For those of you that don’t know, I am multi-racial. I am a quarter Filipino, and while it might not seem like much, it is a big part of my identity. My grandfather was born and raised in the Philippines and my mom is half Filipino. It’s not like my Filipino genetics are generations and generations away. But, because I am for the most part white-presenting, a lot of the time, this part of me gets very invalidated. Because I look white, I am basically told “well you’re just a white person.” It makes me feel like I can’t talk about that part of my identity without pushback.
It’s really unfair because growing up, my mom always tried to teach me about Filipino culture and she even tried to teach me some Spanish words as a child. For those of you that don’t know, the Spanish colonized in the Philippines so there are a lot of Spanish Filipinos. For example, my grandfather’s mother was the Spanish Filipino and his father was native Filipino without any Spanish mixed in.
Not only did my mom always try to teach me about Filipino culture, but I had an array of things from the Philippines that I still have to this day. I have a dress and sandals from the Philippines that was once my mom’s. I have handmade purses and other trinkets from the Philippines. I even have a Filipino Barbie Doll. It was always something that was a part of my identity. It was always my favorite thing to tell people whenever I shared fun facts about myself. So, it really hurts when I’m just told “you’re just a white person.” It’s extremely invalidating.
I was not always white presenting. When I was younger, I was much darker than I am now. As I’ve aged, my skin pigment has definitely lessened. But when I was younger, I definitely looked like I could be a different race. What’s interesting though is my brother who is only 14 months older than me looked completely white. People never in a million years would have thought he was Filipino. He had blond hair, fair skin, and blue eyes. Me? Not so much. I had dark hair, brown eyes, and dark skin.
It wasn’t just my brother though that I didn’t look like. My cousins on my dad’s side all were very white looking so I always kind of stood out when I was with them. And, I was with them every week because my grandparents and aunt took us everywhere. I was the dark one amongst the fair-skinned children. Thankfully though, I did have cousins who looked more like me on my mom’s side (aka the Filipino side).
So yes, while I am 75% white, at the end of the day, I am still Filipino and it that will never stop being a part of me. Am I mostly white? Yes. Does that mean it’s okay for people to throw that in my face when I speak about my Filipino family and culture? No. You can’t tell someone they don’t represent a race just because they are white-presenting. Believe me, I am more than just a white person.
And even though I am not bi-lingual, that does not make a part of my identity invalid. Also, I would like to point out I wish I could speak Tagalog, but my mom had never learned. When I asked my grandmother why none of her children learned, she said they were not interested because yes, my white grandmother could fluently speak it.
I got the same answer from my grandmother on my other side who was an immigrant to this country from Germany. She spoke Polish and German and none of her kids were interested in learning either. I COULD have known at least 4 languages, but that is another conversation.
Regardless, just because someone is white-presenting, that does not give you permission to decide for them that they are or are not something based on what they look like to you. In this day and age, there are so many mixed people and really you’re better off just not assuming that someone is this or that just because they appear a certain race or ethnicity on the outside. It’s just plain rude. I know plenty of people who are mixed with darker skinned races who present white, but guess what, they’re other races besides white-European.
So next time you try to tell someone they are white just because they are white-presenting, don’t. Let them tell you for themselves what their race/ethnicity is. Bonus tip: don’t tell someone who is actually mixed race that they cannot present their race because they don’t look it, especially after they have told you that they are more than just white.
I’d also like to note here that not everyone likes to argue with me about what I am. There are a lot of people who do openly ask me what race I am because I really do not think that I look completely white. I definitely have features that some people have described as “exotic” (LOL, not even kidding). Being mixed is cool and unique. I definitely would not change it for the world. And if you are mixed and white-presenting, do not take shit from anyone, your identity is completely valid.