Mixed Raced, But Not Up For Debate

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Nina Roehl’s Filipina heritage is not immediately recognizable on her skin.

You wouldn’t know I’m Filipina by looking at me.  Growing up, when people questioned my identity, I started to question it, too.

My mom is Filipina and my dad is white. I feel strongly tied to my Filipino heritage. I grew up attending big parties with all of my aunts and uncles, eating adobo and lumpia, and listening to stories about growing up on the islands.

So when a Filipino classmate questioned my identity in front of my friends, I was taken aback. “Nah, she doesn’t count,” he said.

Despite being confident with who I am, his words stung. In that moment, I started questioning my identity. Wow, I thought, I don’t speak the language. I’ve never been to the Philippines. I picked apart the things that made me less “Filipina.” It hurt.

When I got home, I told my mom what happened. “Nina,” she said, “he doesn’t know you. He doesn’t have the right to tell you who you are. You know who you and your family are. That’s what matters.”

She was right. I know being Filipina is about strong cultural roots, not the color of skin. But sometimes, I still need reminding.

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