Monday, July 8, 2013
Happy to be Hapa
Hapa is a slang term used to describe someone that is half Caucasian and something else. Usually the other half is Phillippino, Hawaiian or any other Pacific Islander.
Growing up in Southern Orange County is pretty colorless. Being white myself I never really took notice. Until I married my Philippino husband and we had Hapa kids. For the most part being in an interracial marriage in this neck of the woods has been without incident. Maybe a few sideways looks and some stupid questions about whether or not my kids are adopted or am I possibly the nanny.
Both our girls are teenagers and the last two years I've heard a few disturbing comments from them. Such as they wish they were blonde like me so that they would fit in. One daughter goes to great lengths so she won't get so dark in the summer. The older one in high school has had a few racial slurs thrown at her. I feel so helpless and for right or wrong try and down play it. Of course being biased and their mom I tell them they are exotic looking and kids are jealous. But now I'm not so sure. One girl told one of my daughters that more boys would like her if her skin was lighter. Yes, I had to call the mom on that one. The older daughter is obsessed with getting a nose job because some kids at school said it is a fat and ugly Phillipino nose. So very tragic and unbelievable in this day and age.
On a recent family trip to Hawaii this summer it all changed. The minute we stepped off the plane and into the first eatery both girls exclaimed, "no one is looking at us like we're aliens!" From that point on my eyes were open. Every where we went the locals smiled and said hello to them. Now I was the white girl out! The daughter that doesn't like her nose suddenly saw other beautiful Hapa girls with the same nose. No more talk of nose jobs. She also went surfing in a local spot and not only did everyone in the line up say hello but they would give her waves. My younger daughter said it felt so good to fit in and be excepted .
This realization was both wonderful and tragic at the same time. My girls finally embraced their heritage. Since we are not moving to Hawaii I felt they needed to learn some coping skills for living in The OC. Much to my surprise they were glad to be home and lifted up with a little more pride and confidence.
This experience has really made me see more clearly. I've spent many hours wondering why some California kids feel the way they do and I have a lot of theories. None of which matter. I know this is the way God is choosing to teach my girls about life. They will grow up to be better people for it and hopefully will be globally minded and have a new view on what it's like to be a minority. As we left the airport in Maui there was a huge sign that said Embrace Diversity. The girls and I looked at each other and smiled each of us knowing we already have. Our surfer daughter wants to have her own surf company for women only called Hapa Wahini. The slogan will say Embrace your inner Wahini. So that any women of any race or color can wear the clothes. The younger one wants to do the clothes design.
God's plan is already working.