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Being Biracial Alienates Myself From Both Sides of My Family

Angelina Hemme

Being biracial is one of things people assume is just so cool. “Oh, you must love saying you’re white and Asian!”. Or this gem from my white grandfather,” We need more biracial people like you to end racism!” (How would I be doing that by existing? Please clarify!)

Being biracial is not something cute or trendy, it just means I must defend two parts of myself to two different ethnic groups.

For my Ashkenazic Jewish side, I must defend myself against my Chinese mother, who tells me I benefit from white privilege—is it white privilege when I have to scrape anti-Semitic symbols off white boards and get called a “sensitive snowflake” or see the phrase “Dirty Jew” tossed around? Orwhen my Cantonese isn’t nearly good enough for my mother, who loves to chastise me for that?

For my Chinese side, I must grit my teeth and smile when my white grandfather refers to Asians with the dated term Orientals, or makes fun of traditional Chinese delicacies such as bird’s nest soup or chicken feet. Being culturally insensitive when it concerns his own grand-daughter is a bit gross… I’m praised by my Asian grandmother for being light skinned, not dark like herself or my sister. This disproves my grandfather’s idea that biracial people end racism by existing, how can we end racism when it is already prevalent within the community?

It certainly is nice being different from others with my wide cultural background but I am constantly aware of how both sides view me as more “this than that” so I can suit whatever purpose that fits their agenda. Not many Ashkenazi Jews are PoC, so I’m an example of how diverse the Ashkenazic Jewish community is (not to say the Jewish community overall is not diverse, but Ashkenazic Jews are lacking in diversity).

Racism is defined as discrimination based upon race, but it’s multi-faceted. Discrimination isn’t always being attacked by someone like Richard Spencer, it can be as personal as your own family members, which is the most disappointing thing. By acknowledging and embracing being biracial I’m more aware of so many harmful words being said by both sides of my family.

I’ve even heard some of my friends, who I’m sure don’t try to be mean, bless their hearts, say off hand comments about how I really can’t understand being Chinese—and maybe I can’t (In my opinion I’m white passing), but surely, I can because at least I’m half Chinese?

In conclusion, being biracial is much more than being a part of two different ethnicities, it’s coming to terms with two different identities as one.

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