheme of things, it’s really not a big deal. However, I don’t know… like I said, it’s hard to get words down on how to describe it.

I’ll move on.

Representation. It matters. I am so full of joy and pride when I see PoC and WoC progressing so much in the field of their choice. Especially when it comes to film and TV, which is something I am invested in A LOT. I’ve rarely seen someone I can actually relate to from his or her skin colour. I’ve seen plenty I can relate to on a personal level, but not really people I can see and be like, “Omg, somebody who looks like me.” This is what causes me turmoil, somewhat. I don’t want to sound like a little whiny bitch, but maybe I am sounding like a little whiny bitch. Yet people are allowed to feel how they feel, and I’m kind of glad I have writing as an outlet because I can create characters that are like me and I can identify with.

I remember looking back on works I had written previously and thinking, “Wow… you can tell how much I’ve been influenced by what I’ve seen on film or TV” because of the way I describe my characters. Pale, brown or blue eyes, slim, dark or brown hair. It could fit the description of a light skinned person, but if I’m being real then I know that it’s a white person I’m writing about. I’ve gotten to a stage in my life where I am pretty comfortable with writing about someone without having to describe him or her or describing him or her in the way I want to, but looking back it makes me kind of sad.

There’s a part of me that will always be conflicted, I think. I am so fucking supportive of everyone, but I always felt that there used to be a hesitation on my side. That I HAD to choose one race over the other, and I know now that this is NOT the case and that both sides are what make me who I am, but still. The thoughts were there. I’m not saying it’s easier for other people to go out and advocate for what they stand for, but I thought that if I went around talking about “Black Girl Magic” someone would come for me and be like, “But you’re not even black” just based on looking at me. I’m still coming to terms with the fact that it does not matter what other people think or say and that what I think and say for myself is the bottom line.

Of course, I need to work on myself. Everything I do is in my own hands and I am the master of my own destiny. Sure… I don’t know who I am, I don’t know who I identify with, but I’m sure this is going to be an exciting journey. At the end of the day, I don’t think anyone really knows who they are and that’s okay because life is what you make it. Fuck the stereotypes, fuck what people say, just do your own thing.

I’d like to end this post with a note about the #egochallenge I discovered on Instagram the other night. Started by Jane, she rapped/sang about her insecurities to Beyonce’s “Ego” instrumental and honestly, it was so uplifting for me. I had just gotten in from a shit day at work and I was just tired of life/everything/so down. I slipped into bed and was scrolling through Instagram and found Danielle Brook’s video of the challenge and I just had this big fat smile on my face. It led me to find the original video by Jane and after scrolling through many videos of people doing the same thing; I honestly went to sleep so soundly and peacefully.

Self-love is so important. So, so important.

12 Comments

  1. 12th February 2017 / 9:47 am

    It’s so normal to feel conflicted! You’re not alone, Chynna! It’s interesting how you’re ethnically Jamaican and Filipino, and I’m ethnically Korean, but I feel like I am more half-Korean, half-American instead! So therein lies the other question — do you have to be have that ethnic background in your biological and physical make-up?! I mean, culture isn’t really a physical trait we inherit through DNA, but people seems to think your ethnicity has to be part of your biological make-up, but does it? Something to think about.

    Like you, I don’t really fit some of Asian stereotypes. Being good at maths and sciences? I don’t think so. I think that stereotype skipped me. But then there are American stereotypes I don’t fit either . . . bottom line, stereotypes definitely doesn’t apply to everyone!

    Representation is always a good thing — but it has to be good representation LOL I remember reading Eleanor & Park, and I was stoked to see that Park was half-Korean and half-American, which is exactly how I identify! But then I read that, and I was so pissed at the inaccurate representation of his Korean culture and his Korean mother. Then I read that the author only chose Korea because her father was stationed there or something during the Korean War, but she herself clearly had NEVER interacted with Koreans >:( So bottom line, misrepresentation is not a good thing.

    In the end, Chynna, we just need to represent ourselves with pride. Sure, we come from a mixed background, but we can show other people what our backgrounds are like. We don’t need to prove those stereotypes or figure out which ethnic group we’re more of — instead we’ll just be who we are our, our unique selves, and go about it with self-confidence and pride! ^^

  2. 12th February 2017 / 3:44 pm

    I think I rewrote this comment like a million and one times because I relate so much and you gave me some insight into how my children may feel someday.

    You don’t have to relate or pick a side, Chica. What you were given is a blessing. And not because you’re some exotic pixie but because you were given the chance to experience the world from more than one point of view and that makes you so much more equipped to understand and sympathized with human kind. And that is something I see in you so much.

    It doesn’t matter which side of yourself you relate to because you’re just relatable. You know who you are in so many different ways. So much so that everyone knows that Chynna loves food, probably has more favorite TV shows than you and has the most adventurous soul. You’re cultured and amazing and just perfectly you.

    I think I could write another dozen sentences about how I relate but I think I’ll leave it here with you knowing that you’re both not alone and perfectly understood. <3

  3. 13th February 2017 / 1:23 am

    I love how you ended up writing about this because it’s something that really goes deep with you. I enjoy reading a new perspective that people from mixed backgrounds give. I’ve seen friends who talk about the struggle of not being able to just check a single box from a questionnaire that asks for their ethnicity.

    (Shh, you’re actually really smart. Don’t deny it!!!) I’ve been having a sense that you got the best out of both worlds. You try to learn as much as you can from both sides and enjoy doing things relating to that culture. (Eg. Going out to the Philippines and learning what’s good/bad down there.) It gets pretty annoying when people try to dig where you’re from. I see it being offensive when those people think they know more about you than yourself.

    Representation does matter. That’s how names get out there in the world. You definitely don’t need to choose one side of the race. You do what you feel comfortable with!

  4. 13th February 2017 / 9:12 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this post and such a personal part of yourself. I am glad to hear that you have become much more accepting of yourself and I hope over time you can understand you are, who you are.

    I love the fact that you have writing to share characters and stories that relate to you and many others. Even though I am white, I find it so annoying/infuriating that more people are not represented in mainstream media. People should not be valued on the colour of their skin or on their gender, sexuality or religion.

    Things have to change.

  5. 13th February 2017 / 5:48 pm

    I think it took you a lot of courage to write this and I really value that. It’s not easy to talk about your insecurities, especially when you are not sure who you are. But, you shouldn’t think I must be one thing, I must decide where I come from. You can be you, a mix of every good trait you have and every defect you have. You are the kind you and the creative you and the funny you and this can go on and on. Your skin color, your birthplace, your nationality shouldn’t matter. They don’t define you, they don’t define the real you. The one that people get to know and love, the one that is there for them. That’s what is important.

    Last summer I met a guy that was Chinese, but was born and raised in Scotland and he was studying in Malta. I found it interesting, but I didn’t fell for any of these things, he was funny and kind and he felt right for me that’s why I fell for him. That’s the thing, all these things don’t matter, at the end of the day the only important thing is how much love you shared and how much good you did.

    Take care <3

  6. 13th February 2017 / 7:46 pm

    Wow – I like how we’re on the same wavelength! My comment might repeat some of the things I’ve already said but I agree that self-love is really important. My sister is always telling me to love yourself before we learn how to love other people.

    I also get the question of “Where are you from?” all the time too! I think a part of people don’t realize how weird that question is for someone who doesn’t really really fit into the box that society makes for us. I understand the real question but sometimes I wish people would just get to the point and ask me what my ethnicity was, instead of asking where I’m from, because they’re not always going to be the same thing. I also thought that the experience you related about your characters really interesting! I was reading a person’s comment about one of the characters from my favorite books and how he thought the character looked like in his head. And what he saw in his head was completely different from my image of the character (race wise).

    I also think it’s okay that we don’t fit into the stereotypes or the box that people put us in. Just because you don’t have the same experiences as someone else does, doesn’t make your experiences any less valuable or make you any less Filipino or Jamaican or however else you might choose to identify yourself.

    It’s completely okay to be confused! Like you said, I think everyone is, in some way, confused about who they are (at least one point in their lives). You are the master of your own destiny!

  7. 14th February 2017 / 6:21 am

    I am of two races and yet, my official race is white and I hate it. It’s weird to be two races and be constantly in the middle of them all the time! I know your pain, I seriously do. This post got to me so much!

  8. 16th February 2017 / 5:42 am

    Thanks for sharing, Chynna! I thought this was an interesting read, and though I’m not mixed race, I feel like I can relate to some of it. My parents were born in China, and I was born in the US, which makes me feel like I’m part of two cultures. I get the same question where people ask where I come from, yet they aren’t satisfied when I say New York, even though it’s the truth. (Really, they want to know my ethnicity, but I really didn’t come from China, sooo…)

    As for stereotypes, I think they’re harmful even if they’re considered “good” stereotypes. I don’t think we should let ourselves be defined by them. I can see how that’d be uncomfortable when people comment on your mix. I’m not sure how I’d respond either if I were in the situation.

    Totally agree that representation matters! There’s still much more that can be done in film and TV, but it’s nice to see it come up more often as a topic of discussion. It’s always nice when you see a character that you can relate to on more than just a personality level.

    I think it’s ok to continue to feel conflicted because it’s not really a simple thing. I love your message at the end too. Definitely agree on doing your own thing and that self-love is so important!

  9. 16th February 2017 / 10:54 am

    Being mixed race comes with a lot of struggles with identity, and I really felt like I knew exactly what you were talking about and how you were feeling as I read this. I have also had people give me a look when I support Indonesians or they express shock when I say I’m Indonesian because I simply don’t look it. I also tire of people asking me where I am from because it raises questions like “you don’t LOOK like x”. It’s stereotypical and just like any other physical trait, I’m tired of being judged on that.

    I hardly feel offended, which is interesting because most biracial people experience racism towards one of their backgrounds, and yet you haven’t written about that at all. I usually get mixed Asian friends being offended by a comment like “slant eyes” but because they are mixed, they don’t look Asian, and other people don’t realise they are being offensive. But yeah, that aside, it’s not so much about being offended but it’s exactly as you explained: where do I belong?

    We shouldn’t have to choose one race over the other. We can identify with all races that our genetic makeup comprises. It’s important that we feel good about ourselves. 🙂

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  11. 19th July 2018 / 12:54 am

    Thank you for sharing! As a mixed person (Créole Réunionnais | Chinese split), race has lead to a lot of insecurity and pain recently as I apply for things that are race contingent. Increasingly though, I’m moving towards a place of being proud of my background which is beautiful and necessary and very challenging. For me, part of the challenge of being mixed is that while it opens you up to a beautiful mélange of cultures, it also makes it quite hard to fully relate to one group or another (especially Créole Réunionnais- which 1: Is not exactly the largest people group… especially in the US and 2: when painfully attempted to be broken up into more universally comprehensible bits is a mix of French, Spanish and African). Stumbling across your post reminded me that my struggles are not unknown and there is ever so comforting relatability to be found between mixed people. WHAT A JOY! I so deeply feel your sentiment of ignoring what people say you are or who you should be. Hi world, my background and consequent racial identity is not for your deciding, thanks so much! Once again Chynna, thank you sharing such refreshing thoughts. I believe God has used to show me that I’m not alone in these obstacles. Now, I fall asleep a little bit lighter.

    • Chynna
      Author
      2nd October 2018 / 12:04 pm

      Thank you so much for stopping and reading. I’m glad you could relate to my post 😀

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