blackmail press 21
Jamie Banks
New Zealand/Philippines/Spain

crossed cultures - special issue
It’s not easy being half-white

Born the yolk of a family egg,
The sole banana of a tribe of kiwifruit,
That’s what I was.

I’m seven years old.
I don’t even know what racism is but
jeers of “Ching chong Jamie”
spout my way.

I’m ten now.
My aunt can’t read the Chinese on the chow mein packet,
“Come here Jamie” she calls with a straight white face.
“What does this say?”
Everyone laughs.
So do I.

Now I’m 20 at university, studying Japanese and English.
“Wheeere---aaare---yooou---froooom?” I’m asked by a future Maori friend.
“Aaaa-oooo-teee-aaaa-rooo-aaa,” I answer.
A cute Filipino asks the same question,
I tell her:
“My father’s from the Philippines .”
Then a cute Chinese girl:
“I’m half Chinese,” I say.

Now I’m 23.
I meet my first Asian relative.
My sister.
I think my only one through my father.
But you never know…

She’s done something I never did – meet our father.
Turns out I’m only quarter Chinese,
Quarter Spanish.
I’m shocked.
I look in the mirror and sing La Bamba,
It fits. I feel cool.
Why do people like the Spanish more than the Chinese?

Now I’m 25.
“What’s your ethnic background?” people ask,
“I’m quarter Chinese and quarter Spanish,”
They don’t ask what the other half is.
If you don’t say, they always guess it’s white.
Just as I do.

Now I’m 30.
I’m 100% kiwi, intellectually white,
part Chinese and Spanish,
half Filipino by nationality, emotionally half Japanese,
I’m a Bahá’í, I’m a writer,
I’m single. It all depends who’s asking, who wants to know
Featured Artist Fiona Holding
Born in New Plymouth in 1977, Jamie Banks was the only Asian-looking boy in his Caucasian family (his Filipino father having fled the scene before birth). He has a BA Hons majoring in English and is a qualified secondary teacher involved in turning an Auckland school’s detention room into a centre of psychological awareness. He is a stress seminar leader, a TV extra (non-speaking parts), and has written two self-improvement books, Whatever You Do, Don’t Smile and Navigating Love, which have been published in New Zealand , England , and India .

After living in Japan for a total of two years he has begun to identify more strongly with his Asian background. He is also heavily influenced by the teachings of racial and inter-religious unity found in the Bahá’í Writings. His interests include rugby, Middle Eastern religions and politics, guitar, and nutrition. Jamie can be found on myspace at: