Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Mixed Chicks Chat Rules!


I'm still stoked from my appearance today on Hosted by Fanshen Cox and Heidi Durow, this live podcast is all about multiracial people. Every Wednesday, at 2 pm PDT, the two women discuss the mixed-race experience--often interviewing someone who's actively involved in the community. Today, it was my turn.

After talking about my formative years growing up in a monoracial 'hood, I told my now-favorite story about people having issues pronouncing my first name. If you care to scroll back in the archives, you can read my blog about my personal war with George Takei. You know, Mr. Sulu from Star Trek? Several years ago, I attended an Asian American event where Mr. Takei was a guest. Because most people have a hard time saying "Yayoi", over time I've learned to sharply enunciate every syllable when announcing it. When I did so to Mr. Takei, he brushed me off with, "You don't even pronounce your name right!" I wasn't offended until much later when I realized he must think I don't know anything about Japanese culture just because I don't look like him. So, once again, I challenge Mr. Sulu to a duel--Who's More Japanese, Fool?

Anyway, the Mixed Chicks and I had a lot of fun talking about a lot of things. And, fun is important. That's why I've come up with terms like Hip Hapa Homeez and Hapa Japa to identify us blendies. The whole business of being multiracial in a monoracial world is serious enough and, often, our approach is just too academic for the average person to take in. Therefore, my thing is to add a little hiphop, pop culture flava to our experience.

Two topics currently running on my Facebook Hip Hapa Homeez group page are:

1. Why don't more Asian men and black women have interracial relationships? Asian men tell me they think the sistahs are hot, while black women say Asian men are quite attractive. So, what's the problem, ya'll?

2. It's that old bugaboo, hair, again. So many mixed-race people have hair that's different from their parents. It's especially tricky when the mother has a certain texture of hair different from her daughter(s). With boys, I guess, you can just cut it all off. But, in my, and my sister's case, my Japanese mother with her bone-straight hair would simply "plait" our unruly manes after greasing 'em up with petroleum jelly!

Anyway, it's good to connect so check out some of the links I've posted about friends I've been connecting with lately. And, definitely, give the Mixed Chicks a listen.

Your Hip Hapa,

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Albino Massacre

Recently, there's been some disturbing news--sort of race-based--coming out of Tanzania where it's been rumored that albinos (people who lack melanin to produce skin color) possess a kind of magic in their bodies. So-called witch doctors have been telling their clients to provide them with the legs, hands and/or hair of an albino in exchange for magical powers.

What's interesting about this atrocity is that an albino of black African descent has very white-pinkish skin even though his or her facial features are not Caucasian. Therefore, it sort of reinforces that white skin, again, is of more value than dark skin--of course, in a very perverse way since the white-skinned African is murdered for his or her more highly valued body.

Many unfortunate albinos have been living in fear that they will be attacked with machetes, and some have taken to living together in shelters. Besides being a real tragedy, this abomination is just one more area of life where skin color becomes the pervasive issue.

Sometimes, I wonder if it will ever stop.

Here's a link to the BBC coverage of this story:

btw, join my Facebook group Hip Hapa Homeez to view stories like this one and take part in discussions about them.

Your Hip Hapa,

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Interracial Cartoon Family And Why We Don't Look Like Countries Anymore

I never dreamed of the day when a syndicated cartoon would feature an interracial family. Since I'm not a regular reader of newspaper comics, I have no idea how long the strip called Jump Start written by Robb Armstrong has been in effect, nor how long it's featured an interracial family. Last week, as I was scanning the Sunday comic page and spotted it, I did a double-take. I didn't dupe the cartoon here because, unlike other folks, I do respect copyright laws. I did check out the artist's site, but the cartoon that ran in my local paper wasn't posted there. Instead, there were some with longer panels.

Anyway, in the four panel piece that I read, a little boy (sort of a beige-ish color) asks his burly, brown-skinned and obviously Negroid-featured father, "Dad, am I black or white?" His father replies, "CJ, your heritage is rich. My side of our family is Jamaican, Cherokee and Nigerian. Your mom is Italian, Irish, and German." The father says this last part while hugging his red-headed, very light beige-ish wife. The boy then asks, "Which one is our favorite?"

In looking over the list of nationalities the father mentioned, I realized that they aren't necessarily races or ethnic groups in of themselves. For instance, one could be born "German", but be of African ancestry because a parent migrated from Ghana. In other words, stating that one is "German" is similar to stating that one is "American". Is everyone in America Anglo? Is everyone in Germany?

It got me thinking about what, exactly, people mean when they tell me I look Brazilian, Cuban or Hawai'ian. When I recently watched Antonia, a Brazilian film about four singing girls of various hues and combos of local Indian, Portuguese and ancestors of African slaves, it struck me how many possibly different looks a Brazilian could possess. When people tell me I look Hawai'ian, do they mean I could pass for a Native like Princess LikeLike, or are they referring to one of the many mixes of hapa Asians or hapa haoles that now inhabit the islands of Hawai'i? What about when they ask me if I'm Cuban? Are they referring to the descendants of African slaves, Spanish invaders, or perhaps Taino or Arawak Indians, or all of the above?

It gets pretty complicated. As more people migrate worldwide, it will no longer be correct to tell someone that they look like a country. We will either need to be more specific, or else forget about racial designations altogether.

I have a Kenyan friend who is Kamba. She tells me that she can easily tell the differences among the main ethnicities--Kikuyu, Luhya and Luo-- even though to us outsiders they all look Kenyan, or African to those less learned. I have another friend who is the stereotyped red-headed, milky-skinned Irish American. She has told me fascinating tales of Black Irish who live in Ireland, and are of African Moorish descent.

My point is that to say someone looks like a particular country anymore is redundant. To state that someone is Jamaican isn't descriptive enough. Bob Marley was Jamaican, but Bob Marley also had a white European father. Do all Jamaicans look like Bob Marley? Certainly not Peter Tosh.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see where the future takes us. Perhaps we'll all become so multinational that we'll no longer be able to distinguish anyone racially based on the country of their origin.

That's me with Ava DuVernay in the photo above. A well-known L.A. publicist, Ava also made a documentary called This Is The Life. I'll post her link, momentarily.

Your Hip Hapa,

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Hancock's And Hellboy's Mixed Marriages

So, maybe it's going to be the superhero movies or the animation flicks that finally make it acceptable to be married to someone with a different skin color than yours. This past week, I attended two (count 'em!) press screenings where the theme of mixed-race couples was couched inside of a larger story, but, nevertheless, pretty obvious for anyone with a functioning brain.

First, there was Hancock. (WARNING: Spoiler ahead!) In this flick, Will Smith plays an anti-hero superhero who, in spite of his heroic deeds, is disliked by the public because of his nasty temper and funky attitude. But guess what? He has a REASON to be so mean. You see, his wife...(well, he doesn't know she's his wife yet because he had this nasty little concussion which led to amnesia so he forgot that he was married to Charlize Theron who, like Hancock it turns out, possesses some superhero powers herself, but who)...had to leave him because together their powers were too potent that it caused others to try to get rid of them (hmmm, is that a hint about race-mixing there?).

So, Theron's character marries a Caucasian mortal as Hancock saves the city while destroying himself with beer and a three-day growth of beard. With some of the swearing that goes on in that movie, I can't believe it's supposed to be a kids' flick. But as far as mixed-race coupling goes, that's a good thing for all kids to see--and everyone else, too, for that matter. If all the people all over the world were exposed to interracial couples constantly as if it were perfectly normal, we might just get past our race issues.

Watching Theron, a white South African, play opposite Smith, an African American, made me wonder what Steven Biko would think were he alive today. That he sacrificed his life for just this type of acceptance for blacks doesn't take the sting away from his death.

In any case, one mixed-marriage in a single movie was something to behold, but two in two movies in one week? That's exactly what happened when Mr. Hellboy with his red skin, horns and tail paired up with Selma Blair aka Liz Sherman, his pyrotechnic sidekick. Even though both actors are white, their characters are a devil and a human who creates fire with her body. And, although the two were just shacking up and not technically married, the fire girl was pregnant with the devil boy's baby which means this film, in addition to encouraging interracial couples, is also promoting biracial children!

If my thoughts appear to be a stretch to you, just take a closer look at both movies. We already know that animated films can be subversive as heck. Sit down with the kids on some Saturday morning and listen to what those cartoon characters are actually saying. Or, watch South Park or The Simpsons. That's the trick, right? If you make it come out of the mouth of something not quote unquote real, then it doesn't really count. So, that's why you can have a chicken spouting socialist philosophy in a capitalistic mainstream cartoon and get away with it. And, that's why superheros can have relationships with beings outside of their own race and it flies with Hollywood.

Just think about it. On that note, I wish you bon nuit in Hapawood.

Your Hip Hapa,

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Hapa*Teez Hollahs!

Important Announcement:

Hapa*Teez is searching for models who have purchased one of its t-shirts. If that describes you, hollah back at We'd like to post a photo of you wearing your t-shirt both on this blog and on the upcoming, updated version of the Watermelon Sushi website.

Now, on to some news about us blendies. This week, Essence magazine posted an online article about biracial actress Karyn Parsons. You may remember her from tv's The Fresh Prince playing the clueless and self-absorbed Hillary. However, Parsons comes across in the interview as the complete opposite of her spoiled character. Instead of being the airhead that Hillary was, Parsons appears to be quite intelligent as she discusses motherhood and what inspired her to write a book about black history. Although her second husband is white like her father, Parsons has a strong sense of her mother's African roots. Yet, the readers' comments that followed her story were incredible. Evidently, there are a lot of angry feelings in the community among mono-racial people who just don't get the biracial experience. While it's true that slavery of Africans by Europeans is to blame for the color-struck attitudes among some of us, we've reached a time in history when we should know that and move beyond it. Some readers even questioned Parsons' right, given her mixed-race heritage, to address black issues! Unbelievable. Yet, in a way, some of their attitudes are understandable given the horrific incidents that still occur to some blacks today.

For instance, several days later, I read about the murder of an African American woman by a hitman who was hired by her Indian husband's father. That's right, Indian as in India. Now, I know you've seen some Indians who are as African-looking as folks from the Continent. And, it's clear that the geographical locations of the subcontinent and Africa are close enough that it's plausible there were travelers bouncing from one locale to another mixing and mingling. Yet this lighter-skinned Indian man felt that his brown African American daughter-in-law was so beneath his son--even after she gave birth to his granddaughter--that he hired someone to kill her. How can hatred, fostered by differences in skin color, still exist in the year 2008? Why do we still have a caste system based on something that no one can help?

Was I on the receiving end of any good news this week? Sure, there were plenty of kind people out there who encouraged and supported my hip hapa agenda. Thanks to Anjulie and Jamilla, Kim of Tacoma, Jaz of the International Black Film Festival of Nashville, rapper Miwa Lyric, Michelle of the WWII War Brides Association, Ms. Lucy of Kailua, the Mixed Chicks, Kahlil Crawford (pictured above), and many more folks that I've probably inadvertently omitted (apologies!).

In spite of the tragedies and continued misunderstandings that abound about biracial, blended, hapa, mixed-race, multi-cultural and multiracial folks, we're moving forward, kids.

Your Hip Hapa,