“Study hard, only use your credit card for emergencies, and don’t bring home a Black, Korean, & especially not a Chinese boyfriend” – Dad
For the most part college is a time for self-exploration and academic experiences. But let’s be real, it’s a passing reason to be physically separated from your overbearing, but well intentioned parents. More common among 1st generation Asians, especially in my household, is intra-Asian racism. From my father’s parting remarks before I left college (stated above) to the constant reminders that “Chinese people are evil for attacking Japan” and how consuming too much kimchi will somehow “make you just as stinky and manipulative as the Koreans” became all too frequent. Aside from these debasing household events, I wasn’t exposed to many stereotypes in my community. Sure, there would be kids around me who made jokes about different Asian ethnicities. My hometown of Honolulu in itself is a diverse melting pot of very racially-ambiguous people (I am Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, & German). To give you some historical context, migrant workers from Asia, predominantly Chinese, Japanese, and Filipinos worked on Hawai’i’s sugarcane plantations in the 1900s. Simultaneously, there’s also a thriving movement to create a sovereign nation completely separate from the United States. Despite its’ renowned ‘aloha spirit,’ or in other words a culture of hospitality, many Caucasian people, dubbed ‘haoles’ who visit the islands claim they experience racism. My father doesn’t agree with this and thinks the local people should be more ‘kind and accepting’ towards Caucasian locals and visitors alike. This ‘otherness’ Caucasian people experience isn’t racism, but actually Hawaiian nationalism.
With all this being said, I couldn’t wrap my head around how my father could hold such animosity between other races when we were in such a culturally rich place. Till this day I reflect on how I took for granted that all my childhood friends knew how to use chopsticks, rice is a part of every meal, and no un-coordinated child is left behind when learning the obligatory hula dance. It is important to find cultural intersections with other races, which is the first step to understanding.
Dialogue about other races usually ended in abrupt endings where my father would drop the subject matter completely or get even more defensive when I challenged his opposing views. My father internalized this racial hierarchy of white superiority with upholding Japanese nationalism. My experience isn’t a claim to which Asian race has the most racial prejudice against another. Rather, it is a call for a resurgence of consciousness in order to understand this oppression. Being aware of your heritage plays a crucial role in navigating your life with purpose and self-identity. Words carry power and are do run deep, which is why we must stop passing down these stereotypes of other races to future generations.
Author: Missie Yamamura
Author Bio: My name is Missie Yamamura, I’m 21, a bit of an introvert, and am always in seeking ways to highlight prevalent issues Asian Americans/ Pacific Islanders face. The motivation behind my philosophy is simple: the Japanese word Koritsu, or efficiency, in everything I do.
Link to social media or website: Instagram @venusgurlz