what hapa means...a guest post from jen
The second guest post in this series is from Jen, who blogs over at Our Happy Family.
She has a fabulous blog and an etsy shop that you should check out asap (after you read her post, of course). I only know her via the blogging world...but how thankful I am for the blogging world when it lends the chance to "meet" people like Jen. I have enjoyed following her blog and all of the things she posts about. I hope you enjoy her post below about what hapa means to her and her family. And here is a picture of Jen with her husband, and another of their 3 littles. Aren't they all just lovely?
When thinking about what the word hapa means to our family, I don't necessarily feel I am the most qualified person to write about it. After all, being a fair skinned, blonde mix of Norwegian, Scandinavian, German, and Scottish I went a great deal of my life completely unaware of what it even meant to be multiracial. Then I grew up and fell head over heels for this wonderful man. This wonderful, hapa man who would open my eyes to a whole new world.
Kenji so perfectly embodies both sides of his Japanese Norwegian ethnicity: he is tall and strapping like his Norwegian ancestors, with the tan skin and black hair of his Japanese side. He looks like the Samurai from the classic Japanese movies, only bigger, standing a head above every other man on the subway in Tokyo. He tells me he's looked more Caucasion or Japanese at certain times in his life, and he's changed how he's identified his race accordingly. Checking the Caucasian box when he was younger and his hair was lighter brown, and checking the Asian box all throughout college when his hapa roots were undeniable.
It wasn't really until we were married that I realized how often I was being asked "oh, is this your husband? what is he? His name is Kenji, that's Japanese! But he's so tall, his hair is thick and curly... he must be a Pacific Islander! Or part Hispanic?". And there I was, thrust into the role or constantly explaining his mixed heritage. Not that it was necessarily bad, but it was certainly the defining aspect of my new husband.
I learned quickly that even though we lived in the Pacific Northwest where being hapa and being in a multiracial marriage was not uncommon, prejudices were still alive and kicking. Particularly after 9/11 when any darker skinned man with a beard and black hair was going to be extra scrutinized, we adjusted. He started wearing his hair in a more Japanese style, donning American flag apparel (I still laugh about this because it's just not his style, but he says it worked wonders to dissuade ideas he may be a terrorist). I started carrying all of our bags through security as it saves us time when he's always picked for random security checks. Strange things happen and you wonder, is it because he's mixed? Do people still feel this way towards multiracial people? Kenji tells me it's a fine line to walk, never really fitting in with either side.
Now that we have 3 (almost 4) little hapas of our own running around, these things won't just affect us, but our children as well. We want them to grow up knowing both sides of their ethnicity, being proud of who they are. Their lives are a mix of cultures and to them, it's rich and fun and they love it. Someday they will realize the complexity of being hapa, but for now they're young and the fact that we all look different is only natural and lovely. We will never fit perfectly into a mold or category, and that's ok. Because I look at our babies and all I can see is that they are perfectly made, exactly the way God meant them to be, beautiful inside and out. And that is what hapa means to our family.