The debate over who counts as ‘American’ is nothing new

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Audio, Autobiography, History, Media Archive, United States on 2017-05-06 00:31Z by Steven

The debate over who counts as ‘American’ is nothing new

The Washington Post

Alex Laughlin

(Illustration by Chris Kindred for The Washington Post))

Virginia Matsuoka was 10 years old when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

She was playing tag football with her older brothers when her mother came outside and told them what had happened.

“And I remember my father came up behind me there,” Matsuoka said. “He put his arm around me and he said, ‘This is so bad, Ginger. This is bad.’”

Matsuoka’s mother was American and white, but her father was Japanese. By April 1942, her family was torn apart. Her father was working in Colorado, spared a stint in the internment camps because he had helpful law enforcement connections. He taught martial arts to police officers there. Two of her brothers were serving in the U.S. Army. And Matsuoka and two of her other brothers were in the Tanforan Assembly Center, an internment camp built around a racetrack near San Francisco.

Despite being displaced and separated, Matsuoka and her family remained patriotic. She recalls asking her father what it was like for her: “He said, ‘You know, Ginger, this was my country. I came here, they gave me the opportunity to make a name for myself, and then the war came along so you do things that you’ve got to do.’”

Hear Matsuoka recall her experiences in Tanforan and talk about what it was like returning to school after being separated from her friends and family…

Listen to the podcast (00:15:59) here.

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The long history and legacy of passing in America

Posted in Articles, Audio, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2017-05-04 22:30Z by Steven

The long history and legacy of passing in America

The Washington Post

Alex Laughlin

(Illustration by Chris Kindred for The Washington Post)

Anita Hemmings was Vassar College’s first African American graduate. But no one was supposed to know that she was black.

A light-skinned mixed-race woman, Hemmings passed as white for most of her time at Vassar — until her roommate hired a private investigator to find out the truth.

Hemmings graduated college in 1897 and continued passing as white for the rest of her life. Her story fits in with a broader history of African Americans passing in this country for personal safety, economic and social reasons.

In this episode of “Other: Mixed Race in America,” we learn the story of Hemmings, and we also learn about the legacy of passing that is inherited through generations of mixed-race Americans…

Listen to the podcast (00:19:12) here.

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Race is more than just black and white. This new podcast explores some of that middle ground.

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Audio, Autobiography, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2017-04-25 02:57Z by Steven

Race is more than just black and white. This new podcast explores some of that middle ground.

The Washington Post

Alex Laughlin

(Illustration by Chris Kindred)

There’s this literary theory called the “mulatto canary in the coal mine.”

It holds that the treatment and depictions of mixed-race people in art and culture is a reflection of the broader state of race relations in America at that moment. The theory has been applied to works throughout American history, from Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel, “Passing,” to Danzy Senna’sCaucasia” in 1999.

These multiracial characters, their very bodies providing evidence of racial lines crossed, are marked by confusion and betrayal, jealousy and cowardice, and most frequently, a tragic ending.

Well, it’s 2017 — 50 years since the Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court decision invalidated anti-miscegenation laws across the country. It’s been legal to cross these racial lines for five decades now, almost two full generations. What does it mean to be mixed race in America today?

I suppose I should tell you a little about myself and why I’m so interested in this topic…

Read the entire article here.

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Looking For Participants For Washington Post Podcast On Mixed-Race Identity

Posted in Autobiography, Identity Development/Psychology, United States, Wanted/Research Requests/Call for Papers on 2016-09-01 20:05Z by Steven

Looking For Participants For Washington Post Podcast On Mixed-Race Identity

Alexandra Laughlin

I’m a journalist at The Washington Post and I am working on a podcast about mixed race identity in the United States. This is going to be a highly produced, narrative-driven podcast that explores these complex issues through storytelling.

Now, I am now looking for your stories to tell!

The best stories will have a beginning, middle, and end, and they will involve you or someone you know experiencing a problem/conflict/hilarious situation involved with being mixed race. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • Who do you want to bring home to your parents?
  • Have you ever felt fetishized? How and why?
  • Have you ever dated someone who didn’t realize your race/ethnicity? Did it change things when they found out?
  • Was there ever a time when you didn’t feel accepted in a certain racial group?
  • Do you remember a time when people interpreted your identity in a way that wasn’t consistent with the way you feel?
  • Has your identity changed throughout your life?
  • How has your family/parents communicated your racial identity to you?

These are just some rough questions, but I would love to hear anything you have to share! Bonus points if you’re in Washington, D.C. or on the east coast. If you’d like to chat, shoot me an e-mail with a few sentences about your story at

I’m excited to hear from you!


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The Born Identity: Race & Identity in the Multiracial Community

Posted in Identity Development/Psychology, Live Events, Media Archive, My Articles/Point of View/Activities, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2015-01-28 02:55Z by Steven

The Born Identity: Race & Identity in the Multiracial Community

Districtly Speaking
Mt. Pleasant Neighborhood Library
3160 16th Street, Northwest
Washington, D.C. 20010
Thursday, 2015-01-29, 18:30-20:00 EST (Local Time)

“Race is not a universal concept — the definitions we go by are often arbitrary, uniquely American and undergo dramatic shifts from one generation to the next….perhaps it’s time to let multiracial people steer the conversation, instead of constantly having other who lack their lived experience define what they are, what they’re not and what they can be.” —Zak Cheney-Rice, Identities.Mic

“I self-identify as African American… that’s how I’m treated and that’s how I’m viewed. I’m proud of it.” —President Barack Obama

Join us on Thursday, January 29 for our first town hall of the year examining race and identity in the multiracial community. Our panelists will discuss growing up in a multiracial family, how they choose to identify themselves and how the biracial/multiracial story is being told through pop culture, the media, academia and the Obama Presidency. Got a question for our panelists? Submit your questions when you RSVP! Follow the conversation leading up to the town hall on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram! #DSMultiracial


Jonelle Henry, Journalist, Host & Conversation Starter; Founder & Host
Districtly Speaking


  • Joline Collins, Training Coordinator, Spitfire Strategies
  • Alex Laughlin, Social Media Journalist / Audience Engagement Manager, National Journal
  • Steven Riley, Founder & Creator,
  • Janea West, Journalist & Cultural Critic
  • Patrick Wilborn, STEM Instructor/Tutor Instructor, College Tribe

For more information, click here.

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‘Half Asian’? ‘Half White’? No — ‘Hapa’

Posted in Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2014-12-16 01:37Z by Steven

‘Half Asian’? ‘Half White’? No — ‘Hapa’

National Public Radio
Code Switch: Frontiers of Race, Culture and Ethnicity

Alex Laughlin, Social Media Journalist
National Journal

She was tall and freckled, with long, dark hair — and we stood out in the same way. As I leaned in to say hi, she yelled over the din, “You’re hapa, aren’t you?” It was the last word I expected to hear in D.C., but I welcomed the refreshing respite from the constant and inevitable question: “What are you?”

What am I? This is what they’re really asking here: What is the particular racial mix that created you? Because YOU don’t fit into a single box in my mind, and that confuses me.

I’m half Korean and half white, and it’s usually easier to just leave it there. If I were to volunteer my identity though, I would tell you I’m hapa.

Hapa is a Hawaiian pidgin word used to describe mixed-race people — primarily, though not exclusively, those who are half white and half Asian. It’s short for hapalua, the Hawaiian word that literally means “half” — and it originated as a derogatory term toward mixed-race children of plantation guest workers from the Philippines, Korea, China and Japan, and the women they married in Hawaii in the early part of the 20th century

…Artist Kip Fulbeck lived in Hawaii for several years, and he remembers a more keen awareness of racial and cultural differences among nonwhites than on the mainland.

“If I’m living in Hawaii and playing pickup basketball,” he said, “they’ll say ‘Hapa haole, throw me the ball!’ or ‘Hey, buddhahead! Hey, kimchi!'”…

…In 2000, Fulbeck started taking photos of hapa people and inviting them to identify themselves in their own words. The collection of photographs grew into the Hapa Project, a multiracial identity project encompassing traveling exhibits, presentations and a published book: Part Asian, 100% Hapa. He has photographed thousands of people for the project, and the community surrounding it remains lively online…

Read the entire article here.

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