17 May 2010

who am i?

After my very minimal attempt at researching the word 'afakasi on Google, I found that according to Urban Dictionary there are two definitions for the word.  The second definition I really cannot cope with while the first one I can as it is very much in line with my definition: derived from the word half-caste, 'afakasi is a Samoan term which refers to a person with one Samoan parent and one Palagi parent.

Often throughout my life I have been asked the questions "What are you?" and "Where are you from?" to which, in more recent years, I have responded with "a human being" and "I am from New Zealand" knowing full well the answer they are actually searching for is an explanation for the way I look - Polynesian yet fair skinned.  Every time I get asked those questions the person is usually sure I am Māori and checking to be polite or feels a need to label me for whatever reason as they are quite unsure of my race and ethnicity.

History all over the world tells us the word half-caste was very much a derogatory term and I firmly believe the term 'afakasi is derogatory today although maybe not as widely.  The thought of someone that does not know who I am calling me 'afakasi makes my insides churn because today it seems, being called 'afakasi goes beyond describing genealogy and extends to describing the understanding of an 'afakasi's own ethnicity and culture.

As an 'afakasi, I am not a human being roaming this earth doomed to incompleteness for the rest of my life because I am merely half of something and half of something else.  I am a complete human being who carries my genealogy as a whole - Samoan and Palagi side by side - even if I do not know every single detail due to factors beyond my control.  I do not pick and choose things Samoan with an air of ignorance and arrogance to make up half my identity because I am not just half.  You can look at me and stop at the fair skin, however it takes a brave person to go deeper and find out not what I am, but who I am.

This is me - Teine 'Afakasi.

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