“I stood out like a sore thumb"

Growing up I felt like I got the best of both worlds.

I’m Chinese and American — and this dual identity led to a third, one that was distinctly both and neither. I’m mixed race. Born in the state of Wyoming, which has a population that’s 90 percent white, my experience was a rare one.

That’s changing as interracial marriage becomes more common. Now it’s my mission to provide a platform for people who have been historically underrepresented or misrepresented to share their own stories in their own voices as the founder of The Silk Knots Project.

I have started The Hapa Experience series with Resonate as a broad exploration of multiracial identities, beginning with actor Daniel York, who lives in London.

As a kid, Daniel York wasn’t often called by his name at school. Instead, classmates called him, “China,” “Ching-Chong,” “Kung fu,” “Fu Manchu,” “Bruce,” “Kato,” or, most painfully, “chink” — all terms of alienation, borderline or outright slurs.

“I was always the Chinese kid. Always,” York said of his childhood around the UK in the 1970s. “I stood out like a sore thumb.” 

Part 1 features British actor Daniel York.

York was born to a Singaporean Chinese father and white British mother, resulting in a mixed identity that has fueled his acclaimed work as a writer, director and actor in London. 

At times it’s been difficult to land the type of work he covets: For some roles he’s been seen as too Chinese, and for others he’s been seen as not Chinese enough. 

It’s a struggle that’s been productive. From it stems cutting-edge original pieces, as well as an outspoken presence that draws attention to the racism that has been baked into creative industries from character development to casting choices and direction. 

He devotes himself to both classical theatre practices but also the new, not shying away from imagined extremes nor raw reality. Whether playing the role of a tortured gay Chinese man (Porcelain, produced by the Mu-Lan Theatre Company), or writing about his experience of being prescribed medication by a child psychologist as an antidote to racist bullying on the playground (The Good Immigrant, edited by Nikesh Shukla), York’s work challenges what has conventionally been carved out for people of East Asian descent in western media. York expands what we can expect to see in the arts, as well as our roles in them.

To watch part 2 of the series, click here.