Being Japanese America その二

But Capt. Gaijin told me that his significant other was very upset by his post, and he asked if I was offended, as well. We had the following (edited) converation:

OM: No, of course not. But I understand why some people might get offended.

CG: She’s like “everyone always says I’m not really American because of the way I look, and now you’re saying I’m not Japanese.”

OM: Hmm…. ok, now THAT I can relate to. Really. In fact that is a very interesting comment.

CG: If it makes you feel any better I don’t think your Japanese either.

OM: I don’t think I’m Japanese either. I’ve figured this out specifically because I have studied Japanese and know the Japanese from their perspective and now know that I am not one of them. I look like them, but I am not one of them.

CG: If she knew what Japanese people were really like, then she would take it as a compliment that I think she’s not Japanese. Im sure she wouldn’t mind.

OM: Well, I’m not sure about that… It might be a compliment that she is not like the Japanese in terms of character, but the thing about being “Japanese” vis-a-vis the insults we have been subjected to regarding our status as being less than American makes it a sensitive subject, particularly from the mouth of a white, male .

CG: yeah but I didn’t say anything about her not being American.

OM: I know…. Like I said, she and others may not be secure in who they are. It’s kinda like being in limbo. Do you remember being sorta discriminated against in Japan? maybe not so flagrantly, but little slights against you? maybe being served a little slower than others?

CG: very flagrantly!

OM: ok, well can you imagine that feeling times twenty years? that’s a long time

CG: yeah but I’m not the one doing that to her. I¡¯m saying the opposite!

OM: I know. I’m not saying you are bad. But a lifetime of being called a member of a “separate: race, grouped like that, makes you want to group others and you are a member of a different group.

CG: I wouldn’t care if someone said I’m not Irish or something.

OM: I think that maybe she has suffered more than you can imagine.

OM: there is a difference, so be more understanding. Watching TV or movies; reading books like Rising Sun. They all subject us to racial slights–although not always overtly–in different ways.

OM: I was faced with blatant racism. She may have been subjected to different, perhaps covert kinds of discrimination. It a very complex issue. It is not easy being non-white in the US.

CG: I know what its like. I dealt with it in Japan. Very blatant. They are still a 3rd world country. It’s not like the US. They don’t understand its wrong

OM: Ok, it IS bad in Japan. You know that I agree with you on that, but imagine that feeling for twenty–or in my case almost fifty years…. Can you imagine the indignation, the embarrassment, the anger? Can you imagine putting up with it for that long?

CG: Yeah it sucks. So we should all be the same

OM: I agree.

CG: We are all African.

OM: ¡­. Uh, you know I agree with you.

Being Japanese America その二

But Capt. Gaijin told me that his significant other was very upset by his post, and he asked if I was offended, as well. We had the following (edited) converation:

OM: No, of course not. But I understand why some people might get offended.

CG: She’s like “everyone always says I’m not really American because of the way I look, and now you’re saying I’m not Japanese.”

OM: Hmm…. ok, now THAT I can relate to. Really. In fact that is a very interesting comment.

CG: If it makes you feel any better I don’t think your Japanese either.

OM: I don’t think I’m Japanese either. I’ve figured this out specifically because I have studied Japanese and know the Japanese from their perspective and now know that I am not one of them. I look like them, but I am not one of them.

CG: If she knew what Japanese people were really like, then she would take it as a compliment that I think she’s not Japanese. Im sure she wouldn’t mind.

OM: Well, I’m not sure about that… It might be a compliment that she is not like the Japanese in terms of character, but the thing about being “Japanese” vis-a-vis the insults we have been subjected to regarding our status as being less than American makes it a sensitive subject, particularly from the mouth of a white, male .

CG: yeah but I didn’t say anything about her not being American.

OM: I know…. Like I said, she and others may not be secure in who they are. It’s kinda like being in limbo. Do you remember being sorta discriminated against in Japan? maybe not so flagrantly, but little slights against you? maybe being served a little slower than others?

CG: very flagrantly!

OM: ok, well can you imagine that feeling times twenty years? that’s a long time

CG: yeah but I’m not the one doing that to her. I¡¯m saying the opposite!

OM: I know. I’m not saying you are bad. But a lifetime of being called a member of a “separate: race, grouped like that, makes you want to group others and you are a member of a different group.

CG: I wouldn’t care if someone said I’m not Irish or something.

OM: I think that maybe she has suffered more than you can imagine.

OM: there is a difference, so be more understanding. Watching TV or movies; reading books like Rising Sun. They all subject us to racial slights–although not always overtly–in different ways.

OM: I was faced with blatant racism. She may have been subjected to different, perhaps covert kinds of discrimination. It a very complex issue. It is not easy being non-white in the US.

CG: I know what its like. I dealt with it in Japan. Very blatant. They are still a 3rd world country. It’s not like the US. They don’t understand its wrong

OM: Ok, it IS bad in Japan. You know that I agree with you on that, but imagine that feeling for twenty–or in my case almost fifty years…. Can you imagine the indignation, the embarrassment, the anger? Can you imagine putting up with it for that long?

CG: Yeah it sucks. So we should all be the same

OM: I agree.

CG: We are all African.

OM: ¡­. Uh, you know I agree with you.

Being Japanese American その一

Being Japanese American その一:
Capt. Gaijin says that some make too much of identifying with an ethnic group. He believes that identifying with a group—let’s say the Japanese—is arbitrary since the Japanese themselves are actually from Korea, and even earlier, China. Why should anyone identify with the most recent group? If we identify with anyone, shouldn’t we perhaps identify with our earliest ancestors, Africans? If we are going to identify with the most recent relatives, then why not identify with Americans, since most parents of JAs were born here.

First, please go to http://www.xanga.com/CaptainGaijin to confirm that I have paraphrased him correctly.

Back? Okay. First, a disclaimer: As the moniker suggests, CaptainGaijin is non-Asian, white, a foreigner in Japan, the gaijin 外人, and I should state for the record that I personally know him.

Now, his position is one I am familiar with. While I don’t agree with it, I also don’t disagree. Okay, okay, it sounds real spineless. But let me have my say. Keep in mind that I’m a JA reaching the half century mark. (Yeah, that’s right, an old geezer…)

First, why I don’t disagree: In an ideal—albeit naïve kinda way—what he says makes sense. We are all individuals. We should accept others for what they are now, not for what their ancestors were. (BTW, the Japanese are also from Siberia, the Ryukyu Islands and SE Asia. I mean, is there a more diverse looking demographic in East Asia?) We were born in the US and so we are all Americans. I actually believe this… very firmly, in fact. I was once a proud Buddhahead from LA. Back in 1970, I went to Grauman’s Chinese Theater with my fellow “countrymen” (as the Dean of my HS would group us) to see Tora Tora Tora. We brought our Japanese navy flags and waved them as we cheered each bomb falling on Pearl Harbor. During the Olympics, we would always root for the Japanese. Back in the 60s and 70s, as a distinct subgroup within American society, we felt very much privileged to say we were Japanese—or Buddhaheads—much as the “Negroes” were proud of being Black and Mexican Americans, Chicanos. But I had a rude awakening when I went to Japan. I spoke Japanese and thought I knew Japan, but I was wrong. I found out I wasn’t Japanese. In fact, they told me so then, and have reminded me repeatedly over the years that I am not Japanese, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. All those customs I learned when I was young—going to the relatives and neighbors houses for New Years greetings, eating manju, being humble, being modest, being respectful of your elders—are dying if not dead in today’s Japan. I/we practice a culture that is viewed as quaint by modern Japanese. Our ancestors came to the US and brought their 19th/early 20th century customs/culture to the US and they fossilized. In a way, most of us are Meiji/Taisho-Japanese Americans. As we all know, cultures are dynamic and change constantly—and there is no culture in the world that changes faster than Japan.

So when people inquire, “What are you?”
I tell them without the slightest bit of irony, “American.”
“Then where are you from?” they inevitably ask.
“LA.”
“Okay, then where are your parents or grandparents from?”
“Idaho and Japan.”
They always give me a look of triumph, as if they finally figured me out.
“So you’re Japanese American.”
What a joke. I feel like saying, “F#¢% you.” But being Taisho-Japanese American, I don’t. Instead, I say: ”They were Japanese, I’m American. I grew up watching what you watched on TV, listened to what you listened to on the radio. The only thing different is my genetic make-up. Are you going to make this a RACIAL issue?”
“Don’t you practice customs not typical of many Americans?”
“Yeah, but they are old customs, Japanese-American customs. Many, if not most, would not be characteristic of Japan today.”
As you might imagine, the conversation usually grinds to a halt.

So I do not particuarly disagree with Capt. Gaijin’s post. Although it is a bit naive–in the same way that George Will naively wants to believe that we now live in a color-blind society; all of us are, afterall, Americans–it can be viewed as one ideal that should not be disregarded out of hand so easily. Indeed, this view could (I say, could) be associated with the Asian American plight regarding affirmative action. Don’t some Asians believe that they should be able to enter a university based solely on merit, and not be denied because someone of another race is more eligible for admission primarily due to the color of his skin and not his SAT score or GPA? Do we distinguish when we use race–not okay for college admission but okay for socio-cultural settings? (of course, college is a socio-cultural setting, too.) Where do we draw the line, and who draws them?

This is a complex issue that leads me back to Capt. Gaijin and why I do disagree with him. He told me that his (former? Don’t break up because of this!) significant other–who is JA–was very upset by this post, and he asked if I was offended, as well. I told him….

To be continued tomorrow. I don’t want to burden anyone with a lengthy post—Yes, Little Diamond, I know its already long….

Being Japanese American その一

Being Japanese American その一:

Capt. Gaijin says that some make too much of identifying with an ethnic group. He believes that identifying with a group—let’s say the Japanese—is arbitrary since the Japanese themselves are actually from Korea, and even earlier, China. Why should anyone identify with the most recent group? If we identify with anyone, shouldn’t we perhaps identify with our earliest ancestors, Africans? If we are going to identify with the most recent relatives, then why not identify with Americans, since most parents of JAs were born here.

First, please go to http://www.xanga.com/CaptainGaijin to confirm that I have paraphrased him correctly.

Back? Okay. First, a disclaimer: As the moniker suggests, CaptainGaijin is non-Asian, white, a foreigner in Japan, the gaijin 外人, and I should state for the record that I personally know him.

Now, his position is one I am familiar with. While I don’t agree with it, I also don’t disagree. Okay, okay, it sounds real spineless. But let me have my say. Keep in mind that I’m a JA reaching the half century mark. (Yeah, that’s right, an old geezer…)

First, why I don’t disagree: In an ideal—albeit naïve kinda way—what he says makes sense. We are all individuals. We should accept others for what they are now, not for what their ancestors were. (BTW, the Japanese are also from Siberia, the Ryukyu Islands and SE Asia. I mean, is there a more diverse looking demographic in East Asia?) We were born in the US and so we are all Americans. I actually believe this… very firmly, in fact. I was once a proud Buddhahead from LA. Back in 1970, I went to Grauman’s Chinese Theater with my fellow “countrymen” (as the Dean of my HS would group us) to see Tora Tora Tora. We brought our Japanese navy flags and waved them as we cheered each bomb falling on Pearl Harbor. During the Olympics, we would always root for the Japanese. Back in the 60s and 70s, as a distinct subgroup within American society, we felt very much privileged to say we were Japanese—or Buddhaheads—much as the “Negroes” were proud of being Black and Mexican Americans, Chicanos. But I had a rude awakening when I went to Japan. I spoke Japanese and thought I knew Japan, but I was wrong. I found out I wasn’t Japanese. In fact, they told me so then, and have reminded me repeatedly over the years that I am not Japanese, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. All those customs I learned when I was young—going to the relatives and neighbors houses for New Years greetings, eating manju, being humble, being modest, being respectful of your elders—are dying if not dead in today’s Japan. I/we practice a culture that is viewed as quaint by modern Japanese. Our ancestors came to the US and brought their 19th/early 20th century customs/culture to the US and they fossilized. In a way, most of us are Meiji/Taisho-Japanese Americans. As we all know, cultures are dynamic and change constantly—and there is no culture in the world that changes faster than Japan.

So when people inquire, “What are you?”

I tell them without the slightest bit of irony, “American.”

“Then where are you from?” they inevitably ask.

“LA.”

“Okay, then where are your parents or grandparents from?”

“Idaho and Japan.”

They always give me a look of triumph, as if they finally figured me out.

“So you’re Japanese American.”

What a joke. I feel like saying, “F#¢% you.” But being Taisho-Japanese American, I don’t. Instead, I say: ”They were Japanese, I’m American. I grew up watching what you watched on TV, listened to what you listened to on the radio. The only thing different is my genetic make-up. Are you going to make this a RACIAL issue?”

“Don’t you practice customs not typical of many Americans?”

“Yeah, but they are old customs, Japanese-American customs. Many, if not most, would not be characteristic of Japan today.”


As you might imagine, the conversation usually grinds to a halt.

So I do not particuarly disagree with Capt. Gaijin’s post. Although it is a bit naive–in the same way that George Will naively wants to believe that we now live in a color-blind society; all of us are, afterall, Americans–it can be viewed as one ideal that should not be disregarded out of hand so easily. Indeed, this view could (I say, could) be associated with the Asian American plight regarding affirmative action. Don’t some Asians believe that they should be able to enter a university based solely on merit, and not be denied because someone of another race is more eligible for admission primarily due to the color of his skin and not his SAT score or GPA? Do we distinguish when we use race–not okay for college admission but okay for socio-cultural settings? (of course, college is a socio-cultural setting, too.) Where do we draw the line, and who draws them?

This is a complex issue that leads me back to Capt. Gaijin and why I do disagree with him. He told me that his (former? Don’t break up because of this!) significant other–who is JA–was very upset by this post, and he asked if I was offended, as well. I told him….

To be continued tomorrow. I don’t want to burden anyone with a lengthy post—Yes, Little Diamond, I know its already long….