Certain kinds of Eurasians in colonial Asia so closely identified with their European side that the Asian aspects of their heritage became deliberately, consciously erased. Tremendous energy went into mimicking their racial “betters” in terms of food, dress, recreations and – less happily – expressed prejudices and negative behaviour towards other “natives”. Closer access to economic and other advantages were the main drivers; if clinging to the coattails of privilege offered entry points to otherwise unachievable material advantages, then such motivations are understandable, if fundamentally sad. In A Many-Splendoured Thing (1952), Eurasian author Han Suyin described a chance encounter with a Eurasian former school friend from north China. Walking on the street, “[…] a woman with yellow hair and a red dress with white spots turned to look at me. From the back a complete European, there was Chinese in her face behind the foreign way of making up and of moving her eyes and her mouth.” Later, as they caught up over tea and cakes, “Suzanne” explained – with chilling realism – how “I look white, and until now I’ve passed. It’s made life easier; a bigger salary, my flat paid for. I wouldn’t get these privileges if I were only a Eurasian, or a Chinese.” This once-widespread term – to say someone “passed” for white – has, fortunately, largely passed into history. Likewise, the observation an individual “couldn’t pass”, which directly relegated them to “native” status, with all the implied inferiority, has also mercifully disappeared. Personal-identity rejection was most pronounced in families that did not embrace their Asian heritage. Social class also seeped in; if the parents of a first-generation Eurasian were a Western sailor and a Chinese barmaid, then a complete escape from their hardscrabble milieu, and all the petty humiliations that came with it, was something to assiduously work towards. The mixed fortunes of Eurasians: how Hong Kong, China and US viewed intermarriage Among the saddest were those who – having affected a permanent getaway – spent the rest of their lives making sure their tracks were covered. Oftentimes, family members who remained in Asia were cut off, especially those whose appearance “gave the game away”. In extreme cases, some transplants chose not to have children, in case their offspring’s appearance suggested a mixed ancestry. Personal narratives would be invented, with much creative ingenuity expended upon detailed research for an individual’s new life and assumed ancestry, as they trained themselves, step by painful step, to impersonate someone that they were not. Cinderella’s slippers often pinch the toes, and the abiding fear of being “found out” poisoned too many lives. With political independence across Asia from the 1940s, Eurasians in emergent nation-states faced challenging identity choices. In Hong Kong, that particular day of reckoning was delayed for a few decades. For many, the tipping point rested on physical appearance, and how that played out in their everyday lives. With the boot now on the other foot, many Eurasians, unable to accept the loss of their previous privilege, however tentative, emigrated. On arrival in Britain or Australia, however, they often found themselves profoundly shocked to be pigeonholed as Indian, Chinese or some indefinable Asiatic hybrid, when such depictions were alien to their own self-image. Those self-confident enough to maintain a truthful, “take-it-or-leave-it” approach to their identity, were generally happiest, and integrated most successfully. One happy outcome of contemporary personal identity dissections is that today’s young people are less conflicted by the need for binary choices than earlier generations, and more likely to claim that they are A mixed with B and a dash of C. Fully prepared to celebrate whatever most appeals from a diverse heritage, they cheerfully jettison the bits that don’t suit them. Just as it should be.