By Rose Espiritu Photo by Kierston Clark
So I’ve been working on my documentary, Mixed Up, a little bit over a year. The film is centered on parenting someone of a different race. We’ve conducted over 70 interviews with interracial couples and their bi/multiracial children, as well as interracial families brought together by adoption, to ask about their understanding of their racial identity.
When talking about multiethnicity, most of the existing literature focuses on the experience of folks who are half black and half white. We had the opportunity to speak with Joseph Acez on his experience growing up half Mexican and half Chinese. In this interview he speaks on what it is like growing up as a second generation immigrant, assimilation, and other observations related to race relations. Double minority is the term for someone who is mixed with two minority races in the United States.
Q: Do you feel like you have more diluted sense of culture because you are biracial?
Joseph: I feel like my sense of being Mexican or Chinese are both diluted because I live in America. My parents also didn’t want me to stick out like a sore thumb so they really wanted me to embrace the American culture and fit in. Any interest I had in my culture mostly came from me being interested in the things about being Mexican and Chinese, rather than my parents instilling it in me.
Q: What challenges have you come across in relation to your multiethnicity?
Joseph: I was with my black friend the other day and we went somewhere and we were with a lot of black people and he said ‘this is great. We’re with a lot of black people; I’m comfortable.’ In that moment I realized I’m never going to run into a bunch of people who are half Mexican and half Chinese and feel “comfortable”.
Q: Do your parents have any opinions about your dating life?
Joseph: Growing up, my parents made sure that I knew I could date anyone outside of my race. They also let me know that they had troubles being together and that people didn’t want them to be together. Not just each other’s family, but people in general would think it was strange. They told me that I should be able to date whoever I wanted to date so it was never a thing for me.
Q: Is it possible to assimilate and hold onto your culture?
Joseph: My parents came from Mexico and China. They were poor so they came here to try to make a better life for themselves and they did which was great but while they were doing it they didn’t have fun because they were both immigrants and they didn’t fit in. You go to America and it’s your new home but it doesn’t feel like home. It’s interesting my dad has a Spanish accent when he speaks English but he has an English accent when he speaks Spanish because he’s lived here for so long. Same thing with my mom. What they wanted was for me to be very comfortable wherever I grew up, that’s why they didn’t teach me Spanish or Chinese, which I wish they did. Their hope was that I wouldn’t have to deal with any of the feelings of being an outsider.
Rose Espiritu is a Nigerian and Filipino filmmaker from Louisiana. She has always had an interest in identity development in relation to race. In 2013, she began filming Mixed Up: The Documentary. The film is an interactive investigation into the parental influence of racial identity development in children of interracial families. Rose has conducted over 70 interviews with interracial couples and their bi/multiracial children, as well as interracial families brought together by adoption, to ask about their understanding of their racial identity. Rose also founded the company Culture Chest, which is a subscription service that carefully curates diverse books for children ages 3-8. Find us at @CultureChest! You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram @roseespiritu_
Mixed Up: The Documentary is an interactive investigation into the parental influence of racial identity development in children of interracial families. Follow us to keep up with our progress FB: Mixed Up Documentary @mixedupdocu