Erin and I attended a networking event tonight of a new organization forming in Denver, the Colorado Chapter of the National Association of Asian American Professionals, and had a great time with a spirited group of Asian Americans. We saw some familiar faces, but Erin and I were delighted to find that we didn’t know most of the attendees — it’s nice to see new (and young) Asians adding their voices to the APA community.
During the meeting, which was held in a hip and popular Cherry Creek sushi bar named Hapa, one of the women asked Erin if she was Chinese, and didn’t believe it when Erin replied she was Japanese American.
Then the woman looked at me and asked if I was mixed, or hapa (a Hawaiian word for half-white which started out as a derogatory, but is now widely used and accepted). I explained I’m full Japanese — my dad was born in Hawai’i but he was full Japanese, and my mom is from Japan. Continue reading
I guess the upside is that some non-Asians have now learned (we hope) that saying “ching-chong, ching-chong” as a way of mocking Asian languages is offensive to Asian Americans. The downside is that many non-Asians are probably still left thinking that all Asian languages sound alike (they don’t).
And, Rosie O’Donnell probably skated from any further repercussions from this stupid gaffe by giving her on-camera “non-apology apology.” It’s just another typical example of someone brushing off responsibility by putting the blame of being offensive on the people who were offended (“I’m sorry you/they were offended”). I wish she’d just said, which she almost did when she admitted she didn’t know about Asian Americans growing up hearing “ching-chong” as a racist taunt, that she was sorry she said it, period.
Anyway, here’s the video, care of YouTube: Continue reading
Asians traditionally don’t speak up about injustices — it’s the “don’t bring attention to yourself,” “don’t complain, it’ll cause trouble” syndrome. But more and more, Asian Americans are different.
So when Rosie O’Donnell mocked the sound of the Chinese language a week ago on “The View,” the Asian American Journalists Association’s New York chapter e-mail list began a spirited conversation, with most members outraged and demanding an apology and some cautioning that O’Donnell hadn’t gone on a racist “rant” like Michael Richards, and that it was a poor attempt at humor.
I wasn’t laughing. Like many Asian Americans, I was familiar with that “ching-chong, ching-chong” sound, from when I was taunted by European-American kids telling me to go back where I came from. That sound makes my gut clench as much as a punch. (Click here for the video on YouTube.) Continue reading
I grew up being apprehensive every December 7. I’m Japanese American, and was born long after Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941, but for a long time I felt an inescapable sense of responsibility for the attack.
My early years were spent in a military environment — my dad was in the U.S. Army. But I still felt… guilty every December when people started mentioning “Pearl Harbor Day” and when I started to hear comments and sometimes jokes about those “sneaky Japs. ”
Being Japanese American means feeling an ambivalence because for many Japanese Americans, 120,000 of them, December 7, 1941 wasn’t just the day Pearl Harbor was bombed and drew the United States into World War II. Japanese Americans were just as outraged at the attack as everyone else in the U.S. — Daniel Inouye, the senior senator from Hawaii and a WWII veteran and medal of honor recipient, tells the story of being a young man in Honolulu that day, and shaking his fists at the Japanese planes and screaming, “damn Japs!”
There’s another side to this story. Continue reading
I caught a cool video story today on NYT.com, about a Double Dutch competition held in Harlem. (You may have to do a search for it once you get to the NYT video page).
Interestingly, the competitive African American tradition, which counts the number of times you can jump rope in two minutes and then add on layers of amazing acrobatic performances, has become a focus of Japanese youth who are fascinated with black culture. The NYT story points out that Japanese teams have won “Best of Show” in this competition eight out of the past 10 years, and sure enough, a team from Chiba, the city northeast of Tokyo, won this event.
Another manifestation of this cross-cultural fascination are the young Japanese women who dress in retro-funky ’70s black styles, who are called “ganguro” — “gang girls.”