Observations and ideas about race, ethnicity and mixing.

Author: Eve Giordano

‘Hapa’ in Today’s Society


NPR has a section on their online site called, “Code Switched: Race and Identity, Mixed”. I found an article within this section called “‘Half Asian’?’Half White’? No – ‘Hapa'”, by Alex Laughlin. Hapa is a word that originated in Hawaii to describe mixed-race people, and is short for hapalua, meaning “half”.. I thought this was an interesting example of what we have been covering in class about what it truly means to be mixed, and the struggles associated with finding a balance between them. This internal argument of feeling inadequate and not belonging to any race is a common theme as we’ve seen in Yun’s Signifying  “Asian” and Afro-Cultural Poetics and in Lord Invador’s song, “Rum and Coca Cola”, just to name a few. Laughlin delves into his own identity, half Korean and half white. He says, “If I were to volunteer my identity though, I would tell you I’m hapa.” It was also mentioned that haps was once regarded as a derogatory word, but today it is just another word. “In identifying as haps, Ive found a way to normalize my in-betweenness.” I was reminded instantly of the word “coolie”, and Singh’s Per Ajie and I am a Coolie. All three of these readings emphasize changing one’s perspective on being mixed, instead of being ashamed, being proud. Laughlin interviewed Kip Fulbeck, a mixed white and hawaiian artist who said “I think [hapa] is a much more interesting and accurate word than ‘Amerasian’ or ‘Eurasian’ or any words that are two words combined, because I don’t think of myself as half Asian and half white. I think of myself as a whole.” Beautifully said.

Mediation in Uganda’s Court System

Local leaders in Gulu, Uganda are being asked to implement sensitizing measures into their judicial system. The need for this is dire, with the rise of violence over class and land struggles creating more cases that make their way into the court system. Our class reading by Mamdani illustrated just how important having land was for the economy, and how in order to stimulate the economy, resources must be cultivated and traded. In order for that to happen, people need access to land. One magistrate, Selsa Biwaga speaks to how overwhelmed the circuit court system is with the sheer number of land-related cases, “I have about 600 cases to hear and 90 percent are land related. But there are people who come to court when they are very negative about mediation.” Biwaga emphasizes how expensive it is to have a case heard in court, and how this could all be avoided through mediative means. The issue over land arises from the clash  between traditional and legal understanding of the Acholi people. Since they follow a “customary” land tenure system for ownership, different clans own certain parts of the land. Violence ensues when clans both want a piece of land. Can such a traditional system such as this really be solved through mediation? Or do laws need to be set in place for how the judicial system goes about designating land? This system was introduced in 2013 and it is now 2018 and there is still evidence of land disputes. What more needs to be done?

“Who runs the world? In these six societies: Girls.”

I had such an amazing time reading this article, 6 Modern Societies Where Women Rule by Laura Garrison. I sought out this article on matriarchal societies because it sparked my interest very suddenly. I was on Facebook the other day and saw a link to a matrilineal society, Akan, located in Ghana, where roles in the society are passed down matrilineally, meaning through the man’s mother. Eager to learn more, I stumbled upon Garrison’s article. She outlines 6 different societies in the world that are all female-led and still thriving today. I encourage all to read this article, as it is incredibly eye opening, especially in this tumultuous time where we still are seeing women’s voices stifled. The Mosuo of China, the Minangkabau of Indonesia, the Akan of Ghana, the Bribri of Costa Rica, the Garo of Burma, and the Nagovisi of New Guinea are all examples of modern-day matrilineal societies. I do wonder, however, where the boys and men go, and does the absence of men ever prove to be troublesome when it comes to maintaining these societies? In class, we’ve covered the disparities still in place based on gender, so this was quite touching to know that these women are strong, self-sufficient, and truly independent. We could definitely use some of these in America.


The “mixed” problem

I found Aisha Khan’s, What is ‘a Spanish’?:  Ambiguity and ‘mixed’ ethnicity in Trinidad to be quite interesting. Khan asserted that there was a “middle ground” in discussing Trinidadian ethnic and racial identities. She mentioned two categories: racial and color. When I think of a race, I mostly think white or black, dark-skinned or light-skinned, but Khan argues that there is so much more than that. There is a compromise between black and white when assessing one’s appearance. I also found it interesting when she further broke down ‘appearance’ into internal and external facets. It made me think, “How do I see myself?”  versus “How do other people see me?” When I think about it, ‘mixed’ and ‘colored’ are used interchangeably around me, but this is incorrect. This brings me to my question; What does it truly mean to be of mixed heritage? and Is there a politico-cultural agenda behind procreating with a member of a different nationality, if so what?

“Not slaves–coolies”.

I found a very interesting article that nicely links our class discussion of indentureship and colonialism and our new focus on coolies. The article, “Link emancipation to indentureship and reparations” by Dr. Vishnu Bisram was found on www.carribeanlifenews.com and features writings that reference the heinous existence of indentureship. One reading Dr. Bisram mentioned I found particularly captivating. “Not slaves—coolies. Have you not heard it said that when God closes one door he opens another? When the doors of freedom were closed to the African, the Lord opened them to a tribe that was yet more needful of it—the Asiatick.” (taken from Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies (2008)). I find myself wondering how it is that something as fundamental as freedom can be defined for others. The levels of freedom were disputed between slaves and indentured servants. As referenced in Rajkumari Singh’s, I am a Coolie, the definition of the term ‘coolie’ is also disputed between being negative connotation for a menial labor worker and hardworking, resilient people of Indian or Chinese descent who emigrated to foreign lands. In the PowerPoint presentation on coolies that was shown last class, it was made evident that keeping up appearances of fair labor directly impacted the portrayal of the institution of indentureship. As long as inconsistency remains between the system of slavery and indentureship, the image of the two will be misconstrued, and terms like ‘coolie’ will be misused.




Slavery still exists.


Slavery. This word gives me chills. I find it incomprehensible that the ownership of other human beings was justified not all that long ago. I came across a very disturbing article, It’s the 21st century. Yet slavery is alive and well. Although the title is pretty self-explanatory, I felt obligated to read on. The article begins with a reference and a link to the State Department’s “Trafficking in Persons Report”. I encourage everyone who reads this post to please check it out. Although it is terrifying, it gives readers a glimpse at the large gap that still exists today between laws prohibiting slavery and the actual enforcement of them. There have been great strides in the effort to free those who are captive, and prosecute slave-owners. Organizations such as The International Justice Mission (IJM) focuses efforts on freeing women and children enslaved to brothels in Southeast Asia. “The prevalence of minor girls in the sex industry plummeted by more than 80 percent” (Burkhalter, 2017). Global grant-making foundations, funded by private investors and donor governments are being created. In doing so, the United States creates an opportunity for collaboration with governments in which slavery is still prevalent to rescue victims and put a stop to modern-day slavery.

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