“Can I ask…What are you?”

Melanie Hoa San,
Mechanicsburg, PA

>When I think about race, this familiar question is the first thing that pops into my mind. Although this exact wording (which I have heard countless times) could come across as rude or ignorant to some, it does not offend me. Instead, I proudly reply, “half-Vietnamese, some Irish, some Cherokee, and a little bit Scottish, French, and German.” I understand how this question could be offensive to someone like my dad, who came to the U.S. as a Vietnamese refugee from Laos in 1976.

Racial discrimination was something that he continually had to face while growing up in that generation. Although the stories that he has told me give me a glimpse at the hatred and injustices that he faced, I have never experienced that first hand in my own life. Thankfully, my personal experience of growing up biracial in the U.S. has not been negative. I have been blessed to grow up in a community where my race does not define who I am but at the same time is recognized and can be freely celebrated.


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