Why I Identify as Hapa

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

Why I Identify as Hapa

Having a community

Group of people dancing in front of a sunrise
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

Wet window with a question mark drawn across it.
Photo by Julia Filirovska on Pexels.com

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’

A hand fitting in the last piece on a puzzle.
Photo by Mike van Schoonderwalt on Pexels.com

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.

Conclusion

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.

What is one benefit to having a label?

Please help me grow!

Posted by

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.

24 thoughts on “Why I Identify as Hapa

  1. I have tried to write comments on your blog but I never seem to see them post or a response but I will try again anyhow! πŸ™‚

    I also am a hapa and identify myself that way. I never find hapas like myself either where I am from. I also write about my experiences as a hapa and plan to write another post soon. Thanks for the great content on this topic!!

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting! This actually went into my spam folder — no idea why
      That’s awesome that you are hapa too! I will check out your post. πŸ™‚

  2. One benefit to having a label is knowing “where to put people.” For example, when someone says, “I am a Christian,” you may ask “Are you Roman Catholic, Evangelical, Pentecostal, Orthodox, etc.” The label assists in understanding what words will mean to the person to whom you are speaking. Again, for example, “being filled with the Holy Spirit” will mean something very different to the Orthodox vs the Pentecostal.
    The MOST important thing about “labeling people” though is to use such labeling ot increase our mutual understanding! Too many use labels to “pigeon-hole” people into preconceived silos. “Oh, you’re a Republican; therefore (assumed) you must have voted for Trump, approve of the riots in D.C., etc.”
    Or, “You voted for Biden; therefore you must be pro-abortion, approve of the Green New Deal, be anti-Israel.”
    “Oh, you’re hapa, therefore you must believe …”
    Such assumption based on labeling are very dangerous; that is what prejudice is.
    I am pleased that you have found a Hapa community to help you define your identity and give you a safe place to “feel home.” Just be careful to not identify so completely with a subset, that you forget we are all part of the LARGER set of the human race. πŸ˜‰ love and prayers, c.a.

    1. Absolutely! Having a label gives a sense of belonging but as you say we must be careful of assumptions. I try not to assume anything about anyone:)

  3. This is a fantastic post! It’s awesome that you found a community of people who you relate to, and can share some unique experiences with. I’m also biracial (half black and half white) which isn’t the same, but I also can relate on not fully identifying with either side.

  4. I learned something new. It was Shelly who recommended your blog post to me. Hapa is the perfect word for something that the English language does not have. I refer to my daughter as Eurasian, and often I see her race missing in the list of races on forms, surveys etc. Most of the time, I see β€œOther” as an option. πŸ˜•

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting!! Yes that was one of my struggles growing up – not having a word to describe my identity. I used to identify as Eurasian too… but never liked it much. Primarily because my dad’s not European but American. There’s also thr term Amerasian but that also doesn’t sit well with me. And then there’s biracial which I’ve used a lot but its not very specific. Having a label is definitely a game changer

Leave a Reply