Nicolette Lewis: Half Asian (Filipino), Half White (Scottish, Irish, German)
“At my high school…I felt I had to prove that I was ‘Filipino enough’…”
I wasn’t sure how I fit in when I was younger..I still don’t know. At my high school, Asians were a small minority that tended to group into cliques. I was never a part of those cliques. I didn’t dance hip-hop. I didn’t wear gangsta clothes. I thought I wasn’t ‘Filipino enough’ to be a part of that crowd. I felt I had to prove that I was ‘Filipino enough’, so (at my mother’s urging) I participated in a local pageant: the Miss Filipino Community of Seattle Seafair Princess pageant. Only after winning the Miss Filipino pageant did I finally feel like I had a right to claim my Filipino identity. I learned so much about the Filipino American community and even more about the Filipino culture through my year of service in the Filipino Community of Seattle (FCS). I discovered a deep love for Filipino societal issues and have stepped up to some advocacy roles locally, which have geared my future career plans around East Asian economics. I will go to the Philippines this winter for an internship with the United Nations Development Programme as part of my major program at Seattle University.
Before the pageant, I said I was Filipino when people asked. Now I proclaim that I’m a Filipino American. I learned how to be a Filipino American as I got more involved in the Filipino community. I learned about my Filipino roots, including why my family came to America. It helped me appreciate my country. Whereas some critics say educating yourself about your non-US background is divisive, learning about my cultural heritage taught me about being American. So, now I can say I’m a Filipino American and appreciate each part of me.
Luzviminda (Lulu) Uzuri Carpenter: Half Asian (Filipina, with Spanish, Chinese, indigenous influence), Half Black (with White, Cherokee, African influence)
“My identity is heavily influenced by both society and my parents.”
I identify as Filipina and black. I do this to give honor to the struggles both my Filipina mother and my black father have had to endure. I give respect by learning both heritages and never denying one or the other. My identity is heavily influenced by both society and my parents. Both influences intersect to make me who I am. I feel that both my parents have endured a great deal due to society’s conscious and unconscious views on race and class. The way society works has developed my parents into hard working people that took the only paths offered to them. For my father, it was entering the military and escaping the harsh life of Jacksonville, Alabama. For my mother in the Philippines, it was working at an Air Force base. Their paths would cross and they would marry and have four children of which I am the youngest.
My parents are still together and talk openly about racial issues that they have to deal with. The funny thing is that they do not connect their struggles. My father understands about black oppression, but not about Asian and Pacific Islander struggles and vice versa for my mother. While my mother is coming to a certain consciousness about not wanting to be called “Oriental,” my father has to be gently reminded that the term is rather offensive.
Johanna Novales: Half Asian (Filipino), Half White (Finnish)
“I find it really creepy when people talk about the increasing number of mixed-race people as some new, enlightened group. We’re not any better or any worse than anyone else.”
identify as both halves of my identity: Finnish and Filipino both. I also identify more broadly as mixed-race, and as Asian, because I know with the racist one-drop attitude still prevalent in American society, no one is going to buy me being white anyway, even if I tried to pass (which I would never do). I’ve been involved in Asian political and social activism, which means I spend a lot of time publicly identifying as Asian. There isn’t the same opportunity to be immersed in a Finnish social milieu here.
I find it really creepy when people talk about the increasing number of mixed-race people as some new, enlightened group. We’re not any better or any worse than anyone else.
Excepts from “Blended Nation: Portraits and Interviews of Mixed Race America.” Channel Photographics, 2010. http://www.channelphotographics.com