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Hello Hapas Exploring Asian America from Multiracial Asian Experiences.

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Old 02-24-2008, 02:31 PM
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Being Blackanese

In addition to the other OP I made today on the article on the Hapa experience and struggle printed in the Seattle Times, I wanted to throw in this vividly expressed account on the experience of a Blasian girl growing up, and her POVs. I really enjoyed this article and I hope others will too. It's a pretty long but good read.

Read and enjoy. Respect.

QUOTE:
Essay
"On Being Blackanese"
By Mitzi Uehara-Carter


"Umm. . .excuse me. Where are you from?"

"I'm from Houston, Texas."

"Oh...but your parents, where are they from?"

(Hmm. Should I continue to play stupid or just tell them.)
"My dad is from Houston, and my mom is from Okinawa, Japan"

"And your dad is black then?"

"Yup"

"So do you speak Japanese?"

"Some."

"Wow. Say something."

This is not a rare conversation. I cannot count the number of time I've pulled this script out to rehearse with random people who have accosted me in the past. "That's so exotic, so cool that you're mixed." It's not that these questions or comments bother me or that I am offended by their bluntness. I think it's more of the attitudes of bewilderment and the exoticism of my being and even the slight bossiness to do something "exotic" that annoy me. I think I am also annoyed because I am still exploring what it means to be both Japanese and Black and still have difficulty trying to express what that means to others.


In many ways and for many years I have grappled with the idea of being a product of two cultures brought together by an unwanted colonization of American military bases on my mother's homeland of Okinawa. Author of "In the Realm of a Dying Emperor," Norma Field expressed these sentiments more clearly than I ever could. "Many years into my growing up, I thought I had understood the awkward piquancy of biracial children with the formulation, they are nothing if not the embodiment of sex itself; now, I modify it to, the biracial offspring of war are at once more offensive and intriguing because they bear the imprint of sex as domination." Of course this is not how I feel about myself all the time, but rather it is the invisible bug that itches under my skin every now and then. It itches when I read about Okinawan girls being raped by U.S. Servicemen, when I see mail order bride ads, when I notice the high divorce or separation rate among Asian women and GI's who were married a few years after WWII, when I see the half-way hidden looks of disgust at my mother by other Japanese women when I walk by her side as a daughter. Our bodies, our presence, our reality is a nuisance to some because we defy a definite and demarcated set of boundaries. We confuse those who are trying to organize ethnic groups by highlighting these boundaries because they don't know how to include us or exclude us. We are blackanese, hapas, eurasians, multiracial..


My mother has been the center of jokes and derogatory comments since my older sister was born. She was the one who took my sister by the hand and led her through the streets of Bangkok and Okinawa as eyes stared and people gathered to talk about the sambo baby. She was the one who took all my siblings to the grocery stores, the malls, the park, school, Burger King, hospitals, church. In each of these public arenas we were stared at either in fascination because we were a new "sight" or stared at with a look of disgust or both. Nigga-chink, Black-Jap, Black-Japanese mutt. The neighborhood kids, friends, and adults labeled my siblings and me with these terms especially after they recognized that my mother was completely intent on making us learn about Okinawan culture. On New Year's Day, we had black eyed peas and mochi. We cleaned the house to start the year fresh and clean. "Don't laugh with your mouth too wide and show yo teeth too much," my mom would always tell us. "Be like a woman." I had not realized that I covered my mouth each time I laughed until someone pointed it out in my freshman year in college. When we disobeyed my mother's rule or screamed, we were being too "American." If I ever left the house with rollers in my hair, my mom would say I shouldn't do American things. "Agijibiyo. . .Where you learn this from? You are Okinawan too. Dame desuyo. Don't talk so much like Americans; listen first." There were several other cultural traits and values that I had inevitably inherited (and cherish) being raised by a Japanese mother.


Growing up in an all black neighborhood and attending predominately Black and Latino schools until college influenced my identity also. I was definitely not accepted in the Japanese circles as Japanese for several reasons, but that introduces another subject on acceptance into Japanese communities. Now this is not to say that the Black community I associated with embraced me as Blackanese, even though I think it is more accepting of multiracial people than probably any other group (because of the one-drop rule, etc.). There is still an exclusion for those who wish to encompass all parts of their heritage with equal weight, and there is also a subtle push to identify more with one's black heritage than the other part because "society won't see you as mixed or Japanese but BLACK." I can't count the number of times I have heard this argument. What I do know is that no society can tell me that I am more of one culture than another because of the way someone else defines me. I am Blackanese -- a mixture of the two in ways that cannot be divided. My body and mentality is not split down the middle where half is black and the other half is Japanese. I have taken the aspects of both worlds to create my own worldview and identity. Like Anna Vale said in Itabari Njeri's article "Sushi and Grits," my mother raised me the best way she knew how, "to be a good Japanese daughter."


My father on the otherhand never constantly sat down to "teach" us about being Black. We were surrounded by Blackness and lived it. He was always tired when he came home from work. He'd sit back in his sofa and blast his jazz. My mom would be in the kitchen with her little tape player listening to her Japanese and Okinawan tapes my aunt sent every other month from California. My siblings and I would stay at my grandmother's house once in a while (she cooked the best collard greens), and when my mom came to pick us up she'd teach her how to cook a southern meal for my father. Our meals were somewhat of an indicator of how much my mom held onto her traditions. My father would make his requests for chicken, steak or okra and my mom had learned to cook these things, but we always had Japanese rice on the side with nori and tofu and fishcake with these really noisome beans that are supposed to be good for you (according to my mom. I swear she knows what every Japanese magazine has to say about food and health). It was my mother who told us that we would be discriminated against because of our color, and it was my Japanese mother to whom we ran when we were called niggers at the public swimming pool in Houston. To say to this woman, "Mom, we are just black" would be a disrespectful slap in the face. The woman who raised us and cried for years from her family's coldness and rejection because of her decision to marry interracialy, cried when my father's sister wouldn't let her be a part of the family picture because she was a "Jap." This woman who happens to be my mother will never hear "Mom, I'm just Black" from my mouth because I'm not and no person -- society or government -- will force me to do that and deny my reality and my being, no matter how offensive I am to their country or how much of a nuisance I am to their cause. I am Blackanese.

At the time she wrote this, Mitzi was a senior at Duke University..
Pic of Author:



Hat-Tip on essay:

link: http://www.webcom.com/~intvoice/

Last edited by Sunflare; 02-24-2008 at 02:32 PM.
  #2  
Old 04-22-2008, 04:06 PM
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Re: Being Blackanese

There was a black girl in one of my Japanese history classes and she had a Japanese last name. I guess she was half Japanese. She didn't act like other black girls though. She didn't talk much, was always serious, and seemingly mad about something. She was scary.
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Old 04-22-2008, 06:40 PM
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Old 04-22-2008, 07:16 PM
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Re: Being Blackanese

QUOTE:
Originally Posted by unemployable View Post
There was a black girl in one of my Japanese history classes and she had a Japanese last name. I guess she was half Japanese. She didn't act like other black girls though. She didn't talk much, was always serious, and seemingly mad about something. She was scary.
You cant expect her to act like the other black girls in the class because she probably identifys herself more as an Asian then as an Afro-American.

And for her being serious, seemingly mad, scary, etc:

Perhaps the poor thing may be going through something bad in her point in her life. And again maybe the sweetheart is just shy. These are all things to consider.

Many people sometimes misintepret the signals coming from a person who are genuinely depressed or undergoing stress and anxiety as something else, as a bad flaw in character, or something, and they are looked down upon as a result. That's not good.

Something to think about.

Last edited by Sunflare; 04-22-2008 at 07:28 PM.
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Old 05-06-2008, 10:40 AM
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Re: Being Blackanese

QUOTE:
Originally Posted by Crystal Clear View Post
You cant expect her to act like the other black girls in the class because she probably identifys herself more as an Asian then as an Afro-American.

And for her being serious, seemingly mad, scary, etc:

Perhaps the poor thing may be going through something bad in her point in her life. And again maybe the sweetheart is just shy. These are all things to consider.

Many people sometimes misintepret the signals coming from a person who are genuinely depressed or undergoing stress and anxiety as something else, as a bad flaw in character, or something, and they are looked down upon as a result. That's not good.

Something to think about.
@ Bold part:

I'd highly doubt that. Not all black girls act the same, there is no one way that "BLACK GIRLS" act. I'm an African-American and I have 7 sisters and they all act various different ways. Now that's just 7 black girls in my own immediate family. There's over 25Million more living right here in the USA alone who also act all different kinds of ways.
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Old 05-06-2008, 10:53 AM
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Re: Being Blackanese

One of many possibilities. True.....

But many mixed Asians such as this Blasian girl in this case, are also constantly struggling with their identity. Many are rejected out of the Afro-American and/or Asian American cliches in school. That's just the truth.

And many as a result feel hurt from the sense of rejection and become despondent and unhappy as a result for a period of time. I seen many mixed Asians who went through this difficult phase in their lives.

I'm suggesting that this may be a very valid possibility as to why this girl may seem so withdrawn. That's where I'm coming from.

Last edited by Sunflare; 05-06-2008 at 10:55 AM.
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Old 05-06-2008, 01:14 PM
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Re: Being Blackanese

what do you think can be said about the "blackanese" or "blasian" experience outside the context of a bicultural experience or the dual racial slur thing?
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Old 05-06-2008, 01:38 PM
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Re: Being Blackanese

Well that is a very difficult question to answer.

The experience of the individual Eurasian or Afro Asian are different. Because there is so much variation to how a Hapa or Blasian identify themselves according to what nationality their Asian parent descended from. Or even their parent of African descent. Or their parent of Anglo-European descent and so forth.

We have no common heritage, no common language, no common nation of origin. So it's hard even for Hapas or Blasians to relate even to each other. We even disagree on what PC terms we should use to describe our dual heritage.

There is just simply no common ground. Some exceptions but that's basically how it is.

Each experience in life of the individual Hapa or Blasian is different in itself because we don't share a common ground. I don't particularly like it but that's just the way it is. I can only share my experience alone. I can't speak for the other mixed Asians on this forum because their experiences and outlook on life is so drastically different from mine or each other respectively.

If you notice, all the POVs of all the Hapas and Blasians on YW are very different and it shows in what they post. Their feelings on identity issues, their aspirations, their likes and dislikes, their view on the real world situation and how it relates to them as individuals.......

It's more than the fact that we have just distinct personalities...... Its the fact that we do not share a common foundation for a common cultural identity like monoracial persons do.

BeTheReds brought up a good point a while back in another thread:

QUOTE:
Originally Posted by BeTheReds View Post
I wouldn't see it as any kind of social pressure. I've stated my view many times that for each individual hapa, it's an individual choice, either consious or not to identify however they do. Some identify as asian, others as non-asian, others as something totally different. Therefore, no one hapa can claim to speak with any authority on the matter other than talking about himself alone.
........................
Monoracials have collective experience that can be discussed easily. Hapas have no collective experience apart from their siblings, or if they were raised in an area with a HUGE hapa population.
That's pretty much how I feel about the issue in a nutshell. Hapas and Blasians do not have the benefits of sharing our collective experiences the way monoracial individuals can. We have no collective experiences to share. Which makes living as a person of mixed descent ever the more difficult in terms of retaining an identity for ourselves.

Last edited by Sunflare; 05-06-2008 at 02:02 PM.
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Old 05-06-2008, 03:10 PM
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Re: Being Blackanese

QUOTE:
Originally Posted by SunWuKong View Post
what do you think can be said about the "blackanese" or "blasian" experience outside the context of a bicultural experience or the dual racial slur thing?
I don't get the question. Isn't that like asking what can be said about the Asian-American experience outside of being Asian-American? Wouldn't you be speaking in the first place about being Asian-American in the context of, well, being Asian-American?

Edit: Nevermind, you weren't talking to me.
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Old 05-06-2008, 04:37 PM
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Re: Being Blackanese

QUOTE:
Originally Posted by popculturepooka View Post
I don't get the question. Isn't that like asking what can be said about the Asian-American experience outside of being Asian-American? Wouldn't you be speaking in the first place about being Asian-American in the context of, well, being Asian-American?

Edit: Nevermind, you weren't talking to me.
well, it's just that every time i've read about the experience of being mixed Asian/black, it's always about growing up bicultural or having been called something like "nigger chink". so i'm wondering, is that basically the defining characteristics of the "blasian" experience, or what else can be said about it?

granted the bulk of the reading that can be found about the mixed Asian/white experience revolves around growing up bicultural also, and around being seen as racially ambiguous to society.
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Old 05-06-2008, 08:19 PM
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Re: Being Blackanese

QUOTE:
Originally Posted by Crystal Clear View Post
Well that is a very difficult question to answer.

The experience of the individual Eurasian or Afro Asian are different. Because there is so much variation to how a Hapa or Blasian identify themselves according to what nationality their Asian parent descended from. Or even their parent of African descent. Or their parent of Anglo-European descent and so forth.

We have no common heritage, no common language, no common nation of origin. So it's hard even for Hapas or Blasians to relate even to each other. We even disagree on what PC terms we should use to describe our dual heritage.

There is just simply no common ground. Some exceptions but that's basically how it is.

Each experience in life of the individual Hapa or Blasian is different in itself because we don't share a common ground. I don't particularly like it but that's just the way it is. I can only share my experience alone. I can't speak for the other mixed Asians on this forum because their experiences and outlook on life is so drastically different from mine or each other respectively.

If you notice, all the POVs of all the Hapas and Blasians on YW are very different and it shows in what they post. Their feelings on identity issues, their aspirations, their likes and dislikes, their view on the real world situation and how it relates to them as individuals.......

It's more than the fact that we have just distinct personalities...... Its the fact that we do not share a common foundation for a common cultural identity like monoracial persons do.

BeTheReds brought up a good point a while back in another thread:



That's pretty much how I feel about the issue in a nutshell. Hapas and Blasians do not have the benefits of sharing our collective experiences the way monoracial individuals can. We have no collective experiences to share. Which makes living as a person of mixed descent ever the more difficult in terms of retaining an identity for ourselves.

You've progressed much young grasshopper.

QUOTE:
Originally Posted by SunWuKong View Post
what do you think can be said about the "blackanese" or "blasian" experience outside the context of a bicultural experience or the dual racial slur thing?
Plenty of things can be said. The only problem is that it seems like only thing people want to hear is sushi and grits. That's what ends up getting published anyway. Either that or.. Nobody understands me but other hapas wah wah wah. That's what people want to hear and read about. Nobody wants to read about someone who has adjusted normally and never has issues anymore.

QUOTE:
Our bodies, our presence, our reality is a nuisance to some because we defy a definite and demarcated set of boundaries. We confuse those who are trying to organize ethnic groups by highlighting these boundaries because they don't know how to include us or exclude us.
While the author certainly is a talented writer, I can't agree with this. As someone who admittedly gives the looks now and then, I'm not feeling any of that.

Last edited by BeTheReds; 05-06-2008 at 08:28 PM. Reason: Automerged Doublepost
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Old 05-07-2008, 10:35 AM
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Re: Being Blackanese

QUOTE:
Originally Posted by BeTheReds View Post
You've progressed much young grasshopper.
Thanks for the compliment. I'm learning alot from your comments....

QUOTE:
from article:

Our bodies, our presence, our reality is a nuisance to some because we defy a definite and demarcated set of boundaries. We confuse those who are trying to organize ethnic groups by highlighting these boundaries because they don't know how to include us or exclude us.
I can relate because from personal experience, many people mistake my dual ethnicity as one; going from anywhere from Indian to Southeast Asian to Hispanic. Most Hispanics who I meet go right away talking to me in Spanish and put on the spot where now I have to clarify on my identity. It happens all the time and it can get annoying. But I try to be civil about it.

I also heard experiences from many Eurasians who have this same problem I have, and the frustration it causes them.

So, learning from my experiences this is my personal interpretation of the isolated segment of this essay concerning the correct identification the ethnicity of a mixed Asian:

1)There are many Hapas or Blasians who have dominant Asian features and are not too difficult to ID.

2)There are some Hapas and Blasians who have stronger African or European features and are harder to be correctly be identified as mixed Asians

3)There are some Hapas and Blasians that have very, very strong Asian features and can practically pass for a monoracial Asian.

4) But there are some Hapas or Blasians who do not share any distinct features at all. Some people when they meet such persons of dual heritage with these non distinct features are usually labeled as Hispanic, since most Hispanics in themselves are indeed mixed in a large varieties of ways.

According to the author what she is saying I think is that most people are not openminded as to the variety of persons who have dual ethnicities. They only know 4 categories: white, black, Asian and Hispanic. So people who are uneducated on Hapa/Blasian issues are prone to make assumptions on how a Mixed Asian should identify themselves as; and that can piss alot of mixed Asians off.

I think thats the context of which she is coming from with that particular segment of the article.

Last edited by Sunflare; 05-07-2008 at 10:41 AM.
  #12  
Old 05-07-2008, 06:14 PM
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Re: Being Blackanese

QUOTE:
Originally Posted by Crystal Clear View Post
Thanks for the compliment. I'm learning alot from your comments....



I can relate because from personal experience, many people mistake my dual ethnicity as one; going from anywhere from Indian to Southeast Asian to Hispanic. Most Hispanics who I meet go right away talking to me in Spanish and put on the spot where now I have to clarify on my identity. It happens all the time and it can get annoying. But I try to be civil about it.

I also heard experiences from many Eurasians who have this same problem I have, and the frustration it causes them.

So, learning from my experiences this is my personal interpretation of the isolated segment of this essay concerning the correct identification the ethnicity of a mixed Asian:

1)There are many Hapas or Blasians who have dominant Asian features and are not too difficult to ID.

2)There are some Hapas and Blasians who have stronger African or European features and are harder to be correctly be identified as mixed Asians

3)There are some Hapas and Blasians that have very, very strong Asian features and can practically pass for a monoracial Asian.

4) But there are some Hapas or Blasians who do not share any distinct features at all. Some people when they meet such persons of dual heritage with these non distinct features are usually labeled as Hispanic, since most Hispanics in themselves are indeed mixed in a large varieties of ways.

According to the author what she is saying I think is that most people are not openminded as to the variety of persons who have dual ethnicities. They only know 4 categories: white, black, Asian and Hispanic. So people who are uneducated on Hapa/Blasian issues are prone to make assumptions on how a Mixed Asian should identify themselves as; and that can piss alot of mixed Asians off.

I think thats the context of which she is coming from with that particular segment of the article.

Dude, the statement in the quote is about how the people categorizing hapas feel. You're talking about how you feel in reaction to that.

QUOTE:
I see the half-way hidden looks of disgust at my mother by other Japanese women when I walk by her side as a daughter. Our bodies, our presence, our reality is a nuisance to some because we defy a definite and demarcated set of boundaries. We confuse those who are trying to organize ethnic groups by highlighting these boundaries because they don't know how to include us or exclude us. We are blackanese, hapas, eurasians, multiracial..
I should have included more of the quote when I criticized it. She's talking about the "half-way hidden looks of disgust", and how the people who give them feel. I've been guilty of having the feeling of disgust before in this situation, and I don't feel any of that. Furthermore the judgement is on her mom, not on her.

.

Last edited by BeTheReds; 05-07-2008 at 06:24 PM.
  #13  
Old 05-07-2008, 06:35 PM
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Re: Being Blackanese

QUOTE:
Originally Posted by SunWuKong View Post
well, it's just that every time i've read about the experience of being mixed Asian/black, it's always about growing up bicultural or having been called something like "nigger chink". so i'm wondering, is that basically the defining characteristics of the "blasian" experience, or what else can be said about it?

granted the bulk of the reading that can be found about the mixed Asian/white experience revolves around growing up bicultural also, and around being seen as racially ambiguous to society.
Ah, I see. As far as I am concerned the only thing that relates me to other blasians is the fact that I am made of two broad groups classified as "black" and "asian". So that would be the bicultural experience as you stated.

Other things could be said about it, but I think the all boils down to being biracial (doesn't even have to be bicultural, because I know a lot of blasians who identify completey with one side or the other).

There is no blasian culture that I'm aware of outside of the internet.
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Old 05-07-2008, 09:44 PM
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BeTheReds BeTheReds is offline
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Re: Being Blackanese

QUOTE:
Originally Posted by Crystal Clear View Post
Thanks for the compliment. I'm learning alot from your comments....
Thanks, that's a compliment in itself. I just want to make sure though that you alone are in charge of how you see yourself, fellow hapas, your place in Asian America, and the like.

It is good to disagree because that stops people from making huge blanket generalizations about people.

It's been a really long time though since I have discussed these topics and gotten someone to at least understand what I am talking about, rather than referring to my viewpoint or somone elses' as "The hapa community viewpoint" and also saying "you all", or "you guys" to refer to hapas.

QUOTE:
Originally Posted by Nnsukka View Post
@ Bold part:

I'd highly doubt that. Not all black girls act the same, there is no one way that "BLACK GIRLS" act. I'm an African-American and I have 7 sisters and they all act various different ways. Now that's just 7 black girls in my own immediate family. There's over 25Million more living right here in the USA alone who also act all different kinds of ways.
While certainly that's true, would you deny that there is at least one distinct community of african americans, and that at least one African-American culture exists? (As in different from that of mainstream White America).

If you say yes, then doesn't that culture have specific norms that can be attributed to it, that many (but not all) members of the culture might exhibit?

Would it be such a stretch then to suggest that someone who behaves culturally like a member of an African-American culture is "acting Black"?

Don't some black people often criticize people of their own race for not "acting Black enough" or "acting White?"

I wholeheartedly agree with you that people should be respected as individuals and treated as such, but there are certain cases where generalizations can be applied without it being resoundingly negative or racist.

I certainly don't think that anyone who tries to generalize hapas is a racist, only that they aren't aware that generalization of hapas has no basis like generalizing whites or latinos might.

Is it racist to generalize that Latinos come from a culture with spanish as its primary language? No.

Is it wrong to generalize that everyone of Latino heritage speaks spanish? Yes, because that's never a given.

Similarly with Blacks, it's not wrong to generalize that they as a community have a shared collective history in the United States, through Slavery, Emancipation, discrimination, the civil rights movement, etc etc. (With the possible exception of recent African immigrants.) That collective history has created at least one African-American culture that is not the same as that of mainstream white america.

Therefore, while the term "acting black" might not be as appropriate as "behaving within the cultural norms of an African American culture" one must look at the intent of the term as well as the point of the post, which was not to generalize African-Americans, but to describe the way one blasian self identifies.

Last edited by BeTheReds; 05-07-2008 at 10:02 PM. Reason: Automerged Doublepost
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