I'm Half Asian, and After Atlanta, I Feel More in Between Than Ever

The news that a gunman had killed six Asian women in Atlanta hit me hard — but beyond my anger, grief, and fear was something else: a feeling of guilt that I don’t deserve to react this way, because while I’m Asian, I’m also white. As I’ve struggled to find my place in the conversation around anti-Asian violence, I’ve been forced to confront these lifelong feelings of in betweenness. Because while I don’t completely fit in white spaces, I’m also not Asian “enough.”

Throughout my life, I’ve experienced microaggressions from both the white and Asian communities. I was raised by my white mother and stepfather, and adults and children alike often asked if I was adopted. White people have described me as “exotic” and “foreign.” I’ve learned that “Where are you from?” means, “Why are you brown?” For my Vietnamese family, I’m too American. When other Vietnamese people have discovered my ethnicity, they’ve scolded me for not speaking the language even though I never lived with my dad.

Being half Asian, I’ve often felt as if nothing was for me. When I fill out a form, I always have to check the “other” box for race. I rarely see myself reflected in media, with the notable exception of Philippa Soo, to whom I am eternally grateful. Apparently, according to a white woman on a discussion board, I can’t even call myself “hapa,” a Hawaiian word meaning “part” that’s used to describe people who are part Asian or Pacific Islander. Asian culture doesn’t feel like it belongs to me, either. As much as I loved Always Be My Maybe, Crazy Rich Asians, and The Best We Could Do, there’s always a part of me that feels like I’m appropriating.

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