What are your parent’s ethnic backgrounds?
My father is German and Russian and was born in New Jersey. My mother is Filipino and Chinese and was born in the Philippines. Both of my parents have many other ethnicities, but those are the most prevalent.
Did you have any struggles growing up mixed race, such as any internal or external issues?
I would occasionally be made fun of for having tan skin and being tall. In grade school race didn’t matter. I had friends from all ethnic backgrounds and we all got along. Maybe it was because it was a small catholic school, but there was never any racial issues.
High school was a different story. One instance, when I was a freshman, a classmate called me a “gook.” I didn’t really know what it meant so it didn’t really bother me. Unfortunately, I started calling other kids that word until I found out what it actually meant. Interestingly enough, that same kid went on to marry a Filipina and they have a son that looks a lot like I did when I was young. I’m still friends with him, and he’s a really great guy. It’s just a memory that stands out.
Later in high school I was nicknamed “The Samoan,” which I didn’t take offense to at all. It didn’t seem derogatory to me, and I didn’t think it was meant to be. It was likely attributed to my size and skin color, but I never considered myself fat or overweight. My weight has always fluctuated. My first year of college I weighed 250 pounds and by my last year of veterinary school I was 190lbs. It all depended on how active I was and what sport I was playing. I always played football in grade school and high school. I played volleyball during my undergraduate and graduate studies.
As I got older, I really appreciated my mixed heritage and I’m fortunate for it. I was over 6 feet tall by the time I was 16, and always athletic. Tanning is pretty easy for me and I love basking in the sun. My alcohol tolerance is pretty high too (must be the German). I have been told I’m pretty good looking, at least my wife would agree!
Do you identify as mixed race or by one race?
I’d have to say both. When people ask me my background, I don’t say, “I’m white” or “I’m Filipino,” my typical response is, “I’m half Filipino.” Alternately, I would check the box for “white” on a questionnaire or form. Socially, I typically identify as mixed race but for documents and forms it’s one race, mainly to simplify things.
Do you feel, or have you felt, like you didn’t belong to either one of your ethnic groups?
Not really. My sisters and I grew up in the Filipino-American culture. We thoroughly enjoyed the culture and especially the cuisine. I understand a little bit of Tagalog, but not nearly enough to feel like I can take part in a conversation.
Growing up I never felt like an outcast, my closest friends that I grew up with are primarily of Irish descent. We always made fun of each other growing up, but it was never about race. In closing, I never felt like I was unwelcome to any particular group because of my ethnicity. I’ve always felt that I could belong anywhere.