It doesn’t matter. You look foreign.

Michiko Minoura

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 foreign accent.

The last time someone asked me where I was from, I was in Iowa and he didn’t even say hello first. I wasn’t trying to be snarky when I answered, “Oregon.” He didn’t seem realize what a rude question that was and it was possible I was from the US. I have, however, seen white people try to be a bit more politically correct and fumble with with a question trying to ascertain my genetic heritage. The smoothest way I’ve seen this question asked was actually a statement: “You have an unusual name.”

My parents were born and raised in Japan but I was born and raised in the US. I have been told I’m first generation American, while my parents are not American, but Japanese. I am more “American” than my parents, but I believe that you can BECOME an American. It doesn’t matter where you were born; it doesn’t matter where you raised. I believe that denying that someone can become American is denying the promise of this “country of immigrants.” As for the lack of hyphen, “Japanese” is the adjective that describes the noun “American.” I’m not one part Japanese and one part American. And chance are pretty good that I don’t know your Japanese friend from where ever you are from.

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