Sharon Chang says she embodies “mixedness.” Chang’s thoughtful examination about growing up multiracial at this year’s Hapapalooza festival: “Raising Mixed Kids: Family Workshop” will be at the Heartwood Community Café, Sept. 19 from 6–8 p.m. The Hapapalooza festival celebrates mixed heritage and hybrid cultural identity.
“I bring my lived life to the table. I also now bring the experiences of my family (my husband and son are also mixed) to the table,” says Chang, a mixed-race parenting expert and activist.
Children and race
Every single experience Chang has had with others is inevitably a multiracial exchange. Her father is from Taiwan and her mother is Caucasian American of Slovakian, German and French Canadian descent.
“But what does all this mean for mixed-race children growing up across racial boundaries? How can we raise multiracial kids to feel good about themselves in a raced world?” asks Chang, who will be sharing some of her findings from her new book Raising Mixed Race, which will be released later this fall.
According to Chang, children have used racial reasoning to discriminate against their peers by the ages of four or five. Children see and hear everything and racism is woven into the very fabric of society. Research also shows children as young as six months are able to categorize people by race.
“To my knowledge there isn’t yet a comprehensive book on the North American continent that looks critically at the complex task of raising mixed children of Asian descent,” says Chang.
She says she and her family feel they don’t belong. They are asked unsolicited comments and are targets for discrimination.
Some of the questions she receives include: Aren’t things kind of easier for multiracial folk? Isn’t loss/dilution of cultural heritage inevitable when mixed kids are born? What do you mean “mixed”? What’s the difference between race, culture, and ethnicity? Aren’t we all mixed?
“These experiences all together have shown me without a shadow of a doubt that there is still so much we don’t acknowledge about mixed race peoples,” says Chang.
Chang also points out she and her family don’t feel represented in most areas, including the media, activism, politics, academia, and other areas.
Closer examination needed
While agreeing a conversation has begun, Chang says it is a young one. Lacking nuance and a critical lens, a real dialogue needs much more scholarship as well as thoughtful examination. This underdeveloped examination prompted her to specialize in the studies and research she does.
“When we look at patterns or themes, like what we see in these outmarriage statistics, then we have to ask ourselves larger questions that go beyond the individuals. What is the history of sociopolitical experience for Japanese and Latin American Canadians? (most likely to outmarry)” says Chang.
According to Statistics Canada, in 2011, Japanese had 78.7 per cent mixed unions, while Latin Americans had 48.2 per cent mixed unions. African Americans had 40.2 per cent mixed unions. On the other extreme, Chinese only had 19.4 per cent and South Asian only had 13 per cent mixed unions.
Similarities and how those experiences have encouraged or discouraged certain partnership patterns are also questions Chang is pondering.
“By contrast, what is the history of sociopolitical experience for Chinese and South Asian Canadians (least likely to outmarry) and how have those experiences encouraged or discouraged certain partnership patterns?” asks Chang.
Intimate partnerships, she says, while formed through affection, attraction and love, are also informed by the political contexts within which they
Chang says they cannot escape this influence because everyone is impacted by their environments.
For more information about hapa-palooza festival, go to www.hapapalooza.com.