About Being Part Asian (Eurasian/Hapa).
How does a person with mixed ethnic roots define cultural boundaries and express the ideal self?
Definition of Identity.
How one defines oneself is crucial because an acceptable definition is key to validating our existence and identity.
According to recent studies, mixed East Asian and European ancestry is one of the fastest growing populations in countries such as the USA, UK, Australia and New Zealand.
There are many definitions used to describe a person with mixed Asian ancestry. Among the most commonly used definitions are:
The definition of Eurasian has two different meanings:
It can refer to a person with an ethnic mix of Asian and European descent or
A person from Eurasia - A regional area which spans the landmass between Asia and Europe and includes countries such as Russia and the Ukraine.
Many Eurasian Ethnic groups arose during the Mongol invasion of Europe and the colonial occupation of Asian regions by European states and private corporations from the 16th century peaking in the 19th century.
The term 'Eurasian' was first coined in British India in 1844 and originally used by the Anglo-Indians - people of mixed British and Indian descent. They tended to socialize and marry among themselves forming a separate social and economic class.
Today the term is most commonly used as an ethnic definition to describe people of mixed European and East Asian descent.(Cultures based on Chinese culture and philosophy such as Chinese, Japanese Korean and some South East Asian cultures).
The term Hapa originates in Hawaai denoting a person with half Asian, half white or any other heritage. The usage of Hapa has become popular with many people with mixed roots.
Biracial or multiracial are terms also used today.
Primordial vs Constructed identity.
- Primordial identity refers to a set of values, beliefs and customs that fit into a cultural umbrella practiced through a collective group. It can be said that the advantages of a primordial identity is that it provides a sense of greater identity stability within which a person is able to explore their own sense of individuality. Examples of Monoethnic cultures include English, French, Dutch, Chinese, Japanese.
- A constructed identity refers to one where values, beliefs and customs are selected on an individual and personal basis according to what best suits the interest of the individual. It is a more flexible and fluid identity which provides the individual the ability to change his/her identity preferences depending on the situation.
- Multiracial identity is said to be a constructed identity. Whilst it provides greater flexibility to determine one's own cultural preferences, it tends to lack the support of a cultural umbrella practiced through a collective group.
Research conducted by Poston and Root (1990) a leading researcher and author on bi-racial identity studies developed a four stage model of identity integration and conclude:
- individuals with bi-racial identity have a fluid identity which means that they can move between ethnic preferences and change preferences depending on a situation. For instance, they are able to relate equally to both their European and Asian ethnic roots depending on the prevailing situation or they can establish a unique identity that is not wholly from one or the other.
- Another study finds that people report the most satisfaction when they are able to value the different aspects of their ethnicity, make decisions freely and live with authenticity.
Poston notes that until the age of around four an individual's focus is on their own identity and is therefore not too aware of racial differences. The observation of differentiation takes place when the individual starts to have group contact - usually when they begin to attend school. This is an extremely anxious time for a person with bi-racial identity as they are placed in a situation where they are often required to make a choice between their identities. However, with parental support and guidance this phase can be overcome with less stress by helping your child to value all sides of their ethnic origins.
Continuum of Biracial Identity Model
The Continuum of biracial identity (COBI) is another model of biracial identity. Proposed by Rockquemore and Laszloffy aims to reflect the diverse ways multiracial individuals see themselves and proposes a continuum along which an individual can identity. A blended identity may express itself to different degrees of an ethnic ideal pending the individual's personal circumstances. For instance a person that is of mixed Chinese and German ancestry would be represented by one pole representing his/her Chinese side and the other pole representing his/her German. An equal blended identity of the two is located in the middle but an individual can place themselves anywhere along the continuum which can be changed at any time.
Some Tips To Help Children Integrate Their Mixed Heritage.
- A child might learn the language of his/her minority culture.
- Let your child have contact with relatives of both sides of the family.
- Explain cultural differences to them. In this way, they can understand the reason why people act as they do and in this way they will also be able to understand themselves better.
- Celebrate or at least note the important holidays and events to both sides of the family.
Roots of Eurasian Identity.
There are a multitude of ethnicities that comprise the Eastern and Western worlds - at their cores however lie only two philosophies rooted in ancient Greece and China.
It is good to know the differences in values and culture between Eastern and Western worldviews because it enables one to better understand people from different cultures and helps a person with a mixed heritage to better understand their roots and how it is expressed within their own ethnic mix.
The Western worldview and culture is rooted in ancient Greece under philosophers Plato, Socrates and Aristotle. Values of individualism, reasoning and linear thinking with man as the center of his universe and the application of science and technology as the basis of decision making.
The Eastern world (China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea and some Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam and Singapore) is dominated by Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism. A world-view based on collectivism, harmony, inner reflection, filial piety and holism (The whole as being more than the sum of its parts) places importance on a person's role in society as opposed to the focus on the individuality of a person. Buddhism taught correct living through harmlessness, mindfulness and non-attachment to the material world.
In essence we can say that Westerners tend to be more expressive and assertive in their communications with the pursuit of happiness and self-interest motivating decisions. In the East, people tend to be more context orientated, passive and yielding for the common good of the collective. Communication is more indirect and intuitive so as not to lose face or disrupt social order.
Who do You Think is Right about the Relationship Between east and West?
Historically society, scholars and thinkers believed that the two worldviews were contradictory and consequently separate development was pursued over many centuries. In past centuries and in the absence of modern technology it was easier to maintain the separation as the distance between these two worlds were far apart.
Much has changed since the days of Rudolf Kipling who wrote in his famous ballad of 1889 'East is East, West is West, Never the twain shall meet'
Today, we live in a melting pot of different ethnicities called the global village with ever advancing technology. Eastern and Western world-views are increasingly perceived as complementary rather than contradictory.
Complementarism a term coined by physist Niels Bohr (1885-1962) holds that objects have complementary properties which cannot be measured accurately at the same time. Bohr often referred to his studies as the scientific equivalent to the yin and yang principal found in taoism.
His work was followed by Fritjof Capra an Austrian born american Physicist who published a best selling book in 1975 the Tao of Physics in which connections between Science and Eastern mysticism are made.
Bio Physicist Sungui Ji's conducted a biological study on Complementarism and concluded:
“Just as the human brain requires a harmonious interaction between the left and right hemispheres to be cognizant of the ultimate reality, so perhaps the brain of the universe – Homo-sapiens needs a global culture built on the integration of Western Science and Eastern Tao for it to know itself and the universe it inhabits. Admittedly a mystical conclusion”
we cannot rule out the possibility that the dichotomy is not a happenstance but has an origin as mysterious as that of the universe itself. One possible explanation is that it takes both Eastern and Western modes of thoughts for Homo sapiens to unravel the mysteries of the universe”. ”(Sungchui Ji,1995).
Consider the words of Goethe (1749-1832), a renown poet of German literature wrote:
''He who knows himself and other, will also recognize that East and West cannot be separate
How are Eurasian' s Perceived?
A study conducted by Gillian Rhodes from the university of Australia found that people tend to find a Eurasian face more attractive than that of a European or Asian face. Perceptions of people, when asked what they think of Eurasian people generally agree with this finding but also say that they find that Eurasians tend to be more confused.
A number of studies show that bi-racial individuals tend to suffer a higher degree of mental illness as compared with the average population due to depression and anxiety as a result of identity confusion.
It is important therefore for parents, caregivers and the community to be sensitive as to how they respond to people with mixed ancestry. Getting to know someone before judging them and treating people as you would like yourself to be treated can go a long way towards developing and maintaining a healthy society. Parents and caregivers should encourage children to develop their inner talents and appreciate all sides of their ancestry.
Bi-Racial People are Healthier and Stronger.
A research study conducted by scientist on the genetics of intelligence in Hawaii amongst Americans with European and Japanese ancestry, and some with both ancestry, found that the participants with both ancestry's scored higher in 13 of the 15 tests given.
Alan Ziv authored a book based on these findings ‘Breeding between the Lines’ notes that whereas inbreeding is associated with a number of birth defects, cross breading creates a stronger, healthier and intelligent species.
Model Citizen of The 21st Century
One international news magazine proclaimed Eurasians "the poster children for 21st century globalization" touting their ability to bridge cultures in marketing, advertising and entertainment.
Definition of Part Asian Identity:The Social Construct of Language.
Which Definition of identity do You Prefer ?
The World in 2050.
A Times magazine cover feature predicted that by 2050 America would be a dominant multicultural/Mixed race majority. Similar trends are found globally with Asians that are living in Western countries such as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand becoming the fastest minority growing minority group as well as those with Eurasian origins.
What will the Race of the future be like?
Answering to the question about intermarriage in 1930, theosophist Gottfried de Purucker said "I can say simply this, that the time has not come when I would willingly suggest intermarriage; but I am in honesty bound to qualify that by saying that the race of the future will be a composite, composed of the many different races on earth today. Let us also remember that all men are ultimately of one blood."
The One Drop Rule.
Although outlawed in 1967 in the Loving and Virginia case in the USA – The one drop rule legally classified bi-racial people into the racial category of the minority raced parent. This view was handled similarly in other parts of the globe. A report featured in Psychology today claims that many people publicly associate themselves with only one race. President Obama for example checked the African American Black on the 2010 census form.
Loving Vs Virginia. A Landmark Civil Case.
A USA Supreme court ruling of 1967 found it unconstitutional to prohibit mixed race marriages based on laws prohibiting interracial marriages. ‘The case was brought by Mildred Loving, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, who had been sentenced to a year in prison in Virginia for marrying each other. Their marriage violated the state's anti-miscegenation statute, the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which prohibited marriage between people classified as "white" and people classified as "colored".’Wiklopedia
The Loving and Virginia case was not only a landmark ruling in the USA, but also had a global reach.
Best of Both Cultural Expression.
According to a number of prominent scholars the Western world experienced a shift towards an East-West culture since the 60's.
The wellness industry for instance where Eastern practices such as yoga, tai chi, Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) are backed by Western Science.
A complementary fusion of Eastern and Western principles can be found in the arts, spirituality, cuisine and more recently music.
East-West culture is not quite a reality yet but most people today selectively practice some form of integrated East-West culture - even if it's just meals. Understanding how the principles of East-West blending are harmonized in cultural fields such as art and design, cuisine,spirituality, music,will provide a greater sense of one's heritage and an opportunity to appreciate its cultural expression and an opportunity to find ones own unique blended expression.
Bill of Rights for People of Mixed Heritage.
Maria Root a leading researcher and writer on mixed race studies wrote this bill of rights in the 1990s for people of mixed race.
part Asian 100 percent hapa
The Kipfulbeck Hapa Project.
The Hapa Project.
Kip Fulbeck is an American artist, filmaker and author His mixed race-ethnic bakground is Cantonese, English, Irish, and Welsh. Fulbeck created the Hapa project, a multiracial identity project using a range of mediums, including a published book, traveling photographic exhibition, satellite community presentations, and online communities
Fulbeck began the project in 2001, traveling the country photographing over 1200 volunteer subjects who self-identified as hapa (defined for the project as mixed ethnic heritage with partial roots in Asian and/or pacific islander ancestry)
After being photographed, participants identified their ethnicites in their own words, then handwrote their response to the question “what are you?”
over 1200 volunteer participants were photographed at dozens of shoots throughout California and Hawaii, as well as Illinois, New York, and Wisconsin
the Hapa project was created to promote awareness and recognition of the millions of multiracial/multiethnic individuals of asian/pacific islander descent; to give voice to multiracial people and previously ignored ethnic groups; to dispel myths of exoticism, hybrid vigor and racial homogeneity; to foster positive identity formation and self-image in multiracial children; and to encourage solidarity and empowerment within the multiracial/hapa community
The Loving Day Foundation.
Loving Day is a global network of annual celebrations you can host or attend.
It's Goals are:
- To create a common connection between multicultural communities, groups and individuals
- Build multicultural awareness, understanding, acceptance, and identity
- Educate the public about the history of interracial relationships in order to fight prejudice
- Establish a tradition of Loving Day celebrations as a means to achieve these goals
Post Modernism and the Era of Consumerism.
Society of today is increasingly one of blurred boundaries, blended cultures and world views.
We live in an era of post modernism where in a technology driven world, association through what we consume tends to override national and traditional interests and boundaries. Technology advances means that we connect instantly with like minded people around the globe that share our interests.
The answer to the most common question "What are you?" requires the answer first to the question - Who are you?
Everybody: Be True To Yourself and Value Both Sides of Your Ancestry.
Raine Law Yuen
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