The word hapa is commonly used to refer to Asian Americans of mixed descent. It’s been taken to mean half Asian and half something else.
Hapa has its origins from Hawaii and was originally meant to refer to any people of mixed ethnic heritage.
“That’s a Hawaiian word, you’re not supposed to use it,’ Julie Jimenez recalls a companion taking offense to the word. “And I had never heard anyone say that before. I was kind of shocked because I had never thought it was offensive.”
PRI took at the word’s origin and how its become a popular term for mixed-race Asians.
“The original concept of the term hapa is not necessarily pejorative, said Professor Wei Ming Dariotis, a big advocate for the word. “That’s really the distinction and the reason it was so attractive to young activists in the 90s’s because here’s this history unlike all the histories of U.S. wars in Asia where we end up with really pejorative terminology to refer to mixed Asian people.”
You can listen to Dariotis interview in its entirety in the audio clip below from PRI. Joanna Sotomura and Stephen Chang, hosts of the You Tube series Half-Time, are also interviewed.