Identity Status: It's Complicated
Facing some internal struggles vs. external influences
I've felt very hesitant to write about this but felt that with the microscopic perspective our generation has been blinded with, thought it would be a good time to share.
As you know, or if you don't, you do now, I'm Filipina (and part-Chinese). My last name was originally Chan and was changed to Cornel by my grandpa to avoid racial discrimination. Half of my family kept the last name "Chan", while my half of the family kept "Cornel", which is French. So if you're wondering if I am related to any of your relatives in the Philippines, the answer is NO, haha.
I was born in the bay but moved to SoCal at a young age where I grew up in a very very white community. It was hard being Asian, especially in elementary and middle school, which is a huge reason why I went to school 30 minutes away in the San Fernando Valley, known for their abundance of POC.
During the time I was still schooling in this white community, I struggled with feeling accepted, as did any kid, but particularly for me, I struggled with this inner conflict of my Asian identity versus the white identities my peers encompassed.
I always had boxed rice lunches while everyone else had their bologna sandwiches on white bread. At my age now, the thought of bologna makes me want to throw up in my mouth while a riced meal sounds luxurious.
I really didn't appreciate what my parents prepared for me because the kids around me made fun of me for it. They said things like "Ew, why does that look like poop? You're gross for eating poop." or "Ew, your lunch smells. Why does it smell like that?" I was so embarrassed to have the lunch my mom woke up early to make for me.
Even the clothes I wore were so Asian. I wanted cowboy boots and pretty dresses but instead wore hand-me-down tees or pants from the thrift store. I developed an interest in anime and would doodle characters in class. Some kids found my drawings and had the entire class verbally tear apart my drawings. I was heartbroken.
Nothing I liked, wore, or ate was ever accepted growing up and it made me really resent my Filipino roots. I have a hard time being proud of my own culture because I've been bullied so much growing up. To aunties and uncles of this culture, it's disrespectful that I refuse to learn the language and that I don't like the food. I always felt ashamed of feeling that way because of that. I always felt like I
be proud to be Filipino but deep down, I hated it. From both ends, whether it was the white kids at school or my own relatives, I always had a finger wagged at me so I never felt accepted either way.
Upon visiting the Philippines, I've never felt accepted there either. Having lighter skin that most Filipinos and with the way I dressed, they immediately knew I wasn't from there. The locals took advantage of that. They would attempt to pick-pocket and swindle me knowing that I came from the States and that I had money because of that. I couldn't speak because my voice would give away that I wasn't a native and older men or "uncles" would attempt to sexually harass me as a 15-year old.
An auntie once got mad at me, saying "Why don't you learn the language for when you visit the Philippines?" When I told her I don't like the language or the country, she was infuriated. With this kind of pressure, it caused me to refute the idea of being Filipino. Why would I feel proud to be part of a place that doesn't accept me as their own either?
I feel as though I'm a walking contradiction. I'm Filipino, but I'm not proud. Yet, when it comes to a hybrid of Filipino culture, which we now see being normalized as fusion restaurants have been surfacing, I am so proud and crave the food. When it comes to traditions, it doesn't even appeal to me. Part of me feels I can only appreciate Filipino culture when it's filtered. If I were to ever say that I "hate" being Filipino on social media, I'm sure others would have the same reactions as my aunties and uncles.
Part of me has closure in coming out about this, but another part of me is afraid of what the world will respond with. If you've made it this far, thank you for reading this. This is an extremely personal thought process I've struggled throughout my life and I hope it doesn't change your perspective on me as an influencer. Being an influencer in an Asian community, I felt it was important for me to voice this out. Though I'm proud of being Asian and advocate for a stronger Asian presence in the media, I can't help but feel guilty feeling this way with my own specific culture.
Thank you for your love and support.
As always, Godspeed.