Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on Medium and reposted with permission.
Growing up in Brooklyn, I had a lot of friends from different backgrounds — many that were white, a few that were Asian, but none that were both, like me. I felt like I was the only one in the overlap of a Venn diagram, part of both circles but still different.
We often overlook the Black members of our Asian communities; in our home countries, biracial people historically have been cast out, and darker skin is often seen as something to change or cover up. But over the years, as the world has globalized and ideas of race have slowly begun to change, many Black Asians have found success and represented their complex identities with the utmost grace.
Being that it is Black History Month, there can be no greater time to celebrate our Blasian stars with the important knowledge that their being Black makes them no less Asian, and their being Asian takes nothing from them being Black. Here are seven Blasians who have made waves in the past year or two through putting on for the culture:
Biraciality makes people uncomfortable. In society, we communicate narrow ideas of racial identity, as if identity can fit into distinct, narrow pockets. Biracial public figures like Naomi Osaka prove it cannot. Osaka is a tennis star who represents Japan in competition; she is Japanese and American with dual citizenship; she is ethnically Haitian and Japanese.
Monoracial Asian nations, like Japan, often respond to mixed-race people with hesitation at best and out-and-out bigotry at most. The fact that a Japanese star, featured in Japanese ads and winning sporting awards for Japan, is not only mixed-race but Black, shows an important amount of progress in Asian race relations. So there is something empowering about merely calling Naomi Osaka Japanese, whether it be in headlines or advertisements. And it’s a correct assertion: she is Japanese. Her biraciality does not make her less so.
Born and raised in Japan to a Beninese father and a Japanese mother, Rui Hachimura knows what it feels like to have the spotlight on him.
In a country as ethnically homogenous as Japan, a “hafu” (or biracial person) like Hachimura stood out like a sore thumb growing up. Throw in his generational basketball talent and Hachimura became instantly recognizable everywhere he went, for better or for worse. By his senior year of high school, he was regularly receiving autograph requests from fans, but also racially-charged adversity from opposing crowds around the country.
A South Korean official from the ruling Democratic Party of Korea recently made some remarks many have found to be demeaning against Vietnamese women.
Rep. Lee Hae-chan was meeting with a high-level Vietnamese delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung on Monday when he uttered the allegedly inappropriate comments.
Deep down, I still want to learn Cantonese. My grandfather, who emigrated to the Dominican Republic in the early 60s, came from China. He quickly rebuilt and rebranded himself, assimilating his status in DR as a friendly outsider. His son, my father, is a mix of Dominican and Chinese. My mother is Dominican almost entirely. In essence, I’m 25% Chinese; two generations from the mainland; idiomatically detached.
But my last name remains Sang and my face retains Asian features. And no matter where I go and who I encounter, that ends up meaning a lot. It colors the lens with which I am interpreted; Asian name, Asian face, Asian man. The reality that I speak Spanish, that I’ve lived in Santo Domingo, that I deeply care for and identify with the United States as my birth nation and home; those are mostly additional details. Amongst Dominicans, I am usually “el chino,” a term which I take as endearing if not a tad separatistic. My first school friends were Asian; we saw each other more easily than others saw us.
Asian-Hispanic Americans go through different challenges that come with being multiracial, including being thrown a slew of insults.
Several biracial Americans shared their personal accounts of being mixed, but they share a common ground — struggling to find a place where they can perfectly fit in.