Irish | Hong Kong Chinese
I identify as mixed-White and East Asian, Catholic and pansexual. My Mum is from Hong Kong and my Dad is from Dublin, but they met in London while working at the same bank. My parents have been pretty good in educating me on both sides of my culture, so we would celebrate Chinese festivals (such as Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival) and St Patrick’s Day. However, I would say that I didn’t really understand the difference between having different backgrounds from one race (for example, my friend was English and Danish, and I thought that was what being mixed race is). At university, I have engaged more with race externally and internally, so it would be here where I ‘recognised’ I was mixed-race. I’ve always been in mostly White spaces and still feel more White than Asian. At the weekend, I would go to Chinese school, where I would feel somewhat out of place, especially in my later years, when my Cantonese was worse than my peers.
I think they did a decent job in combining cultures however, one thing I would say is that, initially, my parents don’t tend to spend a long time in the countries of the other partner.
Most of my challenges are to do with self-identity. As I said before, I still feel mostly White and I think this is to do with the environments I’ve been part of and my Cantonese, which isn’t entirely fluent at the moment. I’d say that the only thing that my environment that plays a part in how I choose a partner is that I wouldn’t want to date someone who’s racist or has ‘preferences’ that involve fetishisation. Otherwise, I wouldn’t feel like I couldn’t date someone who wasn’t White or Asian.
I really love a good food mix and I’d say I engage with culture the most in this aspect. I listen to a group from Hong Kong called Hong Kong Express and I love being able to understand phrases in Cantonese from them. I speak English to my Dad and Cantonese and English to my Mum, which was kinda fun as a kid. Like I was speaking a sort of code, but now it’s more or less something I’m used to. In terms of fashion, I don’t ever wear traditional clothing from either culture, so I just wear standard Western clothing and finally I wear my hair naturally but prefer it a bit longer with a headband, which is more of an Asian style. I like being complimented on my Cantonese in Hong Kong and, sometimes, on my looks (although it depends how it is done). Also, I would say that I’ve had positive experiences meeting other mixed people and interacting with them online, especially on the Facebook group Subtle Halfie Traits.
I don’t think I’ve really been treated differently on account of my race (although I have been called a mudblood by an Asian person at school) at university. On the other hand, I haven’t really felt represented by current trends too much, maybe because of my mixedness, but more probably because I don’t follow them a lot.
I did expect Oxford to be very posh, so I was pleasantly surprised that there is a diversity of backgrounds here, although private school students are obviously disproportionately represented (by the way, I’m one too) and very White, which is probably more true that the first. However, it is more diverse than my private secondary school and I’ve confronted my own racial biases and come to term with my mixedness here. I haven’t experienced any casual racism as far as I can remember. The worse I’ve experienced is stuff about all Asians being the same, but it hasn’t been directed at me.
In some spaces, Oxford is welcoming and inclusive. But the support for various fascist speakers or the fact that people were willing to defend his ‘right to speak’ for me felt off. On top of that, people have had bad experiences with tutors or porters, based on gender identity, sexuality and race which make me not think this is the case. I’ve definitely become more aware of the fact that I’m mixed-race, given a greater exposure to discussion about race and I’m definitely grateful that I’ve been exposed to that conversation. It’s so much better than the discourse I had previously been exposed to and I never really talked about how being mixed-race is with my parents or siblings.
First of all, I have a White surname and don’t get treated differently because of my race, so I’d say that I have a certain privilege in that regard. However, I would argue that mixed-race people aren’t really talked about too much when talking about race, even less mixed-race people who aren’t straight. Moreover, it must be even harder for mixed-race people who aren’t part White and therefore don’t have that White privilege.
I haven’t really attended many events at the Oxford Mixed Heritage Society, but it seems to be a great group who are doing good things in providing a space for mixed people to make friends and meet new people.
If I had the opportunity to be reborn I’d like to be born in a different country for sure and maybe as a different gender. Just in the name of experience more than anything else. I’m interested in life in Uruguay and Rojava at the moment, but I’ve always had an interest in the ancient world, so maybe ancient Persia, Israel around the time of Jesus, or fifth century BC Greece or first century AD Rome.
In the context of the University of Oxford, we hope our names; faces and stories will emphasise that there is a place for everyone at Oxford. According to last year’s admissions data, 700 Oxford undergraduates identify as mixed. In 2016, BAME students accounted for 15.9% of the undergraduate intake. Oxford is diversifying, albeit slowly. We hope to empower mixed heritage students at Oxford and foster a community where they can safely share their own opinions, experiences and stories.