Blended: Michael

1

*Photo submitted by Michael*

What are your parent’s ethnic backgrounds?

My father is 3rd generation Italian-American (his parents: Italian-American + Italian-American from Italian + Italian). My mother is Korean (I do not know her family to any extent).

Did you have any struggles growing up mixed race, such as any internal or external issues?

I’m not sure how to answer this. I don’t think being mixed brought on any real struggles. Perhaps it was a little difficult growing up not feeling like you are apart of an inherit community. I think growing up is already a difficult thing for a young adult— we face huge internal and external issues at every stage of growing up— and I think it may be easy to pass some of these normal struggles off onto being mixed. So I am apprehensive to do so right now.

Do you identify as mixed race or by one race?

I spent most of my very young years with my Korean mother, but I think I was too young for the culture to really take root. I then spent the rest of my life (probably after 1st grade?) with my Italian-American side of the family (my father and his parents). I would say all of my childhood memories are very Italian-American-New Jersey, if you will.

My parents divorced when I was very young, and is the reason for the shift in environment.My Father also re-married to another Korean woman when I was in around 4th grade. She was 1st generation Korean also, so she had a very strong Korean culture in her everyday life. But she did not spend much time with the family. So again I did not have a very close tie to Korean culture.

I think because of my situation and exposure, I never really identified as Korean, or even Asian. I did not have many Asian friends growing up (although my high school maybe had a no more than 5% Asian population…). When someone asks me “what are you?” (as ignorant as it is, that is almost always how it is phrased…) I usually respond with “I’m half Korean half Italian.” I usually feel silly after I respond, almost like specifying “Italian” is obnoxious. I know many people who are half something and half “white”— which to them is easier because of the extensive mix of various Caucasian ethnicities. But my fathers parents are full blown Italian—back as many generations as I know. So I guess I think there is merit in the distinction, but I still feel awkward specifying in public.

Although I have a very high interest in Italian language and culture, it did not start until I was in my early 20’s (I am 29 now.) My father never spoke Italian or even knew the culture, and my grandparents spoke broken English and broken Italian and were born here as well. So I never had the language around me or a real authentic Italian culture around me either.

I cannot explain the connection I felt when I first started exploring all things Italian… but there is something magical about it that one cannot ignore!

Do you feel, or have you felt, like you didn’t belong to either one of your ethnic groups?

For sure. I never felt like I belonged in any Asian group or European group. Any Asian groups I knew were very into their culture— they would freely speak in their Asian language and were very closed to allowing others in (or at least that was how it was perceived by me). My group of friends growing up were always very mixed. For example my high school best friends were African American, Ukrainian, Irish, and American.

I’ve visited Italy twice in my life so far, and I never felt like I was looked at as an insider. Not only was I a tourist, but I always had it in the back of my mind that the locals saw me as an “Asian tourist.” I’ve seen videos of Italian groups rallying together protesting the growing Asian population in Italy. I’ve seen the huge hordes of Asian tourists clogging the streets of Florence, gathering looks of hatred and annoyance. I’ve seen huge racism in my own country towards growing Asian populations and assimilation. I think these experiences together, over the years, always created an insecurity that I will be lumped into these terrible stereotypes just because of the way I look.

Blended: Lucas

DSC_0010

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.

Blended: Kimmy and Sammy

DSC_0005

Kimberly (Left) Samantha (Right)

What are your parent’s ethnic backgrounds?

Our dad is black and our mom is Chinese.

Did you have any struggles growing up mixed race, such as any internal or external issues?

 K: When I was younger, my mom always brushed out my curly hair, which if you don’t know, it’s a big “NO-NO.” I don’t blame her because she and everyone else in her family have straight hair. She didn’t know how to take care of curly hair. I remember not liking my frizzy big hair and wanting to have straight hair like everyone else. I felt bad about my hair and through out middle school I got my hair chemically straightened. Now, I appreciate and love my curly hair because it’s different. I know how to take care of it and people complement me for it.

S: Externally, I never had any issues growing up. All of our classmates treated us with respect and no one discriminated. Since our town is mostly white, our friends said we were their exposure as the “one black person they knew.” Internally I felt, and still feel, a little guilty since I felt and I identified more as Asian than I did black. Growing up we were exposed more to the Asian culture since we saw our mom’s side of the family more than our dad’s side.

Do you identify as mixed race or by one race?

 K: I identify as both black and Asian, or as my friends call it “blasian”, but I know more about the Chinese culture than the Bajan culture.

S: Despite the problem mentioned above, I still like to identify as both black and Chinese. I’d like to embody the best of both cultures and show how being multicultural is something to embrace.

 

Do you feel, or have you felt, like you didn’t belong to either one of your ethnic groups?

K: Even though I look more black than Asian, I sometimes feel distanced from my Bajan heritage. I have visited Barbados, but I don’t see my dad’s side of the family as often as I do my mom’s. I miss out on family stories of my grandparents and great aunts/uncles.

S: Around my family I feel as if I do belong to both cultures. However, in public places, such as the city, I sometimes feel as if I don’t belong to the black culture. Seeing other black students in my school and observing them in public places makes me uncomfortable because I can’t identify with them. I wish I could learn more about their culture and be able to confidently say I belong.

 

Blended: Wes

Wes

What are your parent’s ethnic backgrounds?

My mother is Japanese and my father is Polish and Irish.

Can you speak any of these languages?

No.

Did you have any struggles growing up mixed race, such as any internal or external issues?

No internal issues, I never really thought about it. Externally, I remember vaguely being teased occasionally. But I don’t really remember anything specific.

Do you identify as mixed race or by one race?

Mixed race I guess, but I consider myself white more than anything else.

Do you feel like you’re part of more than one culture?

No, because since my parents were both born in the states, I was raised very American. I wasn’t raised more by one side than the other.

Do you feel, or have you felt, like you didn’t belong to either one of your ethnic groups?

That being said [above], I think other people identify me more Asian than anything else because that’s obviously the most distinguishable feature about me.

 

 

Coming to America: Carlo

DSC_0001

Place of Origin: Milan, Italy

Where are you from?

“I was originally born in Milan, Italy. I came to the United States when I was 3 years old. I grew up in predominately-Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY. I attended school there until my sophomore year of high school. I then moved to Florida with my godparents because it gave me the opportunity to play baseball year round. After High school stayed in Florida, I went on to play college baseball and then played minor league baseball. All together, I lived there for 8 years then came back to NY.”

What do you like the most about America?

“I guess the freedoms you have here … uh… I also like football, I like the sports that they have [laughs] No seriously, I like that you have a mixture of different cultures, especially in the north east, where you have the opportunity to experience these different cultures. A little different from other countries including Italy. You have a great diversity of people and culture here in America. I like the fact that it’s a melting pot and you have the freedom to do whatever you want and be whatever you want with hard work.”

What do you hate the most about America?

“What do I hate? Politics. Politics suck everywhere. It’s not any worse than Italy, Italy has far worse problems in regards to politics and the political system that is broken. I don’t like how much it has become ‘I’m on the left side’, ‘I’m on the right side’, and we can’t come together, and compromise on what is best for the people of this country instead of the special interest groups. I’m hoping that changes soon.”

What are some challenges you faced growing up?

“I didn’t really have many challenges that I faced growing up. I mean we came here when I was very young. My parents spoke English and so did I, my dad was actually here for a job, he’s was in banking, and he worked in banking in Italy and they asked him to come here on a three year contract but they then decided to stay. I feel that I am more America than Italian.”

Did you have problems adapting to the culture?

“I think since we had moved to Brooklyn, where just about everyone was of Italian descent or practically right off the boat, it made things easier. Again I was very young but I’m sure it was more difficult for my parents. For me it was just very easy to ‘mesh’. Everybody came from the same background, I had many things in common with people around me, my parents spoke Italian and English, and everybody in my neighborhood spoke English or Italian so that helped. So I didn’t really have many challenges adapting. I can’t complain, my parents worked hard and provided us with whatever they could, it wasn’t a lot, but we were happy with what we had. I had a great childhood. Sometimes I feel like we get away from that happiness of the simply things in life – instead we want more, more, and more things – When is ‘too much’ too much?”

Would you ever move back to Italy with your family?

“Absolutely, I just love the Italian culture, architecture, the warmth of the people, and of course the food. My whole extended family is there. My brothers, sister and parents are the only relative I have in America. I’m one of 6 kids. I would definitely move back and I would take my parents with me… [Laughs] ‘Cause they probably wouldn’t like it if I moved back there, they would miss us. My daughter is four and I plan to try to take her to Italy every summer to visit. Even though, right now, she does not want to speak Italian. She tells me, ‘I wanna speak Spanish’ and I’m like, ‘really? why?’ and she says, ‘Cause I love Dora and Diego’ come on seriously!? I’m Italian and has the opportunity to learn to speak Italian’. I try to speak to her but she just does not want to learn yet. I will have to keep trying.

It is funny thing in my family, there are six of us siblings and none of us speaks Italian to each other, we all speak English when we are together. That is just the way we grew up. Nevertheless, when we are around my parents, we speak only to them in Italian, within the same conversation my siblings will speak to each other in English. We have this awkward thing where we do not speak Italian to each other. Seems awkward to me now. We are so used to speaking English to each other. Must be that when we were young, my parents wanted us to speak English to assimilate better and wanted us to speak as much English as she could at home. She didn’t want us to fall behind and it helped out a lot, I guess.”