I identify as hapa. If you were to ask me, what I am, I would say I identify as hapa. In case you don’t know, hapa is a Hawaiian word meaning half. It has evolved to become a racial epithet for someone who is of half Asian descent. That is, if someone’s ancestry consists of 50% Asian ancestry, then they are hapa, if they so choose to identify as hapa. There are other derivatives from this term, such as quapa, which refers to the children of a hapa, or someone who is of 25% Asian ancestry. Being hapa means that you are part of a group of people who share an ethnicity and come together as one to embrace and celebrate that fact.
Why I Identify as Hapa
Having a community
As someone who identifies as hapa, I am part of a community of my very own. I’ve tried fitting in with the white or Asian communities, but it’s not the same. It is not the same because I am not fully white or fully Asian. I don’t have the same experience as someone who is fully white or fully Asian. I find that I can relate more to people who are half Asian, half white. Whenever I meet someone else who is hapa, I squeal with excitement. And to be honest, that doesn’t come along very often, unfortunately. Being from the south, there aren’t that many of us as there are in Hawaii or California.
Because of the lack of representation in my area of the country, it is even more important to be a part of this community. Thanks to technology, I have been able to join hapa communities on social media. Being a part of this community gives me a sense of belonging. Just knowing that there are other people who are of the same or similar ethnicity to me makes me feel less alone in this world. I’m not saying that I have the exact same experiences as someone who is half white, half Asian. What I am saying is that some of those experiences are the same. In fact, I’ve spoken with a few hapas and we’ve bonded over eating Korean food, growing up in a dual language household, and being raised by two parents of different races. It is nice to be able to talk to people who have had some of these experiences because it shows that you are not alone in the world. This is so important for everyone, no matter your origin, race, or ethnicity.
Having a label
When I was younger, I used to be jealous of my ‘white’ and ‘black’ friends because they had a label. They were ‘white’ or ‘black.’ There was a word that they could use to identify as. As someone who is biracial, I didn’t really have an epithet that I could call my own. I could call myself ‘white’ AND ‘Asian’ but it’s not the same. It’s not the same because that is not what I am. I am not fully white or fully Asian. I am a mixture of both. I am 50-50. I am both, but at the same time, I am neither.
By identifying as hapa, I finally have a label of my own. When people ask what are you?, I can proclaim hapa with pride and confidence. I can shout this word to the rooftops. I can tell everyone that this is what I am. In just one word, hapa lets me describe what I am without going into detail. It lets me be something that is whole instead of something that is fragmented. Instead of being a mishmash of ethnicities, I am my own. I belong to my own race.
Having that feeling of ‘wholeness’
As a biracial person, I grew up thinking quite mistakenly that somehow I was not whole or complete. I grew up thinking that I am just a combination or a mishmash of ethnicities and races. Like most biracial and multiracial people, I went on my own journey of self-discovery. I went on this journey to find out what I am. I knew what my mom was, and what my dad is, but what did that make me? If I was monoracial, then I would be what both of my parents are.
When I finally discovered that I am hapa, it was as if a lightbulb had went on in my head. I suddenly felt whole. I suddenly felt like my own person. I wasn’t just a mishmash of a person, but instead someone who was whole with my own identity. I could use this identity to express how I felt about being multiracial. I could use this identity to connect with other people like me. But most of all, in having this identity, I had finally come home. I was where I belonged.
I identify as hapa because that sums up, in one word, what I am. It gives me a sense of belonging and pride. It gives me a label that I can call my own. It allows me to be whole instead of fragmented and mixed. It allows me to connect with others who have similar experiences. That is why having a label is such a powerful and beautiful thing. Having a label can be bad when used negatively or as a racial slur, but it can also be a source of strength. By having a label, I have finally come home.