When I run into and get to know mixed-race American-Japanese people in the U.S., most of the time, they mention histories of being confused about who they were, their identity. Although, let’s say out of fifty persons I knew, seven or eight of them did not tell me that they questioned their identity, about confusion, the others did. I am one who never had any questions of who I was. But I also began noticing that those who questioned their identity, were mostly born in the United States, or left Japan as a child, before they could form too many sentences. Since American-ness is a place of individuals disconnected from communities, where people must craft their intimacies and friendships and relations, it began to dawn on me that this was not a surprise.
Equally so, was that I was quite sure of who I was and never questioned who I was or what I was.
Let me be clear from the start: I am critiquing, not criticizing. Criticizing judges, has a moral hierarchy, is more “truth oriented.” I come from an intellectual background that struggles to critique–to point out crevices, junctures, and points of diversion that may open to new possibilities that present multiple locations from a single space (as opposed to criticism which tends to negate and/or annihilate whatever it points to). What is “multiracial” and “bi-racial” for? Who does it serve? What does it do or not do? Why?
This Year, University of Southern California (USC) is hosting a concurrent mixed festival and conference: the biannual Hapa Japan Festival (mixed-Japanese heritage studies and celebration) and the annual Critical Mixed Race Studies (CMRS) Conference.
Here is the program for the Hapa Japan Fest: http://dornsife.usc.edu/cjrc/hapa-japan-festival-2017/
Here is the program for the Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference: https://criticalmixedracestudies.wordpress.com/cmrs2017-program/
My need to think about Blackness in Asia goes far beyond the fact of my father being an African-American soldier stationed in Japan during the Korean War. It goes beyond anti-Black attitudes among Asians that I have experienced, and the anti-Asian attitude I have experienced among African-Americans today. I knew that a superficial and very American notion of anti-black racism in the United States would not do to understand my own place in history and the languages I would use to uncover and do my part to undo its power in the world.
The book is taking longer but it will be better when it comes out! Thanks for your patience.
Here is a recent article in relation to my last post, about biracial athletes in Japan:
The Rio Olympics have come and gone! Although I know that like many other global events such as the Olympics, is made possible through the displacement of underclass communities and in many cases, a stress on ecologies and linked to economic-social-ecological ruin for the local, and at the same time linked with benefits for a certain few, there is the ideal, the spectacle, the beauty and tragedy of sport, of different world cultures, of the striving toward excellence.
The next summer Olympics is slated for Tokyo in 2020. As one born in Japan, and raised there twice in my younger life, and with Japanese being my first language until I was fully bilingual as a teenager, I have a special place for Japan and Japanese sport. My chosen sport was volleyball. I learned basic skills from young teenager players at a Japanese Junior national team public practice in Japan, after I had first been attracted to volleyball in Hawaii in the mid-1960s. I continued in Albuquerque, New Mexico as a player and later as a player at Long Beach City College in the Los Angeles, California area in the late 1970s. Volleyball in Japan, in the 1960s, was the most popular women’s sport, and there was a ブーム (boom, or explosion in popularity) in those days, and due to the popularity of the National Women’s Team that had gone undefeated in years and in 1962, had won the world championships and ending with the Gold Medal at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, against bigger, taller opponents. “Witches of the Orient” (東洋の魔女) as they were called, became an attraction to me and later became a reality for me in Hawaii in 1966, upon seeing volleyball there.
A Black-Japanese student enters a Japanese school. The Japanese students are amazed, curious, condescending, afraid, finding ways to make him outcast.
This Short Film, written and directed by Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour, Jr., shines a lens onto a small town, and gives a picture of how Japanese-mix children and people, and black-mixed people and Blacks are treated in Japan.
I was born in Japan and raised there until 1962-3. Then again, from 1968 to 1970–when I was 13 to 15 years old. There was a difference in the two periods.
In the 50s and 60s, racism was more overt, physically violent, and widespread– for me and my kind in Japan. In the late 60s, it was more private and more prone to ostracizing and teasing, although physical violence was still a relative normal response. And as we know from news reports and stories of public figures in Japan who are Black-Japanese, it has not changed much in Japan.
The director hoped to shine a light on this persistent problem of Japanese identity and its treatment of “the other.”
In the July 2016 issue of Japanese Entertainment Magazine Eye-Ai（あいあい), Eric Robinson, Creative Director of Online Magazine Black Tokyo is interviewed for a second time.
In this issue, I am mentioned and quoted, as well as my book, along with interesting quotes from Ariana Miyamoto, recently crowned Miss Universe Japan, who is Black-Japanese.
Mitzi Uehara Carter, who is a scholar and teacher whose heritage is Black-Okinawan, and who runs the blog: Grits and Sushi, is also mentioned, as well as Enka Singer from Chicago, Jero ジェロ , whose mother is Black-Japanese Amerasian.
Eric Robinson, Mitzi Uehara-Carter and myself presented together at the forum at UC Berkeley in 2011, entitled: Deployment, Bases, and the US Military in Movement: Imagining Japan and the Self Through Race and Sex.
In this issue, Eric Robinson speaks to how Black Tokyo came to be, and offers thoughts on the importance of Black-Japaneseness being in the Japanese (and global) public eye in the present, where issues of race, gender, and nationalism are important to think into for nations to create a more positive co-existence for diverse citizens in a transnational world.
Eye-Ai（あいあい） 2016年7月号 – Below is the link (try different browsers if you have trouble viewing it).
The Interview begins on Page 28: