English/Spanish | Hawaiian

Photo credit: Paul Smith

Photo credit: Paul Smith

My mother is from the big island of Hawaii with Hawaiian, Chinese, Spanish, & English ancestry. Her maternal grandmother was 100% Hawaiian, of which there a very few left. My father is from Nebraska with French-Canadian, Czech-Bohemian, Irish & Native American ancestry. There is a saying in Hawaii, ‘Hapa haole’ means half White.

I grew up in Germany and all over the United States, as my father was an Army aviator and it meant we had to travel a lot. I had a strong sense of identity as the only American kid in my German kindergarten class. Growing up in Europe and traveling the continent exposed us to many unique cultures. Additionally, visiting both sides of my family in Hawaii and Nebraska provided a wealth of beautiful environments to explore as a child; the beach vs. the lake; luaus vs. country music festivals; Parker Ranch vs. the farm.  Fortunately, I didn't personally experience racism toward me as far as I knew. I did hear racist comments made about immigrants but didn't find this offensive personally because I was too young. 

I attended three high schools and graduated in northern Virginia outside Washington D.C. When I attended university, the issue of race became more relevant to me. While I always knew myself as half-Hawaiian, I didn't see myself as non-Caucasian. Inside, I felt like a White-middle-class-kid who just happened to be half-Hawaiian, but outwardly, people viewed me in a different way. A friend once told me, ‘when people look at you they are probably trying to figure out what you are’. I saw myself more as a citizen of the world regardless of the color of my skin. I had friends of color who were much more vocal about their experiences with prejudice and discrimination, I learned a lot from their pain. 

If I had been a victim of discrimination, it was beyond my comprehension. It wasn't until I got out into the real world when I realized the misconceptions of my appearance. After university, I moved to New York City where I became a theater artist & educator. Immediately, I was confronted with an explosion of multi-culturalism and diversity. The impact of living in the city for more than a decade has undoubtedly shaped my world view. It has inspired me to advocate policy for inner-city youth, minority rights, and sexual equality. Now I reside in Los Angeles which is melting pot all of its own, teeming with dreams, injustices & vices. As a multi-racial inhabitant who can ‘blend’ into certain communities, I am slowly seeing a cross-pollination of cultures.  The future is mixed. Hence my Instagram handle: @postethnic. As in post-secular; the lines of ethnicity, religion, or any sort of qualification becomes blurred and ultimately, incomprehensible. Like my parents did, I believe it is important to instill a sense of confidence and pride in our future mixed generations that will give them a platform where openness and collaboration go hand in hand.