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Being Asian, my Authenticity is Questioned

Colette, Sacramento, CA. “I love Asian girls” “I love Japanese people” “Konnichiwa” “Ni hao” “Sayonara” “Kamsammida” ‘Your a bad Japanese. You don’t know Japanese.’ “Are you Chinese?” “I don’t think people in Osaka speak Kansaiben” “I know Chinese” “You look the most Japanese” “You could be an other Asian too” One Caucasian man approached my […]

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Afraid of Not Being “Asian” Enough

Gwyn, Chicago, IL. My Dad was born in Japan to a Caucasian Father and a Japanese mother. He moved to America with his father and siblings and unfortunately had to leave his mother behind. He no longer speaks Japanese, but he still holds his heritage very dear to him, placing various objects from Japan around […]

My Obaa is Japanese – I’m not.

Livia Messenger, Northhampton, MA. Smith College Before I told you my grandmother was from Japan, I wasn’t Asian to you. I’m white. I don’t speak Japanese. I’ve never been to Japan, worn a kimono, or even met my Japanese relatives. I flunked out of calculus – but I suppose my “white side” was holding the […]

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My mixed-race son looks All-American.

Emma Alvarez Gibson, San Pedro, CA. My husband’s heritage is Japanese/Portuguese/French. Mine is Mexican/Irish/Scottish. Neither of us fit in anywhere while growing up; both sides of each of our families considered us oddities at best. People never knew what to make of us. I was too white for the Mexican kids and too uptight about […]

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They only see the Asian half.

Katelyn Tsukada Northampton, MA My mother is of Irish and Italian heritage; my father of Japanese descent. Both of my parents were born in the United States as were their parents before them. Both consider themselves to be American as documented by their passports, drivers licenses and birth certificates. My mother and father speak English […]

I’m not Japanese-American. I’m just Japanese.

Katie Hana Kuyama Northridge, CA I’ve always thought it weird to add “American” to my identity when my ethnicity is indeed Japanese. I’m a second generation Japanese living in America, but people always emphasize that because I live in America, I MUST add “American” to my identity. Not necessarily. In paperwork or community involvement, I […]

You can’t be friends with her

Rosie W. Tucson, AZ When I was in the third grade in the sixties, my best friend and neighbor was Joyce, who was Japanese. She was wonderful. When my mother found out, she let me know, albeit gently and with compassion, that my father would be terribly hurt by my friendship because he had fought […]

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“She’s so pretty for being Black”

Morgan Cooper, Stockton, CA. In 2007, when my ex husband and I were expecting our baby girl, we jokingly called her “Blackanese”, a term I still use endearingly. Most simply put, I am half Black and half White and my ex husband is half Japanese and half White. Never in our wildest dreams did we […]

People of color are racist, too.

Lynn Lomibao Los Angeles, CA To clarify, my statement isn’t intended to create further divisions among “people of color” or to point the finger or to say that white folks aren’t racist. My point is to acknowledge that people of color can be racist, too. Case in point: I learned that people see me differently […]

Curiosity about race is only natural.

Keiko McCracken Anacortes, WA I am half white, half Japanese. I can’t count the times someone has asked about my race, commented on my looks or name, or altered their response to me based on how I appear. As a child, I was teased because of my background; as an adult, I’ve had someone run […]

I am only Asian to non-Asians.

Karina Irvine, CA I live in an area that has many distinct Asian groups who are first generation Americans: Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc. My grandmother was first generation Filipino and my Grandfather and father are both Caucasian. That makes me part-Asian. But to my Asian friends who are first generation, they see me as […]

In my blood, not my face

Lauren Via “Visualizing Change at “PROOF” – The National Geographic Blog about Photography and Culture To me it’s not about race, it’s about culture. I am 1/4 Japanese, and don’t look the least bit Asian (though my brother does). I grew up in America, but with my mom growing up in Japan, she passed down […]

Ridiculously complicted; I can’t handle it!

Lindsey USA I wish that we were not so scared to talk about race. The worst thing you can call a person is “racist.” It is a terrible insult and a judgement against your character. Fear of being labeled racist is what holds back discussion. Also, why are non-white people identified by hyphenated race/ethnicity/nationality? Why […]

It doesn’t matter. You look foreign.

Michiko Minoura USA I’m second generation Japanese American. This was a comment made to me by a student I met my first year in college. The International Student Association was planning a road trip and I wanted to come along. I did, but I wonder what would happen if I was white without an obvious […]

Otosan, please teach us your language.

Jaimie Scanlon Brattleboro, VT My husband is bilingual Japanese-American. His mother, raising three boys in Iowa in the 1960s, made sure her sons grew up speaking, reading, and writing her own mother tongue. Now all three men are completely bilingual and realize the value of the gift she gave them. Before our kids were born […]

Wow, you speak real good English.

Karin Kross Levenstein Austin, TX Korean adoptee, adopted as an infant by white parents. “Are you Chinese? Japanese? What are you then?” Always weighing out exactly what is meant when someone asks “where are you from?”, and then that sinking feeling (after you say “I’m from Austin” or “I grew up in DC”) when they […]

What are you? The ubiquitous question.

Laura Mariko Cheifetz Atlanta, GA I call myself hapa yonsei. I’m biracial white Jewish and Japanese American, fourth generation on both sides. However, there are two assumptions that I run into all the time. First, “what are you?” People want to know my ethnic background (not racial… that doesn’t satisfy their intrusive curiosity), but they […]