I belong to a Japanese playgroup–primarily for Leo so that he can learn Japanese in a natural social environment. Surprisingly, I have made good friends through that. Misha points out that this is my first time relating to the ex-pat Japanese community in the US.
I just offered on their website to talk about my experiences growing up bilingual (Japanese and English) and bicultural (Japanese and American, although I actually think that I grew up more Japanese and Jewish-American, which makes me wonder if that actually makes it tricultural? Or bi-point-five cultural??).
This is a very scary thing. People constantly want to ask me about this and I offer my perspective, which I don’t particularly like doing in a way because without an established friendship, this person is only intruding on my privacy and using me to satisfy their base curiosity. Once I have satisfied their curiosity, I am discarded like a cheap gossip magazine. It feels horrible. So for me to come and say that I am going to talk about myself like this in the open, to offer it voluntarily, is a HUGE deal. I also know how hard it is for a lot of these parents to hear the implications and difficulties of growing up this way and their desires to dismiss them in favor of thinking “it would be different in America,” or “it would be different for my children,” or simply treating it as a part of teenage angst that they think they will “eventually grow out of.”
I have had a blog in Japanese where I dedicated to talking about stuff like this and I had a few dedicated ex-pat Japanese moms with (usually) bi-racial kids (not as old as me) reading it. When I expressed anxiety over the social issues that surround mixed-race people, they assured me that I would grow out of it when I got “older,” when I got married, when I had my own child(ren)…. This was clearly coming from people who did not grow up as minorities and had no idea what it meant to be a true minority, not by choice.
The nature of racism is that it doesn’t go away just because you decide “to be stronger” or something “more important in life” pops up for you. The reality does not change unless you confront it. Thus, the life of a minority can be really challenging throughout life. One of the reasons I put myself out there like this (albeit anonymously)? Because I don’t want to see any more children with profiles similar to me suffering from needlessly ignorant and thoughtless comments and deeds by others. So, it’s scary putting out my thoughts and experiences there and each time risking the comments and looks, “that’s YOUR personal experience. How do you know that’s true for anyone whose mixed?” “That sounds whiny. I think that if you had better things to care about in life…” “I think you are just oversensitive.” etc. But, I do it. I do it for the young me, for the other children past, present, and future, like me.