My name is Crystal and I am a 29 year old mixed race woman. I am half Filipina and half Black. My father, who is Black, was in the US Airforce and stationed in the Philippines where he met my mother. I was born in the Philippines and then when I was 5 years old my family and I moved to the United States. I grew up in Richmond, Virginia (the Capital of the Confederacy) and now live in Seattle, Washington. My racial identity has been a source of conflict for me in the past, though I have grown comfortable with the fact that it is ever changing.
What was your experience of school like as a mixed race girl?
I was in the Philippines when I began school and when I was younger my hair was relatively straight and I had paler skin. My schoolmates didn’t identify me as anything that was different. My experience in Virginia was not the same. I was immediately an outsider and I was introduced to the concept of race. I was very confused the first time someone asked me what color I was. I remember an instance when I was 6 years old and several girls and I were in the bathroom holding our arms next to one another’s. We were comparing color to see who could be friends. I never fit in with the black kids because I “talked white” and my white friends’ parents were not exactly accepting. My high school boyfriend’s brother’s pet name for me (behind my back) was “nigger pussy.”
How has you relationship with your parents influenced your racial identity?
I believe that I had a very different relationship to race than people who were half black and half white. I am half Asian and if I straighten my hair I can pass as Asian, or at least not black. Being Asian was more accepted than being black where I grew up because Asian is ‘exotic’ while black is just ‘ghetto’. My mom reinforced this and my dad was always disappointed that I wasn’t “more black.” I also had a habit of dating white people, which was a reflection of internalized racism. My mom was ok with this because when we moved to Virginia she internalized the cultural norm that black people are less, but my father was never happy with my choices.
Who were your idols growing up and why?
I didn’t really have idols growing up mostly because I didn’t identify with anyone who was famous. Some people I admire are Neil DeGrass Tyson because he is one of the few black men that are lauded for their intelligence, Shakira because she broke a major race barrier when she crossed over to American pop music, and Serj Tankian because he sang of genocide and injustice.
Do you feel you have been affected by any racial stereotypes?
Yes. I’m half Asian, so it was assumed that I was smart when I was in school. People make assumptions about whether or not I can speak English and compliment me for speaking well. I married a white man and there are times that we get looks from people. I have been told point blank that I don’t look like I’d be with a white man.
Have you ever wished that you were monoracial?
Never. I have taken pride in my uniqueness and my racial makeup has given me a perspective that can help other people. Would it have been easier? Maybe, but I have been afforded this privilege so why not help people understand more about the world?
Do you feel more connected to a particular part of your racial identity? Has this changed over time?
In the past I felt more connected with the Filipino side of my identity. Being Filipino or Asian was more acceptable and safer than being black. I straightened my hair and actively avoided aspects of black culture for much of my young life. I began a journey of introspection that ultimately has me accepting all parts of my identity. I no longer straighten my hair and I accept that people identify and recognize me as black.
How do you feel about the common assertion that we are all mixed race?
Race is a social construct and doesn’t really exist except to identify how people are different. When someone tells me that they’re ‘mixed’ French and Polish and they live and grew up in North America I get a little bit angry. I wish that race wasn’t a factor, but sadly, it is and it is frustrating when someone whose experience consists of only white privilege tries to claim that label.
Has race impacted your career at all in terms of choices and experiences?
When I worked customer service jobs I was definitely treated differently by customers and asked questions about whether I could speak English/Spanish/Portuguese and always complimented on how well I spoke. I’ve had people refuse to let me help them, in favor of someone who is white. In my current field, I find that I can use my mixed race status to help young people of color by providing a positive adult presence that looks like them.
Have you ever come across any racial fetishization as a mixed race woman?
YES. So much so that I have a natural distrust of anyone who shows an interest in me.
Does race have any impact on your choices when it comes to dating?
My joke once upon a time was that I didn’t date black men or Filipino men because I had a father and a lot of uncles that screwed around a lot and I was afraid of dating a cousin or sibling. I’ve dated black and brown women, but there is such a deep-seeded internalized racism that I tend to not find black men attractive. Another joke is that I married a white man because I want my children to have the chance of being lighter skinned and live a more privileged life that I have. Really, I’m mostly attracted to white men and brown women.
How do you feel monoracial people can benefit from learning about the lives of mixed race people?
I feel that everyone can benefit from learning about everyone else’s experience, but especially from a mixed perspective because we live in the spaces in between and are never quite a part of either world.
What would you like the future to look like for people of mixed race heritage?
I would like there to be wide spread equality and empathy for all people.