The Reality of Being Half-White in America

I can never be white. But do I want to be?

Helen Hensell
6 min readJun 9, 2022
Photo by Donovan Reeves on Unsplash

“Hey, where are you from?”

“I live in Florida, but I was raised in South Carolina and born in Texas.”

“No, I mean, where are your parents from?

“Oh… my mom is from South Korea and my dad is from America. Before that, his family came from England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and Germany.”

“Ahh, so you are Korean? I knew it!”

“No. I’m half Korean and half white. There’s a difference you know.”

Welcome to a typical conversation that I have had many times. People ask me where I am from, and yet, they are only interested in learning where my parents are from. Specifically, my mother.

No one has ever said to me this:

“Your family is from Germany? How cool!”

Or this:

“You’re half White? I can tell!”

And yet, they say this:

“I can tell that you are Korean by your eyes.”

It’s like as soon as I tell people where my mother is from, their ears immediately shut down because they have heard what they needed to hear. It’s like my father’s ancestry is less valid than my mother’s.

In an attempt to validate the side that many people never seem to validate, I have often answered like this:

“I’m HALF WHITE and half Asian.”

Or like this:

“I’m half Asian and HALF WHITE.”

By emphasizing that I am half-white, I hope that people will acknowledge that side of me. But it never works. People are still intent on just looking at the other side of me. It doesn’t help that when they look at me, a person with dark straight hair, dark eyes, and tanned skin — they perceive me a certain way. And when I tell them what I am, they are only interested in the Asian side.

Oh, what I would give for someone to ask me about my other half. What I would do for someone to ask me what it’s like to be half white.

Of course, I get it. I live in Florida and before that the south. There are a lot of…



Helen Hensell

she/her I am a writer, blogger, social media specialist, mom, survivor. Follow me for more