NanJo Carter, Richmond, CA. I grew up in the fifties and sixties. We moved to Japan when I was 2. We moved to Montgomery, AL when I was six and I attended Capitol Heights Elementary School. These were intense times with the National Guard escorting us to class and the school. We experienced discrimination and […]
Rebecca Zavala, Los Angeles, CA. Well, to start I’m not even white… I get this ALL THE TIME. People assume I’m white or Asian, or a mix of the both. It is not insulting to me now, but growing up it was a little irritating having to continually explain that I am Mexican American. At […]
Corrine Ferrell-Macatee, Baltimore, MD. Me, bad bangs, my best friend, little girl with braids, my cousin, cute little Japanese girl. My nana and sister are here too, it wasn’t til I was in my early teens I even realized we weren’t all white, black or Japanese.
Daniela Charlotte, NC Some people look puzzled when I say I am half Japanese. They tend to ask me if I perm my hair or go tanning because typically Japanese females have pin straight hair and fair skin. However they don/t seem to pay attention when I say HALF Japanese (I am also half Peruvian).
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 […]
Bettie Wilkins, Roanoke, VA. I was born in 1940 and my parents were sharecroppers. My father was drafted in 1942 and came home in 1944 with a partly collapsed lung. He was in a trench with other GI’s when the Japanese threw a burning bomb with gas into it. He was lucky because three men […]
Lyndon Narita, Novato, CA. After assisting a customer over the phone, they commented that my name, Lyndon, was a nice and uncommon name. They asked if my family was originally from Europe. When I explained that I’m Japanese-American…well, you know what they said. I still don’t know what a typical Japanese-American is supposed to sound […]
Aya Mimura Ann Arbor, MI Understanding Race Project- University of Michigan
Ben, Madison, WI. Every time I think about race, especially when I’m asked to indicate it, I feel three things: anxiety, resentment and shame. Anxiety: Even if I have the option not to indicate my race I feel a wave of anxiety. I have a “White name” and light skin, English was my first language, […]
Zan Koh, Singapore. I’m not certain if I’m Japanese or Mediterranean, considering the fact that my Family`s tree on both sides are as mixed and a little dodgy on some instances; but still whilst I pass for, most of time at least- Japanese- its always fascinating to know what has led up to You and […]
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 […]
Kay West Jordan, UT I get called Chinese all the time, and I have a lot of Chinese friends, but I am Japanese. Just because I am Asian, does not mean I am Chinese. Just like being Hispanic does not make them all Mexican. Being Caucasian doesn’t mean they are all from England. Every culture […]
Itoko Richardson, Daly City, CA. I am Japanese and my husband is Black (he extremely dislikes to be called African-American). Our experience alone was interesting and filled with many racist, stereotype encounters and reactions. But my experience with my daughter is interesting. When I and my daughter are out, I can feel strangers’ wonder of […]
Lincoln Ozawa, Renton, WA. I asked my parents if they think I’m white and they couldn’t answer. Father is of Japanese & Hawaiian descent, mother is of Norwegian descent. I have my mother’s skin, my brother has our father’s skin.
Tenzin Palmo, Fridley, MN. A question that get asks a lot to Asian people.
Kelly C, Los Angeles, CA. My husband is Japanese and I look “white” though I don’t really know what I “am” because my father was adopted. Our kids are wonderful, beautiful, happy pre-teens. Growing up in a diverse and inclusive place, they have friends from a variety of ethnicities, religions, and social classes. But in […]
J Smith Kenya I’ve spent several years living outside the US (Europe, Asia, Africa) and being half Japanese, I am always mistaken for being from the continent of Asia. Even when I tell people repeatedly that I am also half white and that my Japanese side of the family has been in the US for […]
Brian Murray, Seattle, WA. Growing up it was always hard to find my own identity because I came from a bi-racial background. I am half Black and half Japanese and always had problems being accepted by either racial group because of my uniqueness. Although coming from a low-income housing development called the Rainier Vista Projects […]
Brigitte Dees, Stillwater, OK. Growing up half Japanese, Native American, and white in Oklahoma was a challenge. I don’t look like anyone else and people have reminded me of that my whole life. As an Asian girl I was expected to be quiet, studious, and polite. The reality is I have ADHD and dyslexia, which […]
Joseph Salvador, Toronto, Canada. I’m a Filipino guy. And here in my city, the category of Asian is essentially narrowed down to Chinese, Japanese or Korean. The claims of diversity here is very false.
Catherine Kehl, Cleveland Heights. OH. When we divide ourselves into “us” and “other” we don’t only lose the other, we lose ourselves. I was twenty-seven before I realized that my mother sometimes spoke to me in Spanish not because she’d picked some up in college before travelling in South America in her twenties, but because […]
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 […]
Jessica Seargeant, Bellevue, WA. I am half Japanese and half Caucasian. I’ve been told I’m not Asian enough by Asians and not “white” enough by Caucasians. I’ve been accused of choosing between my races when it suits me and advised to just say I’m “white.” Why can’t I just be both?
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 […]
Alvin Vang, Fresno, CA. Well as you can see I am Asian but if you dont know what type of Asian I am you can’t just call me a Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Philipian, Thai, Laos, Cambodian, Malay, and etc. You can ask me likw what race of asian are you instead of taking a huge […]
Jordi A. Snell, The Netherlands. My mother is Dutch and my father is Moluccan (Melanesian I assume). I don’t exactly know what my father’s race is because alot of Moluccans have mixed race ancestry. All I know is that my father’s skin color is ‘Black’, he has thick curly hair when it’s long, but his […]
Ami Bogin, England. I get “where are you from?” so often (or the polite “Your accent’s different…” of the British, or the more rude “You Chinese? Japanese?” sometimes from everywhere) in my life and thirty years in I still don’t know how to provide an answer, or at least an answer that will satisfy the […]
Chris Tanaka, Lake Grove, NY. I am a whole, white passing, Japanese, Native American, French Canadian person. I am not half of this or a quarter of that, I am all of those things at once. I am a whole person.
Gerard Achilles Obnial, McAllen, TX. When I first worked in the hospital, it had always been routine that my patients would ask not for my name or how my day went as was customary (even though I knew that people don’t really want to know) — they would always ask for my age and where […]
Yuri Yamamoto, Raleigh, NC. I am a Japanese immigrant. I sometimes feel lost in this society where race is all about black and white. I often feel that I am neither white nor black enough to contribute significantly to a diversity conversation, most of which seems to be about reconciliation and healing from the slavery. […]
Jean Tokuda Irwin Salt Lake City Public Library “I’m Japanese-American with a Japanese mom and a father who was a GI.” The Japanese called children like me Konketsuji, or loosely translated, GI bastard child. I was one of the offspring of a a Japanese mother and an American GI during the post-war occupation years, in […]
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 […]
Brittany Carney, Washington, DC. As a person that is three quarters African American and one quarter Japanese, I feel that culturally I’m the other away around.
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 […]
Raquela Petre, San Francisco, CA. I am half Filipino and half Swedish, Swiss, and German. However I was born in Hawaii and grew up around second- and third-generation Japanese friends. I decidedly learned Japanese in school and studied there for a year, yet I know close to no Tagalog. I also studied in England, where […]
Tatyana Parrish, Valley Stream, NY. My six words are a fairly simple way to explain how complicated this matter is to me. My father was never there, and my mom worked her absolute ass off in order to make up for that. My father is African American, and because of this I’ve come to resent […]
Arturo Carrero, The Netherlands.
Robert Zeboski, Autin, TX. I am born from a Japanese father and an Irish German mother. I was adopted by my Polish step dad years later. All my life, the white kids would tease me by saying things as “Go back to your home land,” or other racially tinged words. The Asian kids would dismiss […]
Gina Barclay, USA. People are aware that Japanese Americans were placed in internment camps during WWII. What most do not know is that German Americans were interned in both WWI and WWII. Considering that Germans are of European descent, it can’t be because of racism. It was because Germany was hated and feared as an […]
Bryce, Denver, CO. ha•pa (hä’pä) adj. 1. Slang. of mixed racial heritage with partial roots in Asian and/or Pacific Islander ancestry.
Chiyoko, USA. I am one quarter Japanese. I have auburn hair, light brown eyes, and freckles. I am five foot nine, and my skin is paler than even my white friends’ skin. But my name is Japanese, which leads people to ask me where I’m from, no, where I’m REALLY from. I’ve been called J*p, […]
Je Jack Vang, St. Paul, MN. When people see Hmong people the only thing they think of us is either Chinese or Japanese. It’s like our race has been deleted out of the world.
Tojo, Chicago, IL. Even the really Japanese people in my family don’t appear shockingly Asian so I can see where this comes form, but I am Japanese-American. That means I’m American too.
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 […]
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 […]
Katherine Suszczewicz USA When you don’t know, your imagination will choose to make something up. Over and over again.
Mari Bailey Temecula, CA I am Japanese. I married to American man. However, when I tell people that Im married, people ask if Im married to Japanese guy. I answer, ‘no Im married to American guy.” well….that is not enough for some people. Those people have to know which Ethnicity he is, DOES IT MATTER? […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
Katrina Nye San Jose, CA I am full Asian and my husband is a quarter Japanese. Once our son was born I asked my husband which one of us will have the responsibility to give him “the talk” about dealing with racism. My husband replied that it had to be me, because even though he […]
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 […]
Henry Lonnemann San Mateo, CA When contacted by the census bureau I was thrilled. It was a pleasure to fulfill my civic duty, and exciting to document my son as my great-great-grandparents had documented theirs. However, when question six came up, What is the persons race?, the conversation turned. My response was that race is […]
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 […]
Elena Zamarripa-Gray CA, USA Where are you from? Everywhere and nowhere. My Mexican, basque, Japanese father and Scottish, Canadian mother made me tall, beautiful, and brown. Put me in any ethnic outfit and I fit in, put me on any city street and I blend in. In my tiny California town I was raised with […]
Angelica Ortiz Colorado Springs, CO I am a child of a full Hispanic father and half white and Japanese mother. My skin is quite fair, my checks are naturally a shade of pink and I do have slanted eyes. As a child I grew up around my Hispanic family, where everyone around me was darker […]
Mei Powers Silver Spring, MD Because that’s the only two Asian races that matter?
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 […]
Jenny San Luis Field Fridley, MN Why do people assume that I am Mexican, if not that then they ask that I am Chinese, then for there last resort they will say I’m Japanese. Why can’t I be just Filipino? Ask first before you assume what I am!
SeattleBookmonger Seattle, WA My dad’s white, my mom’s Japanese. People like me aren’t new but we’re reinvented every few years. I wish I could say I’d escaped prejudice but that isn’t true, but I was raised realizing that no one language, religion, point of view, country, group (etc) is always right or the best. It’s […]