What are you?
Sacramento, CA 95819
Strangers frequently approach me with the same question: “What are you?” Their faces are often contorted, a perplexed meets “I have peanut butter stuck to the roof of my mouth” look.
It’s almost as if these people saw me emerge from a spaceship displaying eight tentacles and phosphorescent skin. I want to ensure them that, yes, I am human. However, I know what they mean. They want to know my heritage, my ethnic makeup, what races mated to create someone who looks like me.
So I smile and explain that I’m mostly German and Spanish, mixed with two Native American groups and a smattering of French and English. Basically, I’m a mutt—and I embrace the term.
Like the word mutt, the Hawaiian “hapa” was once a derogatory term meaning half. However, Kip Fulbeck—an artist, writer, slam poet, professor and filmmaker—is encouraging people to embrace hapa and their mixed-race identities. Fulbeck’s photographic book, Part Asian, 100% Hapa, features portraits of mixed-heritage participants along with their handwritten responses of how they self-identify ethnically by responding to that damn frequently asked question, “What are you?”
The UC Santa Barbara art professor will perform at Sac State. He will discuss his own mixed-heritage background, media imagery, interracial dating patterns and icons of race and sex. His performance will include a mix of spoken word, stand-up comedy, political activism and personal stories. There also will be a book signing.
And in case you’re dying to know, Fulbeck is Chinese, English and Welsh. Basically, he’s hapa.