They are torn between two cultures but they also have the best of both worlds.
This seems to be the situation in which Filipino-American children have found themselves as a consequence of their biracial identity.
Five Fil-Am children poured out their heartaches during a discussion on their biracial experience. Hosted by the Paaralang Pilipino, the forum was held on March 13, 2016 at the Philippine American Cultural Center (PACCM) in Southfield.
The discussion on “Mestisa: Our Multiracial Oral Histories” was organized by the Filipino Youth Initiative (FYI), the youth arm of Paaralang Pilipino, in cooperation with University of Michigan-Dearborn Professor Aurora Harris, who is a Filipino-African American.
The five children, with ages ranging from 12 to 30, were Skye Ariana Logan, Isabella Nicole Angeline Logan, Jason Burgamy, Althea M. Mahadeva and Christine Liwag Dixon.
During the discussion, the children responded to questions asked by Professor Harris and FYI Director James Beni Wilson. They disclosed how they are struggling to cope with issues arising from their biracial or multiracial identities.
They complained about the fact that they have to explain their identities every now and then. Christine Dixon, a columnist of the Filipino Star News, said her indeterminate identity has always affected her interaction with people.
Althea Mahadeva, who has an Indian blood, said that while she enjoys watching TFC (The Filipino Channel) drama series, she encounters difficulty in categorizing herself and explaining her physical features.
Jason Burgamy, whose mother is a Filipina from Benguet, said the cause of his problem is his being biracial. People tell him that “you’re not really a Filipino” or “you’re not really an American.”
Burgamy recalled her mother had always told him that he is “not really white” and so “you have to work harder and study harder. It’s hard because nobody treats you as an equal.”
Mahadeva and Dixon echoed the same sentiment, saying they often hear comments that they are not Filipina enough.
Dixon also noted discrimination within the family, saying “my father’s side has not gotten over the fact that he had married an Asian woman.”
The young Logan sisters are aware of racial discrimination but said “you should not be judged by your appearance but by what’s inside you.”
Dixon said that the racism Fil-Am kids are subjected is due to ignorance and “having no experience with diversity.”
Asked if knowledge of Philippine history is important to her, Mahadeva said, “History is important and Christianity will help you” explain your values.
Dixon deplored the “very slanted American perspective of Philippine-American history.” She disclosed her plan to write a book on Philippine-American history.
Dixon and Mahadeva share the view that there is a need for Filipino-American children “to speak up as we’ve been marginalized for so long.” Dixon said she feels the need to do something about the problem.
Former Paaralang Pilipino teacher Tess Tchou commented during the question-and-answer portion that the Fil-Am children should consider themselves lucky because “this country allows you to fulfill your dreams.”
Paaralang Pilipino, a flagship program of PACCM headed by President Becky Tungol, plans to conduct more dialogues on the biracial dilemma.