September 27, 2013

Being Mixed Race in Japan


I take it for granted a lot of the time that my own mixed-race experience was not all that bad. It didn't cause me identity crises or confidence issues. I might have had other issues, but they were not caused by race. My father got at least this part right - he told me never to worry about what people think of my appearance. He said how a person looks doesn't matter, and I, luckily, believed that as well.

When it came to my peers, there was a mix of confusion and curiosity. I was not the only mixed person in my elementary school, so that helped. Some wanted to know exactly which race I was. Some did not want to play with me when they found out I was half black.

In high school the racism became more overt, with groups taking sides; the whites against the blacks in gym class, for example. I was once told to just stand in the middle of the field. I was also called things like, "zebra," "oreo," and "honger."

Having recently visited Japan, I can say it's a very homogenous society. They were at least outwardly polite. Despite my lack of Japanese, I found them extremely friendly, helpful and gracious. I do not believe I was treated unfairly or badly because of my race (in fact, I was not treated badly in any way at all!). But growing up there must be a different thing. I know they have very strict laws against foreigners buying property or residing too long.

I find other people's interracial experiences fascinating and I will be checking out this Japanese documentary as soon as it's available.

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