Mixing it up: Multiracialism redefines Asian American identity

Mixing it up: Multiracialism redefines Asian American identity

San Francisco Chronicle

Jeff Yang, Special to SF Gate

How the mainstreaming of multiracialism is forcing a more fluid definition of Asian American identity
Like many immigrants, my parents see identity as a bucket. My mother and father had come to America carefully bearing a pail of old-world traditions, cherished customs, shining morals and rock-ribbed ethics; they’d worked hard and sacrificed greatly to give me and my sister the things they never had. And then, they handed us the bucket—knowing that in the transfer, a little bit of culture would inevitably slosh out over the side…

…Going fourth

It’s something that needs to be considered. As multiracial identity becomes the Asian American mainstream—by 2020, it’s projected that one out of five Asians in the U.S. will be multiracial; by 2050, that ratio will exceed one in three—the population of persons with one-fourth Asian heritage or less is poised to spike.
“I’m half Japanese, and my husband is all Irish,” says sociologist Dr. Rebecca Chiyoko King-O’Riain. “Our kids have very Celtic coloration—pale skin and fair hair. They’re not obviously Asian in appearance at all, and yet they still feel very connected with that part of their heritage. And that’s becoming more common, particularly among Japanese Americans, where multiracial identity is so common. There’s even a term for it I heard in California: ‘Quapa.’ If hapas are half Asians, quapas—like my kids—are quarter-Asians.”
Quapas have an overwhelmingly non-Asian ancestry; many don’t look Asian and don’t have Asian surnames. Yet anecdotal evidence suggests that as Asian America becomes more multiracial, a growing number of quapa Asians are affirmatively reconnecting with their Asian heritage, and actively embracing a sense of Asian American identity—challenging society’s conventional means of defining race in the process…

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