All posts tagged: mixed race

When You’re Biracial But Not Bilingual

As a mixed-race person, I can just about find myself on Google. I see myself in articles and the odd documentary episode (still not enough, but that’s a bigger conversation). But as a mixed-race person who cannot speak both languages attached to both of my cultures, I’m nowhere to be found. This is fairly disheartening for someone who, upon lamenting her painfully slow acquisition of Cantonese, is looking for reassurance; a consolatory pat on the knee or knowing nod of the head. Recently, I searched for ‘mixed race but not bilingual’, hoping for a five-page thread or the quotes of a prominent author who once faced the same situation. All that came up was a load of parenting forums debating how to correctly raise a bilingual child (an almost comedic kick in the face). I typed in variations of the phrase, certain that I had posed the question incorrectly, done something to offend Google’s buzzword algorithm, but the results remained the same. Oblivious. I have read many (fantastic) books by biracial writers, unpacking the confusing experience …

Shape-Shifting

At the end of last year, I went to see author Sreedhevi Iyer speak about her short story collection at the Hong Kong International Literary Festival. A member of the audience asked Iyer, an Indian-Malaysian-Australian writer, if she felt she behaved differently according to the different countries or cultures she was active in. She said that she found herself unconsciously adapting a lot, and wanted to focus on consciously ‘un-adapting’ more. While Iyer went on to give specific, personal examples, this general notion of auto-pilot adapting is a sentiment familiar to most people of mixed race. Adjusting is defined as: ‘becoming adjusted to new conditions’. But for those who belong to more than one race, adapting is a way of life, a survival strategy, not a temporary spell during which you acclimatise. Being mixed-race is not a condition, after all (although looking at the racial micro-aggressions — and maxi-aggressions — hurled at many mixed-race people, perhaps lots of folk think otherwise). I’ve spent the majority of my life adapting. Nobody told me to, per se. I was not verbally instructed …