I was so excited when Rie reached out to me via email and wanted to share her multiracial story with Swirl Nation Blog readers. Her experience is unique having lived in Asia half her life and the United States the other half. Please enjoy learning about her!
NAME AND AGE
My name is Charissa Riedel and I usually go by Rie and I’m currently 25!
WHAT MIX ARE YOU?
So it is a little bit confusing so to make it easier, I will describe my parents first because both of them are mixed! So my mum is half Kazakh half French (of English descent) and my dad is half Uyghur (a Chinese ethnicity of Turkish descent in Xin Jiang, China) and a quarter Russian and a quarter Chinese (common ethnicity). SO, that makes me… quarter Kazakh, quarter French (technically English), quarter Uyghur… half a quarter Chinese AGAIN and half a quarter Russian… It is like, woa how is that possible!
WHERE DO YOU CURRENTLY LIVE?
I currently live in California and I actually just moved back into the country last October of 2015. I’ve been living in Japan and China the past couple years.
IS THE COMMUNITY YOU LIVE IN NOW DIVERSE?
I think California is extremely diverse, but also depending on the area you go to.. I think the Californians reading this understand what I’m talking about :)
WHERE ARE YOU FROM?
Well, when I get asked where is my hometown, it is not the easiest answer for me. I have never lived in the city that I was born in, so it is hard to say it is my “hometown”. I’ve lived in numerous places in California including Southern and Northern (I prefer Norcal) and also a few locations in Asia. There were not many multiracial kids where I lived (especially in Asia) when I was actually a child. I think there are way more multiracial children now than there were in the 90’s in my opinion. I’m racially ambiguous so a lot of people don’t know what to label me as. Also when I was a child there were no other children like me, especially my mix. I still to this day don’t know anyone the same mix as me, and I probably never will meet anyone.
HOW DID YOUR PARENTS MEET?
My parents met while they were still in Highschool, getting married at age of 18 and eventually having me. They are not together to this day, as they have been separated for years now but they did take the challenge really early in life.
WERE THERE ANY SIGNIFICANT OBSTACLES IN THEIR RELATIONSHIP CORRELATED TO YOUR BACKGROUNDS?
My parents didn’t have any problems because they were also multiracial and kind of someone from countries that are bordering each other, so it is not really a big deal.
HAS YOUR EXTENDED FAMILY ALWAYS BEEN SUPPORTIVE OF YOU BEING MULTIRACIAL?
Of course, because my grandparents married of their spouse of a different race and my grandpa also was half Chinese half Russian, which was probably rare back in the day.
DID YOU CELEBRATE TRADITIONS FROM BOTH SIDES OF YOUR FAMILY?
Yes AND no. My family celebrated the common American traditions. My dad’s side of the family celebrated Chinese New Year when my mum’s side doesn’t. Most Uyghur people are Muslim but my grandma was Buddhist and not Muslim. My grandma on my mum’s side quit religion to accommodate my French grandpa.
WERE THERE MULTIPLE LANGUAGES SPOKEN IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD?
Yes. My dad’s side speaks English, Chinese and Russian (mainly the grandparents) but I can speak Chinese. My mum’s side is just English and my grandma spoke Kazakh and I am currently learning the language because I think it is a beautiful language.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR CULTURAL BACKGROUND?
I am so many different cultures and I love every one of them. I try to get an understanding in every culture and knowledge about all of them. Maybe the one I am just used to the most. Being a Buddhist myself, I can be closer to those in my family that are Buddhist as well. I love listening to Chinese pop, Kazakh pop, and also Russian pop. As far as food, Hong Kong food is by far my favorite! (Even though my family is not from Hong Kong).
WHAT ACTIONS DID YOUR PARENTS TAKE TO TEACH YOU ABOUT YOUR DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS?
Not really anything. I was always with my family on BOTH sides and everything is literally mixed like crazy. On my mum’s side of the family, I have 13 Aunts and Uncles and all of them married a person of a different race, so all of my cousins depending on which Aunt/Uncle, are half of something else, and all of them are something different, It’s crazy.
DID YOU TALK ABOUT RACE A LOT IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD WHEN YOU WERE GROWING UP?
Nope. Although we did have the discussion once about why I looked the way I did, and my family. Why everyone in my family doesn’t look the same or something like that while I was a child. When I was a kid, Doctors believed I had some type of disorder because from the time I was about 2 through… roughly 10, my eye color changed from dark brown to light blue and my hair turned from black to the whitest blonde. My family thought I was turning albino (somehow) and I hated my appearance, and even no one in my family looked or had the experience like I had. Different time periods in my life depending on my age, my appearance looked completely different.
DO YOU IDENTIFY AS MIXED OR SOMETHING ELSE?
I identify as Eurasian. In parts of western China, Kazakhstan (Central Asia) everyone literally just identifies as Eurasian.
DOES RACE WEIGH INTO WHO YOU CHOOSE TO DATE?
It doesn’t really make a difference, but my current boyfriend (and hopefully future husband ) is Chinese American.
WHAT DOES BEING MIXED MEAN TO YOU?
It means being unique. To be something that isn’t normal, average but something special. Sometimes it might be hard to deal/cope with, but it is so worth it because of all the great things you can experience over all of the cons.
DO YOU HAVE A LOT OF FRIENDS WHO ARE MIXED?
I don’t have many friends that are mixed, although 2 of my best friends are mixed (not of asian descent though).
ARE THERE ANY COMMENTS YOU ARE REALLY TIRED OF HEARING FROM PEOPLE IN REGARDS TO RACE/CULTURE?
I have MANY pet peeves due to what people assume/judge me & other people as. People might not like or agree with what I am about to say but, it is sadly true that not only Americans, but other countries as well are just extremely naive and probably just uninformed about the way people look from certain countries. Most of the time people will just assume that I am “white” and I do get people that are polite and ask me what I am because they are not sure. 95% of the time people will guess WRONG, and when I tell them where I am from, 100% of people (that I have encountered) don’t know where Kazakhstan is (yet assuming that it is in the Middle East so they assume Afghanistan), or Xin Jiang China or what a Uygur is. Then they will say, oh well you don’t look Chinese at ALL. Not to mention they say “All Chinese people look the same and wow I didn’t know there is more than once Chinese ethnicity..” UGH #thestruggle. People just literally DON’T know the countries/areas that my family is from so OF COURSE they are going to guess wrong. Also another factor that plays HUGE roll depends on my makeup and hair color. When I have black hair, people know I am not just “white” and when I have blonde hair well.. it’s a tough life.
WHAT IS YOUR DREAM FOR THE FUTURE OF AMERICA IN REGARDS TO RACE?
As time goes on, there will be more multi-racial equality, less judgemental people (hopefully) because everyone is going to be mixing more and more within America.