IDENTITY: Growing up with a mixed background

http://nwasianweekly.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/30_36/michelle.JPGBy Michelle Wagner
SYLP student

When people first meet or see me, I’ve been told that it’s usually difficult to tell what ethnicity I am, and eventually, people ask me about it. I’ve been told that I look Caucasian, Mexican, anything except Asian.

To answer the question, I am half Chinese and a mix of German, Irish, and Scottish. As a girl who comes from a very mixed background, the questions that usually come up are:

“What is it like to be half Asian and half European?”

“Do you speak Chinese?”

“Which one of your parents is Asian?”

“What is your family like?”

“Do you consider yourself to be more Asian or Caucasian?”

My mom immigrated to the United States from Taiwan when she was in her 20s and went to the University of Hawaii. My dad is Caucasian and has always lived in the United States. I would say that my family is more Americanized, but we still do practice Chinese traditions, and my mom and I travel to Taiwan as much as we can to see her side of the family, which I am very close with.

Although my family is much Americanized, I do consider myself to be more Chinese than Caucasian. As an elementary school student, I learned Chinese as a second language, and I did go to Chinese school on Saturdays.

Although I am still not fully fluent, I am able to communicate with my mom’s side of the family (even though all of my relatives can speak English, it is still fun to talk to them in another language).

The reason why I consider myself to be more Chinese than Caucasian is because I tend to see, keep in touch, and be more influenced by my mom’s side of the family than my dad’s side.

Another question that I sometimes get asked is whether my parents are strict or not. I don’t really consider my parents to be “strict.” Of course, they have rules like any other parent, but they are very fair. I’m encouraged to do well in school, get involved, make friends, socialize, and not sit at home. Most importantly, my mom tells me to “be all that you can be and don’t let other people get in your way.”

I love being the mix of ethnicities that I am. I’m constantly learning about each culture, especially my Chinese culture. I actually love being asked questions about my family background and cultures. I am unique. ♦

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