Being a first-generation American has played a huge role in who I am today. This aspect of who I am has shaped my cultural lens, my perspective on race, my beliefs, my core values, and my identity as a whole. It has been something that I’ve not only battled with, but have also come to embrace as I’ve gotten older.
Though I am not in any way ashamed of who I am, I do have some small regrets in terms of how I’ve tried to hide this aspect of my identity during my earlier youth.
Growing up, I always strived to assimilate to be just as American as my White peers. I guess I felt that I needed to overcompensate for the color of my skin— As if not being White made anyone “less American”. And like any new generation that follows, I wanted to do a little better and put in a little more effort to assimilate than the generation before me.
In today’s society, especially in America, assimilating to the country that you live in is being held to much a higher standard given the impending laws and general views that have recently been placed on people who “look like immigrants”.
And part of me was always cognizant of that — As if innately I knew that if I could be as American as possible, then maybe no one would ever point out the fact that I’m not White. Yet, after many years of trying, I realized that it didn’t really matter.
Appearance is always the first thing that people will see when they look at you and I could have never changed that.
Looking back in hindsight, I often wondered how much more attached I would have felt to my family’s heritage if I had just taken more initiative in understanding and learning about it — If I had only learned to speak the language, or joined some sort of cultural group, or if I had made more friends that were of the same ethnicity.
I say this because I blame most of my bitterness and naivety towards the fact that I actively chose to solely embrace American culture rather than blend it together with my family’s heritage.
And now, more than ever, I do regret that.
Though, I have resisted my heritage and am now trying to make amends, there is a whole other group of people that can be simply indifferent about race and its significance towards identity —And that group would be multiracial individuals.
According to statistics released by the Pew Research Center,
“One-in-seven U.S. infants (14%) were multiracial or multiethnic in 2015, nearly triple the share in 1980, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data”
This meaning, one parent is of one ethnic background and the other parent is of another (ie. part Black & part Asian, part Indian & part Asian, part Hispanic & part White, etc). This is a statistic that has been consistently growing for decades. And it’s due to a number of factors such as increased diversity within the school systems, a larger acceptance and advocacy for diversity, and so on.
The article adds another statistic which is directly tied to the rise in multiracial children,
“In 1980, 7% of all newlyweds were in an intermarriage, and by 2015, that share had more than doubled to 17%, according to a recently released Pew Research Center report. Both trends are likely spurred in part by the growing racial and ethnic diversity in the U.S.” (Pew Research Center, 2015)
I bring this up because the one thing that I’ve noticed from my own network of friends who are multiracial is that they often don’t know how to categorize themselves. And sometimes, they don’t even acknowledge race at all. They don’t necessarily attach their identity to their heritage, let alone embrace it. They are almost a whole new race which is neither here nor there— And this is an identity crisis that I didn’t even realize people faced until only recently.
When it comes to that box you check under “Ethnicity” on a job application or when filling out paperwork at the Doctor’s office, I personally always know exactly what to pick — It’s not an obscure question. However, for those individuals who are of multiple races, its a slightly more complicated question which usually leads to choosing the “Other” box.
The thing is, I used to view myself in the category of “Other” because I always felt more American than I did Filipino. Then, I realized that there was a whole other “Other” group of people who were even more confused about race than I was.
It started coming to mind more often as I started becoming more and more vocal on how I felt about race and identity and how the two were correlated. I even started thinking further down the road about the generation that has yet to come — My potential future descendants.
I, myself, am in an interracial relationship — My boyfriend is White and race is often a conversation that I like to divulge. He, being the person he is, loves to hear my opinions and feelings towards the topic (which, of course, makes me appreciate him even more). I often think about the hypothetical situation of us having children who would inevitably be of mixed races.
I think about how they would feel, what their experiences would be like, and if it would even affect them at all. I imagine though that race wouldn’t be as big of an issue to them because it wouldn’t be as noticeable for them as it was for me — At least, that’s what I hear based on my own friends’ experiences who are Half Asian & Half White.
But, it does sadden me to think that an entire heritage can be lost or forgotten throughout the generations as ethnic genes are slowly dissolved from a person’s DNA. That’s what I imagine the future would look like for interracial children. I fear that one’s heritage will simply dissolve and people will eventually stop passing down information about their heritage—And frankly, it’s already been happening.
So, my words to the future multiracial generation is this…
Don’t lose sight of where you came from. Don’t lose sight of the past. It has made you who you are today.
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” — Søren Kierkegaard