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All Mixed Up

On the Complexities of Being Biracial

As a mixed person, I struggle a lot with identity, especially as I come across as white-passing to many people. I feel that I am often encouraged to "pick a side" to be associated with. For instance, to choose white friends over Asian friends, adopt different mannerisms that would make a racial group more comfortable—to simply avoid expressing my other "half." The fact that others seem uncomfortable when I embrace my culture suggests I do not have the authority to choose which box I fall into, since, upon first glance, the "one-drop rule"* is applied and my box has been pre-determined.

Despite the fact that my features lean more Western, white people seem to have some innate ability to detect any hint of foreignness in front of them, calling me "ladyboy" and "chicken wing" (nice and ambiguous) among others, thereby leading me to feel alienated and separate from that particular racial group. In order to combat this, I have been a victim of my own self-inflicted racism, whereby I would mock my Asian culture to accommodate for the sense of humour of those around me. Perhaps it is because I felt detached from this side of myself since I did not grow up in that land, therefore, the culture remained alien, a world separate from my own. And so I would identify as white, ashamed of my mother's culture and language that had been mocked as wacky and strange. I would spout what was essentially racism in return for laughter whilst justifying this with my heritage: "I can say it because I'm half." However, recently I have distanced myself from these problematic white friends who found my self-deprecation so amusing. Instead, I am ashamed of the loose ties I now have with my heritage.

And yet the "one-drop rule" has been favoured by people of colour (POC) as well as white people. Because I do not look Asian, I am denied the right to own my background. It is as though being biracial is not sufficient to pass the Asian genealogy test and as a result, half of my identity becomes erased through the logic that, since I'm not fluent in a language or because I was not born there, that makes me less Asian. There is an assumption that when I embrace my Asian culture, I am trying to be someone I'm not. In the past this made me feel like a sell-out, as though I was denying my white background when it appeared favourable and vice versa. These days, however, I have decided that it is insulting that I must prove my Asian-ness to the ignorant.

Evidently, it is mainly the words of others that have brought me to question my identity as a "mixed" person. Seemingly innocent statements like "I forget that you're half ___" or "I'm [practically] more ___ than you" have caused me to experience an internal dilemma as I fear I eclipse aspects of myself or that I am projecting opinions that reject one side and favour another, when this is not the case. I am learning about both cultures and how to accept their less favourable qualities without choosing one over the other.

Admittedly, social media and the blogging world have had an influence on my opinions of these cultures. I have sensed the general view shifting as the voices most deserving of being heard are now from those of people of colour, resulting in suppressed feelings towards white people to now be expressed unashamedly and with as much malice as, well, worthy. Whilst I view this shift in trend as a victory, I can't help feeling excluded as a white-passing mixed person. Inevitably I have experienced some forms of racism but not nearly to the extent of which a person more identifiable as of colour has faced. Therefore, I have no place sidling up with empowered minorities expressing injustices that, while I may have experienced, have been few and far between. In this way, I feel like an ally in the movement as opposed to a sister but I recognise that I should feel grateful I have white privilege despite not exactly being white and instead express my solidarity accordingly.

The fact that this division within the ethnic community exists bothers me, however. I understand that racist abuse is much more than simple insults hurled on the street or online, it exists on a systematic level for those who wear their race or ethnicity in the colour of their skin or the shape of their eyes and so on. There are undeniable advantages to being mixed which I do not condone as my features are almost fashionable and deemed "exotic" whereas my cousins would face an entirely different experience as their characteristics are seen as less palatable to society. When I visit my mother's country, it is evident that a mixed background is more favourable as my westernised features are sought after through procedures such as eyelid surgery which was ranked the world's leading cosmetic procedure performed in 2014, with my half-sister being one. I understand that I have it easier and I don't like that fact but it's true. The excitement people feel towards me when asking whether I'm mixed is the contempt shown towards others and that is unacceptable. In saying that, the highly divisive debate between biracial people and POC with parents of the same race is extremely damaging as we place ourselves on a scale of pain that is experienced, allowing this to separate us and as a result weaken us as a collective. In my eyes, this division is a destructive device that distracts from the main issue at hand: things aren't right and they need to be. The enemy is not within members of our own community, therefore, this is not a fight worth fighting.

Although I am still learning what it means to be mixed where the intricacies of biracial identity are overlooked, I am beginning to understand that I should not have to identify with a particular side only. I am not half, I am both. I am of fluid identity. I have not experienced only half an Asian upbringing, nor have I experienced only half a white upbringing, I have experienced both in the same way that I have had the luxury of being immersed in both cultures. On that note, it is not anyone's authority to determine which "half" they want to see as both run through my veins as unapologetically as the other.

*The "one-drop" term is used as a form of racial classification in the United States asserting that any person with even one "one drop of black blood" is considered black. In no way am I comparing my situation to the treatment of this racial group as that would be absurd. It is the words themselves which are accurate in describing the way I feel I am regarded: one-drop of Asian and I'm not deemed white, one-drop of white and I'm no longer Asian. That is all I'm referring to.

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