"We are all of us living in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." ~Oscar Wilde
"Adventure is worthwhile in itself." ~Amelia Earhart

April 4, 2008

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It's probably obvious to anybody who's seen my photos that I'm Asian. Half Japanese and a smattering of various European genes to be precise. There's probably a lot of people my age out there with similar genetic backgrounds. During and shortly after the Vietnam War, lots of us entered the world. We were the sons of American soldiers and Asian women they happened to meet.

Some of us were lucky. My parents met in Japan shortly after the war was over. My father was stationed near Tokyo after his stint in Vietnam. My mother was a bit of a socialite who wandered through her group of friends attending parties and enjoying the nightlife of 1960's and 1970's Tokyo. I'm not sure exactly how they met. Probably at a party or through a friend of a friend. But they met, eventually married, and had me. My father taught English in Japan for awhile. When I was about 15 months old, his mother/my grandmother became ill. They returned here and have been here ever since.

I was one of the luckier ones. My childhood wasn't that bad. Sure, it was a little annoying that my race seemed to define me. Most of my friends expected me to know about kimonos and samurai and Buddhism and temples that were shaped funny. I didn't. I knew about Daisy Duke and Three's Company and Johnny Cash and cheeseburgers that you got from the McDonald's behind my house. I don't even speak the language. English is my first and only language and I have the standard Midwest/California accent. But, y'know, it was a mostly white school, they were five years old, and me and the two adopted Korean girls in my school were probably their first contact with real live Asian people. And if you have to deal with racial stereotypes, Japanese is a pretty easy one to deal with. Blacks, Native Americans, and Hispanics have to deal with being thought of as lazy, violent criminals, and/or alcoholics. And I really wouldn't want to be Arab in this country at this time. What was my racial stereotype? "Oh, no! She'll raise the grading curve!" (Mwahaha, I did.)

There were others who weren't so privileged. When I was young, about ten or twelve, I came across a magazine article. It told the story of the half-Vietnamese, half-American kids my age. Almost all of them were poor. Some of them were homeless and, I suspect, it's a much worse fate to be homeless in Vietnam than in the US. All of them held the stigma that they were probably the children of prostitutes. But, worst of all, they were visual reminders of a war that had recently ripped through the country. And a lot of the Vietnamese hated them for it. When I finished the article, I wiped the tears from my eyes* and thought, 'It could have been so much worse.'

*For them, not me! I wanted to go 'save' them all.


Lucky Lady said...

Thanks for stopping by and let me tell you I am all amercian and kids made fun of me because I wore glasses had big lips and was poor it was rough I am so glad you got along just fine people in general can be cruel

Jillian said...

While it's true kids can be cruel, some stuff you just never forget. Race is an interesting thing and I don't even want to know what people think once they learn I'm Black. When I was a kid, I remember my babysitter treating this other little girl better because she was half white and half black and had GOOD hair (I HATE that phrase).

Anyways, I agree things could have been much worse for me as well considering I was sent to schools in better neighborhoods while other kids didn't have that opportunity.

BPD in OKC said...

I'm 1/8 Native American, and I don't let that really be known. Not that I'm ashamed of that fact, but I don't like to be profiled based on race. Plus I'm 7/8 not Native American, so I don't really associate myself with being Native American.

I could have gotten some of my college education paid for if I had claimed I was Native American, but do I really want to pit the Native American side of me against the part that's not just to get free money?

I see myself as a white American. I'm probably pretty lucky because I don't get profiled.

I'm not sure this rambling makes any sense overall, but I'm posting it anyways. :D

Berryvox said...

Lucky Lady - Oh, yeah. My friend who was overweight got bullied twenty times more than I ever did.

Jillian - "I remember my babysitter treating this other little girl better because she was half white and half black and had GOOD hair." Augh!

Yeah, I didn't mention the bad crap like the older boys who would chase and throw things at me. And, I didn't learn about the "Asian women know how to please their men!" stereotype till I was a teen. When it made me laugh my ass off.

BPD - Hee, I almost applied for a certain college grant but everybody kept telling me "That's for black people!" It really wasn't. Any minority could've applied. I decided not to because it just wasn't worth the hassle.

Honestly, if I could have gotten away with it, I probably would've tried to pass myself off as white.

GeekMom said...

Hi Berryvox! I can relate to your experiences. I grew up in the Midwest and am also half Japanese. We have some things in common! In fact, if you changed Minnesota to Indiana, your "about me" could be about ME! ha ha. :-)

Elliott - 21st Century Dad said...

Geekmom told me about your site.

I didn't give it much thought until my daughter was born. As a whitewashed Asian, I ended up with a caucasian Euro-mix wife and therefore a hapa baby.

A few months after she was born, I started to become intensely interested in hapa culture. It wasn't really on my radar before. Now I realize that hapas and whitewashed Asians face a lot of similar issues.

I'm definitely interested in hearing more from you!

RoxiticusDH said...

Tag! You're it....it's the True Love Tag. Please visit Roxiticus Desperate Housewives to play by the rules.

Berryvox said...

Geekmom - Well, hello! :)

Elliott - Hey, neat! I'd never heard of the term hapas until you mentioned it. Googling it brought me to some very cool articles and forums. I'm gonna guess that whitewashed Asian means second-generation Asian. Yeah, I can definitely see sharing the same experiences.

Roxiticus - Bah, you would tag me in the subject area where I seem like a cynical bastard!

Erin said...

Thank you for sharing this. I'm glad that you were one of the luckier ones, but it's so heartbreaking when you realize that there are unlucky ones, too.

""Oh, no! She'll raise the grading curve!" (Mwahaha, I did.)"

This made me cheer!

Berryvox said...

Erin - Yeah, even though I may have a few problems, I'm always aware there are others (both in this country and out) with much worse troubles than me.