Writer Sharon Chang who has been outspoken on many multi-racial issues cautions that the word Hapa as used by some is excluding those the terms was meant to originally describe (Photo by Keoni Cabral).
In her piece for AAPI Voices, she reminds us the term was originally coined in Hawaii to refer to Native Hawaiians who also had white ancestry.
But more recently, some, including myself, have used the term Hapa to refer to all mixed race people of Asian descent.
Maile Arvin, a Native Hawaiian scholar, explains the significance of the term Hapa which originally appeared in Hawaiian dictionary in the 1860s.
“For Native Hawaiians, ‘hapa’ is a way to claim and recognize those of us with multiracial ancestry as being integrally part of the lahui, or the Kanaka Maoli nation.” Arvin said. “This claiming is especially important because along with British and American settlement in Hawai’i, there was tremendous depopulation through the introduction of diseases to which Native Hawaiians had no immunity.”
You can read more about the significance of the word Hapa in AAPI Voices.