Half-Way In, Half-Way Out

I’m standing over a line, with my left foot on one side, and my right foot on the other side.

I’m “half-way in, half-way out”.

That’s how it feels when you are biracial.

My dad is White. People always ask me “what kind of White?” But the truth is I really don’t know where his ancestors are all from. You know those people who can break down their heritage into percentages? (Oh I’m 25% Mexican, 12% Spanish, 10% Portuguese…) I’m not one of them. The one vague piece of information I have is that his people are originally from Ireland. I have no idea when this immigration occurred, who they were… nada.

My mom is Filipino. And her culture has a huge effect on me. Whenever I mention my family, I’m referring to her side of the family. They’re the only family who lives in the same State as us, so we aren’t so close to my dad’s side.

Although I’ve been raised with this Filipino culture: eating a majority of their food, listening to their language, watching TFC, on the outside I look anything but Filipino.

People are always surprised when I tell them that I’m half Filipino. They tell me “I never would have guessed!”

And growing up, I was always painfully aware of my height. I’m 5 ft 8 in, for a white girl that’s pretty standard. But for a Filipino, that’s huge. Ginormous even. At family parties, family friends would always exclaim about how tall I was, and a grandma even said one time “This one is going to be a 6-footer!”.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m very thankful for my heritage and for the different views it has given me about the world. I also feel like with my experiences: being White, raised in America, and having non-Filipino friends helps me explain different points of view to my family.

But other times I feel very lost. My Filipino family wants me to be very proud of my heritage, and I am. But I can’t just fit in with the mainstream Filipino crowd. People really do judge you on looks. Because I don’t fit in physically, people will often question who I am and why I am there. And because I understand basic Tagalog, I always know when they are talking about me. It’s embarrassing. They always describe me as “puti” or “mataas”. (White or tall).

When I explain to different people that I’m half Filipino, half White, these are the general reactions I will get.

When I tell White people that I’m half Filipino, they often categorize me as “Asian” or “you must be really smart”.

On the other side, Filipino people say “Wow I never would’ve guessed! You’re so white and tall! Americanized! Meztisa!”

There are a lot of benefits to being biracial. I feel lucky to experience two different cultures at the same time, while others may only experience one. I get a different perspective of the world, being shaped by my family and my individual experiences in America. I get to grow and challenge thoughts of my elders. (ex: My aunt ignored me for two years because I had a boyfriend. I know that not all Filipinos are this way, she’s just kind of weird, but it’s a big cultural difference between most Americans. Most Filipinos I know are more conservative than most Americans).

But I also think it’s a big deal that people will judge you based on physical appearances or racial heritage. In order to fit into a “certain group”, you have to meet their physical criteria. Or knowledge of culture.

Regardless of what people say, at the end of the day, I’m still half Filipino, half White. It’s in my DNA, and it’s not something that’s verified by my physical attributes or whether I can speak a foreign language. It’s also not verified by my GPA or whether I take off shoes when I visit someone’s house.

I don’t need to cross the line and enter one category or the other. I am both, and I am proud. Standing in between is just fine for me.

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10 Responses to Half-Way In, Half-Way Out

  1. david says:

    Generally speaking, there are many Asian cultures that put a premium on elements of whiteness, and it’s interesting that there are limits to those cultural preferences when they often seem so prized otherwise. .

    • Hi David,
      Thanks for taking the time to comment. Although I know that most Asian cultures favor these “white elements”, I really do find it weird. For example: most Filipino actors/actresses are usually mixed like me, or go to such efforts like bleaching their skin. I guess my feelings about being mixed are not what you would expect, since a large amounts of Asians think that having “white characteristics” (being tall and pale) are preferable. I think the most conflicting thing for me is that while I feel Filipino on the inside, I don’t look so much like it on the outside haha

      • david says:

        I’m also mixed, and I think there’s certainly some of ‘the grass is greener on the other side’ perspective to it all. Perhaps if you looked Filipino, you’d wish that your physicality was more white. We live in a culture that erroneously enhances the qualities of anybody who looks a certain way. . And then counter-culturally, because white is the standard, everyone who enjoys the privileges of whiteness wants to be more than just white.

        I also think that to some extent many person of color cultures hold on to their ways so that they feel validated as human beings in some kind of hierarchy instead of their looks and lack of resources making them “the other who is less than.” .

        • Very true. I guess the simple answer would be for people to just be happy with how they look, right? 🙂

          Have you ever felt “lost” because of your mixed racial identity?

          • david says:

            I suppose there have been times. I mean, occasionally it seems like people having friends and falling into relationships is as easy as being entirely normal-looking within a fixed spectrum. Historically being mixed has often been seen in that vein, except if you were possibly a woman who was closer to white standards of beauty. Then you’d be placed on a lonely pedestal. It seemed to be the case that the “tragedy” of being mixed was if you were sort of attractive by white standards, but not white enough to be respectable. Conversely you could be higher up in another culture’s hierarchy for looking more white.

            But why should anyone feel like any of that is ideal? People who can be considered white enough and have a foothold in that world generally just go that route, and that such is considered progress is kind of strange. No culture is without its flaws, but not being white and/or privileged often means that people’s humanity is seen as limited — strictly based on their appearance. If you have a parent who isn’t white, though, their humanity being seen that way shouldn’t amount to them being an embarrassment, which is often sort of what they can be by the standard of whiteness as normalcy. But pop culture puts whiteness in all of us. Intellectualizing that, being self-aware and pausing instead of just letting a beautiful white woman seem like much more than a woman who isn’t white, and not wanting to be appreciated just for being exotic white — that’s a more solitary path than most idealized first-world folks have.

            • I get what you mean. In the past I’ve often wondered (and have also contemplated blogging about) why different minority groups usually seem to favor White dating partners, but have scorned other minority groups. For example: If you’re Filipino, typically the most accepted dating partners would either be Filipino or White. I was in a long term relationship with a guy who was Mexican, and his race was one of the reasons why my aunt stopped talking to me. It seems very ironic that minority groups that have historically been oppressed by European colonies do not find empathy with other minority groups, but instead may harbor negative feelings towards them. (Obviously, I am speaking broadly and cannot cover what each individual will say on the matter).

              Thank you for the discussion, it really is an interesting topic to talk about and I enjoy reading your feedback.

              • david says:

                Same here. You’ve got an interesting perspective as well. I might be releasing a novel in e-book form relatively soonish in which the mixed experience is a theme. Maybe I’ll drop you a note about that, if you’re interested (no worries if you’re not).

                Regarding you’re latest post, I can empathize with anxiety from the things outside one’s self that one has no control over. I suppose the best bucket of cold water I can think of is a really great song, or something really funny. Something that makes you feel like there can be something transcendent in all the disorder.

                • Sounds interesting! Definitely keep me posted on your progress with that.

                  Thanks for checking out my latest post 🙂 Your comment actually inspired me to write another post this morning. If you have time, feel free to check it out. Would love to hear your thoughts on that too

  2. gpyrois says:

    Nice post, I guess being biracial in any form will stimulate feeling both positive and negative.

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