Five Things You Should Never Tell a Half Asian

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OK, I am multiracial — biracial — eurasian — amerasian, or quite simply Hapa. As a mixed race person, I’ve been told things that have been downright offensive. Other things that I have been told have caused me to simply shake my head. So, without further ado, here are five things that you should never tell a multiracial person.

1–So, where are you really from anyway?

If I had a penny for the number of times I’ve been asked this question, I would have probably be able to pay off my student loans. This is the one question that is not only so annoying but reveals the complete ignorance of that person. It’s annoying. Why do they want to know where I am from or where my parents are from? Also, is it really relevant to the subject? Does knowing where I’m from from detract from getting to know me as a person?

People ask this question because they are curious. But at the same time, they wouldn’t ask a white or black person this question, unless they had a foreign accent. But they do ask Asians or half Asians this question because they look different from the “typical” American.

When people ask me this question now, I just tell them that I’m from here, America. They often look at me as if I’m being funny, not serious, or not understanding the question. But I am from here. I was born here. I grew up here.

And yet, they oftentimes don’t believe me.

2–Are you Chinese?

The number of times I’ve been asked this when I was younger is just one too many. Kids — even kids I didn’t even know — would walk up to me and ask “Are you Chinese?” I would pause, taken aback, and shake my head. “No, I’m not.” And then, they would ask “Well, what are you?”

This is another question that reveals the complete ignorance of a person. China is such a big, amazing, wonderful country. There are so many people who live there and benefit from its rich culture. But at the same time, there are so many other countries in Asia, from Japan to India to Iraq to India. To call all Asians — particularly east Asians — Chinese is downright offensive. China is so different from the other wonderful Asian countries. They all speak a different language, observe different cultures and belief systems, and eat different foods.

Please don’t ever ask a half Asian if they are Chinese.

3–Can you speak English?

Oftentimes when I go out in public and speak Korean, people often assume that I can’t speak English. It’s as if people assume that most people only know one language. Well that might be true in some parts of America, but not in the rest of the world. There are so many amazing, beautiful languages out there. And there are so many people who can speak three, four, even five languages fluently. Being able to speak so many languages is a benefit because you can cross the cultural boundaries easily and communicate with so many different people in the world.

4–You definitely don’t look like an American Girl.

Believe it or not, but I’ve actually been told this once when I was in middle school. A girl (who was white) looked at me and said “she doesn’t look like an American.” Which hurt a lot. Who was she to tell me that I didn’t look like an American. What did an American look like? What made someone can American? What did American mean?

America is supposed to be a country that brought people from different countries, religions, and ethnic groups together. Often times these people were escaping religious prosecution or poverty. America is a melting pot of the result of different types of people who have come together in unity.

I would think that a person who is multiracial, or biracial, is even more of an American than someone who isn’t. We have the privilege of being from multiple cultural and racial backgrounds. Isn’t that what being an American is all about?

5–You are Asian, so you must be good at math.

This is such a stereotypical statement. Not all people of Asian descent are good at math. Ethnicity or race doesn’t dictate that. I am actually not so good at math. I’ve always been better at English and reading. I don’t like dealing with numbers. I prefer the written word.

So, there you have it. These are five things that I think you should never tell a half-Asian. What do you think? Do you agree? Is there anything else you should never tell someone who is half-Asian? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to get to know you better!

In the meantime, here are some books about the half-Asian experience:

Please help me grow!

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Hi! I'm Helen and I am a 32 year old biracial millennial mom raising two multiracial children. I am a writer, English consultant, and social media manager. I am a self-proclaimed chocoholic.

9 thoughts on “Five Things You Should Never Tell a Half Asian

  1. My wife is Japanese and I’m your average whitebread Canadian caucasian. Our sons are both. They’ve been asked if they speak Japanese perfectly–they do, as we live in Japan and their first language is Japanese–and they’ve also been asked if they speak English fluently. For the record, my older son is fairly fluent in English. My younger son isn’t that interested in speaking English.

    Looks are subjective, but I think my children are better looking than other kids their age. 😉 Not because they’re half-Japanese, but because they honestly look better. (My opinion).

  2. I don’t know why people have a such hard time with people of other cultures. I have always loved the opportunity to get to know people, especially of different cultures than my own. I worked retail for most of my working career and have always been surrounded by people of many ethnic backgrounds. I was lucky in that. “Where are you really from?” is such a weird question. It does sound horribly ignorant, but don’t assume the person means it to be. Some people are very sheltered from people other than their own ethnic background. Especially outside of major metropolitan areas. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Thanks for responding! Yes, it mostly stems from ignorance and where they were raised. In many places around the US multiracial people are mostly seen as very exotic and people are naturally curious. Doesn’t mean that it is offensive to be put on the spot like that though. I guess the only way to combat this is equal parts of acceptance and tolerance and treating them no different from others. <3

  3. You are amazing, stand tall and don’t let anything put you down. This goes for anyone who feels like people will always have trouble in understanding them.

  4. I’m in an odd camp of being Chinese (presumably 100%) but adopted. Thus, when people ask, “Where are you from?”, I’ll start with “I was born in China”, followed by “BUT I grew up in California and now live in Massachusetts.” Oftentimes, I have to clarify that I was adopted into a white, American-born family, indicating that questions about my parents’ immigration timeline or my Stateside residence length aren’t relevant.

    I remember wishing that I looked more “American” back in my middle school years, but I have since come to love how I look, appreciate my biological heritage, and acknowledge myself as being just as American as the “American girl.”

    P.S. I happen to be an Asian-American majoring in mathematics. 🙂 I do, however, still love the written word.

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