You probably knew about Tiger Woods, Steve Byrne, and Kimora Lee Simmons. Yeah, they’ve got Asian in ‘em. But did you know that funny man Rob Schneider is half Filipino? Or that model Naomi Campbell had Chinese blood? Vladimir Lenin, the father of Communist Russia, was part Mongolian, and Bruce Lee had German ancestry. Here’s more from Frank Agostinelli and asiansofmixedrace.com.
Plenty of famous, and talented people have partial Asian ancestry. And good-looking people….well, maybe not Rob Schneider. Ann Curry of NBC News is Japanese and Irish. Eddie Van Halen is Indonesian and German. New York Yankee Johnny Damon is half Thai, and singer KT Tunstall is a quarter Chinese. But the tag line on asiansofmixedrace.com is, “Percentages Don’t Matter!” Even if you have only a tiny fraction of Asian in you, be proud of who you are.
My two adorable sons—Korean, German, and British—are in the best of company. My friend Frank Agostinelli is also of mixed Asian heritage (read his story in Part 1), and is raising our awareness of the issues these people face.
Frank and I agree that identification is a big piece. Case in point: Tiger Woods is often identified as African-American, though his heritage also includes Chinese, Thai, Native American, and Caucasian ancestors. Although it’s not always necessary to identify your ethnic makeup, many mixed Asian people feel other people pushing them into one box or the other.
This is especially true of casting in movies and TV. Since there are painfully few roles for mixed-race people, actors of mixed heritage have to take work where they can get it. Some mixed Asian actors, such as Russell Wong, Jason Tobin, and Kelly Hu, get cast in Asian roles, so viewers may be unaware of their non-Asian heritage. Conversely, Dean Cain, Kristen Kreuk, and Keanu Reeves are usually cast in roles where they’re identified as white people, or in roles where ethnicity is not identified at all.
Frank addresses this issue when he shares the inspiration for his website.
When did you first get the idea to begin asiansofmixedrace. com?
The genesis of the site had zero to do with where I work. I was working on a couple of honor projects dealing with being multiracial…a while back. When I started doing my research, I came across sites catering to Eurasians and Hapas. I didn’t know people came up with names to describe people of mixed Asian ancestry. I simply did my roll call when asked. [NOTE: “Hapa” is a Hawaiian word that originally denoted mixed Hawaiian ancestry. In recent years, people of other mixed-ethnic backgrounds began using it to describe themselves.]. Anyway, these sites were forum-board oriented. There were only a couple that attempted to offer more.
I had to have my hands in every aspect of a site. I knew exactly what I wanted and how to build on the foundation. Of course, what I am doing isn’t anything original. Nothing’s original any more. It’s just a matter of taking something that was already done and vastly improving it.
If you’ve seen the movie “Crank” with Jason Statham, you know his character Chev Chelios can’t stop running in the movie. That’s what my mind is doing. It is constantly running. Running ideas—whether old to be evolved into something better, or simply searching for new ideas.
We love to see your mind run, Frank. Especially the “Random Thoughts of an Angry Half-Asian Man.” My readers need to go to your site and check it out…they’ll wet their pants laughing. Who’s invited to asiansofmixedrace. com?
Everyone is invited. A reader who isn’t of mixed Asian ancestry will understand it does cater to mixed Asians. They will also see, mixed Asians/Hapas are not immune to what is going on in the world whether political, health-wise, economically, etc. “We” are all interconnected one way or another, whether we like it or not.
Give us a sampling of issues and people discussed on your site.
I try to and do connect everything to Hapas in one respect or another. Such as an article I wrote about an email someone wrote me, “Vote Obama Barack Because He’s Mixed!” I, just as many, took a general interest in him because he’s mixed. But I know some probably thought the article was an endorsement of Obama on my part—which it wasn’t. It was showing the hypocrisy behind the email I was sent. It was pure nonsense. This individual felt all mixed-race people should support/vote for Obama because he is mixed.
You vote for the person best qualified for the job—not because he or she is mixed. With this logic, I am waiting for someone to email me to vote for the McCain/Palin ticket because Palin’s kids are part Yupik Eskimo.
I spoke of the Kelly Tilghman/Tiger Woods incident. The lynching comment [that Tilghman made about Woods]. The media still calls Tiger Woods “black” when he has said himself, he is “Calbinasian.” Woods has said he’s about all people, not just what he is ethnically. It [the Tilghman incident] was a blatant misrepresentation of reporting [on the part of] the sports media.
The month of May of every year, I do an Asian Pacific American Heritage Month because I know there are a lot of mixed Asians who know very little to zero about Asian…trendsetters here in America. There is an article about the semantic drift of the word “Hapa.” There are a couple of articles on mixed Asians with disabilities. There is an article on New Orleans Saint linebacker Scott Fujita, a white adoptee who has Japanese parents. I try to hit on everything that affects us one way or another, because we are affected by everything.
I’ve especially enjoyed your multiple conversations with Kip Fulbeck, a mixed Asian performance artist who’s taken his “Hapa Project” on the road, and raised a lot of awareness about the mixed-race experience.
On your site, you’ve highlighted many celebrities of mixed Asian descent. What challenges do they face?
With the interviews I’ve done, I don’t want to focus on their being mixed. I just don’t unless it is relevant to the flow of the conversation. I want the readers to see that they are just like you and I. Being a mixed Asian isn’t the reason why they are successful. Being a driven, motivated individual is why they are successful. When it boils down to it, being of mixed Asian ancestry will not be thing that puts you over the top.
That last statement of Frank’s really brought it home for me. A really fun page on asiansofmixedrace.com is the Celebrity Gallery. I’d been over there before, but took another look while researching this entry. As you float over the pictures, a tag appears with the name and ethnicity of the famous face (sans “percentages.”). I said to myself, “Wow, I never knew this person was part Asian.” It’s cool to know who is, and to see people take pride in their heritage. But on the other side of the coin, it can be a good sign that I wasn’t aware.
At one time in our nation’s history, people of mixed ancestry faced incredible discrimination. Today, racism can still show its nasty face, but people are much more accepting of mixed heritage. “Hapa pride” can be loud and proud, but mixed Asian celebrities are better known for their accomplishments than their race. And that’s something to celebrate.