Even if they had edited it (it was too long for both the Letters and OpEd pages), I would've been happy just to see them acknowledge an article about hapas written by a hapa. And, people wonder why race relationships in this country are so bad! If I, a Japanese-black woman, decided to write a piece on what it means to be Jewish, I'd either be laughed out of town or hideously chastised. Instead, the vice versa is perfectly acceptable.
March 25, 2008
Editor/Op Ed, New York Times
I was very surprised to read an article in your publication about hapas written by someone who is NOT hapa. Just because a mono-racial person has a biracial child doesn't make her an expert on hapas. And, in Ms. Orenstein's case, that goes double (pun intended).
First of all, for her to write that Senator "Obama has increasingly positioned himself as a black man" is wrong. Most biracial people aren't allowed to choose their own identity, but are thrust into one by mono-racial people based on nothing more than their physical appearance. She also makes no mention of the One Drop Rule, a legacy of slavery that is still in effect today--which is substantiated by her next remark:
"White America, too, has a vested interest in seeing him as black (as) it's certainly a more exciting, more romantic and more concrete prospect than the "first biracial president"...
Please. White America wants Senator Obama identified as black in order to perpetuate the One Drop Rule, which was enforced by white slave masters seeking to ensure that their property never fell into the hands of their half-Negro slave offspring.
The anti-miscegenation laws Ms. Orenstein refers to were enacted to prevent WHITES from intermarrying. Period. Those laws were based on the concept of white supremacy and were enforced to keep white blood from being tainted by any other race. Certainly, no one would arrest a black man and an Asian woman who married, or vice versa.
Ms. Orenstein is also misdirected when she says that hapa is a Hawai'ian word meaning half. Native Hawai'ians didn't have a word for half because they had no concept of it. If Ms. Orenstein had done her homework, she would've learned that hapa is a mispronunciation of the English word half. Hawai'ian phonetics, which adds vowels to endings of words, would dictate that half comes out sounding like hapa. Half-a. Hapa.
Ms. Orenstein's article is rife with misinformation. If your paper's intent was to educate the mainstream about hapas, you should've asked a genuine one like Jen Chau, head of the largest mixed-race organization in the world--http://www.swirlinc.org--to comment.
In fact, there are dozens of well-known hapas who write, speak and promote hapa-ness that would've given a much clearer and more accurate picture of what it means to be biracial. Thanks to Ms. Orenstein, we now have a hot, hapa mess on our hands.
Your Hip Hapa,
Yayoi Lena Winfrey
btw, that's Jen Chau above, right, with my friend Doris when I visited both in NYC in 2000.