What Are Words Worth: Hapa, Hafu or Mixed-Race?

What Are Words Worth: Hapa, Hafu or Mixed-Race?

Pacific Citizen: The National Newspaper of the JACL
Los Angeles, California

Gil Asakawa

I’ve just finished writing revisions for a new edition of my book, “Being Japanese American: A JA Sourcebook for Nikkei, Hapa … & Their Friends,” which will be published this July by Stone Bridge Press. I mention this not just to pimp the book to you all, but because I wrote in the new foreword how I have decided not to use the word “hapa,” at least for now.

Instead, I wrote that I’ll use “mixed race” instead.

Hapa is a word originally used in Hawaii to describe mixed-race people, like half-Asian, half-Hawaiian. The term was used as a slur, but over the years, it’s become commonly used even by mixed-race people. In fact, I’ve heard mixed-race people other than Asian combinations refer to themselves as hapa.

But in 2008, when I moderated a panel in Denver titled “The Bonds of Community: Hapa Identity in a Changing U.S.” for a conference sponsored by the Japanese American National Museum, a man stood up during the question-and-answer period and said he thought it was a racist term. At the time, I pushed back gently and noted that it’s already a pretty common term.

The interchange with this man has stayed with me ever since…

Read the entire article here.

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