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Being Biracial, November 2nd, 1997 :: Ben Turner's Soapbox

 

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archived soapbox: November 2nd, 1997
"Being Biracial" [permalink]
    keywords: life, ancestry, races, biracial, society, family
    soapbox #: 109
    written: November 2nd, 1997
    words: 1251

"Being Biracial", an Essay

I suppose right now is the most opportune time to discuss my ethnic background, since there hasn't been any event recently which has sparked writing a Soapbox about it, but I think after close to twenty years on this planet, I have experienced enough to at least initiate a summation of what it is to be the Asian American/British person I am.

Some background: my parents are both English, but my mom is half-Chinese and I of course pick up Scottish and Irish heritage. I think that qualifies me as an acceptable wearer of a kilt, sweet Anna. ;) I've grown up in a stable, supportive family and have attended comfortable public schools which have provided me plenty of opportunities. I've taken advanced courses my whole life and have gotten a good education.

How has this affected me on the surface, being a hybrid, a biracial person? I don't think it's really affected me on a psychological level, since I've always been accepted by my peers (thank God for being born in the present day) and I've never really felt different because of my ethnicity. I appear as a well-tanned individual with unclear family roots. Some say I look Hispanic, but most observe that I'm part-Asian. I have no accent, really, except the generic American accent which doesn't really have any regional influence. My speech patterns have been formed mostly by mass media, other children (who have of course been watching plenty of television too), and by what I've read. Strangely, I didn't pick up my parents' English accents. That is probably because I was born in the States, not in England.

What's affected me far more at a superficial level is not what race I am, but what social status I'm in. Taking advanced courses at rich public schools means you're probably only going to know the upper crust of your school, since the other students are pretty much invisible to you. They have completely different classes and use different parts of the school building. I don't know -- maybe it's different in other schools. I basically knew all the Asians at my near 2000 student high school, from one thing or another. It's inevitable. But I don't appear Asian enough that people would ever say, "Oh, he gets good grades because he's Asian." I never was identified as just an Asian. I'm not really sure what I was identified as, by my peers. Maybe I don't want to know.

Yes, these stereotypes exist. However, I've never seen any hate in any stereotypical comments -- usually joking, in a flattering way, about peoples' scholastic abilities and test scores.

So what I've established from my physical form is that I'm unidentifiable. That's made my life more comfortable, since people are less likely to immediately apply blatantly wrong stereotypes to me.

My parents didn't raise me under any specific customs. Our family's more like the kind that recognizes holidays and rituals as they appear on the American commercialism annual calendar -- no Asian holidays (I really, really wouldn't mind celebrating Chinese New Year...) or religious holidays. But Christmas? Thanksgiving? Sure.

It's amazing how indifferent I've been raised to my race -- I don't think this is bad at all. I probably would have objected strenuously to any attempts at keeping me in line with family religion. Religion, race, color of skin, first impressions...all of that has never applied to me, although my interest in that fact allows me to understand the importance of each. Besides, being a biological member of several different races and cultures has opened my mind to how different every culture is and how they celebrate life differently.

Only until I started working on my site did I really think about my roots. That was about the time I started filling out college applications, and there's still the optional checkbox for which race you are. What are hybrids like me supposed to check? Anglo American and Asian American? Man, what a way to kill your acceptance letter chances. ;)

I started thinking about how much I enjoy being who I am, how I've lived a life without being raised under the shelter of racial ignorance and prejudice. I enjoy being biracial. Now that I've come to recognize it and cherish it, I wouldn't trade it for anything else.

Biologically, hybrids are supposed to be stronger and live longer than a pure breed. Whether or not that completely applies to me, my genepool is more varied than most, being a culmination of many different races. I rarely get sick -- perhaps a few times a year -- and I'm in extremely good shape. I don't know how much of that I can attribute to my genetics, but I know there's something to be found in it.

There is individuality and uniqueness in being a hybrid, as well. Not many others I've met have had the privilege of enjoying what I have. I'm not sure of my Chinese heritage, but I'm fairly certain I'm a descendant of pirates and royalty on my British side. There is plenty more for me to explore when I look back to my family's history and discussing my background always makes for an interesting introductory discussion with new acquaintances and friends.

When I said I am unique and individual because of my being biracial, that is becoming less and less true with every generation. Particularly in the States and Canada, different races are rapidly overcoming traditions of marrying only within one's race -- the number of mixed couples is increasing dramatically and hybrids are becoming more numerous. I am one of the first generations to go through this change in the acceptance of different cultures. Science fiction and cyberpunk authors have recognized all of this, I think: remember Hiro Protagonist from Snow Crash? Biracial. Part-Asian, part-black, if I remember correctly. What can I say? I'm a cyberpunk archetype who's part Asian, heavily into the computer technology, and still appreciative of the physical, active world. And I've got a kickass girlfriend who has a deadly arsenal of weapons at her disposal. ;)

The gene pool will get more and more diverse as cultures mix in each generation. What will eventually happen? Well, after many generations, I suppose we'll need a new classification of races, redistributed to geographic locations. Or perhaps there'll be one Terran race of some sort, and then at that point, the gene pool will stop growing and it'll begin to stagnate, leading to genetic defect issues and whatnot. Or perhaps we'll evolve during that time and, well, now we've gone well past the limits of this 'Box.

At any rate, now I understand the importance of my race in my life. I don't feel that it has impacted me severely as an individual, but I think it has helped me see what the future is to be, what the future direction of the course of man will be. I've not been embittered with stories and experiences of prejudice, nor have I really been affected by any racial identifications, pejoratives, slurs, or anything. I have simply been blessed with a marvelous and unique trait which will help me figure out what the meaning of life and what the importance of life is to me and the human race. With this, I could not be happier.


 
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