21 September 2009 ~ 27 Comments

Are you African? pt.2

“So, why do you know Swahili?” one of my more inquisitive students inquired.

“I studied it in elementary school…” I replied. “I had to study it, the way you have to study English.”

There were still looks of confusion on the students’ faces. The Japanese teacher looked as if it weren’t sitting well with her idea of how the world works, either.

“Do all…um…elementary school students have to study Swahili?” the Japanese teacher asked incredulously.

“No, not all.”

“Do many people speak Swahili in New York?” another student asked.

They were really struggling with this one, so I broke down and did what I was trying to avoid doing: I told them highlights of what I have explained about my elementary school in Part 1, leaving out the social commentary as much as possible.

As the bell to indicate the end of class began to chime, another student blurted out, “how do you say ‘goodbye’ in Swahili?”

The answer came to me instantly. “Tutaonana,” I said. “Tutaonana watoto.”

Blank stares.

“It means, ‘goodbye students,’ ” I added.

Standing before my class using the language my teachers used when I was kid, watching them play with making the foreign words, hurled memories at me. One in particular made me smile. ‘Watoto’ actually means ‘children’ not ‘students’ but I had been a child- all of 7 or 8 years old- when I was taught these Swahili words; not an early teen like my students.

While most of them race out of the door as soon as we officially end the class-with a bow and an “Arigatou gozaimasu”- some of the students, the ones either enamored with me or with English, or both, always hang around after class hoping for a chance to get  their Loco/English fix. I’m kind of a ham so, if I’m not too busy, I have no problem indulging them.

“Loco-sensei?” one of my higher level English students sang.

“Yes?”

“I want to learn in Swahili, too!” she said in English.

“Me too,” her sidekick said, practically bouncing in her enthusiasm. I glanced over the faces of the remaining students and they all seemed to concur.

“Really, now,”  I said, knowing good and damn well I wasn’t qualified to teach Swahili. I’ve only recently become truly qualified to teach English. “Why?”

A couple of them scratched their heads. But, the questioner didn’t. She said, “I want to go to Africa!” And before I could get off my favorite question she answered it by adding, “I want to be a doctor because to help African children.”

Clearly, the wallpaper in the hallways with the dying, starving Africans had had an effect on her. Was it the desired effect? I wondered. I  was nonetheless surprised. Only 14 years old and…

“Me too…” bouncing Little Me too-chan chimed.

Judging from the faces of the others they would sooner become MIB or LIB (the freshman Salarymen and Office Ladies wear black to work every day) than don a white lab coat and diagnose the deathly ill and/or stick needles in the arms of  the malnourished in the middle of a blazing desert or sweltering  jungle.

“Well, I’m sorry but I’ve forgotten most of my Swahili,” I said in Japanese. “I can teach you a few words and phrases though…”

Their faces all lit up.

That’s when I noticed Terrence (not his real name, but close enough.) Terrence isn’t an English Groupie so I was surprised to see his face among them. He’d usually take to the halls and horseplay with his cronies. Something about today’s lesson must have sparked his interest. I shouldn’t have been surprised though. Terrence isn’t the only so-called haafu in the school, but he’s the only half-black one. His blood is half African (his father is Kenyan) and half Japanese, but, as far as who he is, he is all Japanese. It took me several months of our entire 1st year at the school to get that through my thick skull, but eventually it got through. He favors one of the guys I went to school with back in NY, a guy named Richard. Rich was half-Jamaican half Chinese but all-American if you know what I mean.

Terrence is tall, thin, fairly dark, with a curly Afro. He has a scratchy husky voice, going through changes currently but I think at the far side of this vocal metamorphosis will be a Barry White baritone that’ll drive the girls wild.

Terrence and I have the strangest relationship I’ve ever had with a student and, trust me, that’s saying a lot.  Our relationship began my, and his, first day of class back in 2007. I had just begun my tenure at this Junior HS and he had just arrived, fresh from the local elementary school along with more than half of his classmates. Thus most of the students already knew or knew of one another while I knew nobody, students nor faculty. The Japanese teacher introduced me to the class, and while she did, I scanned the faces before me, this sea of young, nervous, excited Japanese faces until I came upon an island: Terrence’s black face. Just as nervous, just as excited, just as Japanese in every respect aside from color and features.

My shock was conspicuous. The class turned to see what had given me the jolt, and saw Terrence. Some shrugged with indifference, as if to say, “whatchagonnado.” Some smiled with comprehension, like this was well-traversed territory; ‘he gets that a lot’, they seemed to say. Terrence rolled with it. No more or less embarrassed than any student would be if put on the spot on the first day of class. And I realized, abruptly, what I had done. I had done to him what has been done to me since my arrival here in Kawaiiland: I’d singled him out as different. I ripped my eyes off of him and attempted to resolve myself not to set them upon him again in any significant way, any way different from the way I set my eyes upon any of the whole Japanese students, for the rest of his days in the school.

But, because of his blackness and my delusional pleasure at being around someone  who I thought could vaguely identify with me, I had immediately taken a liking to him…which made it all the more difficult to treat him like everyone else. I could see it in the faces and the behavior of the other students, Terrence’s friends. They tried to push us together at every opportunity. If I asked any of them a question, whether in English or Japanese, and Terrence was in the vicinity, they’d turn to him as if to say, ‘hey T, any idea what this guy’s rambling about?’ They’d probably never seen him interact with another black person so they were probably curious as to what would happen. Would Terrence suddenly shed this veneer of Japanese-ness he’d been masquerading since they’d met him and become the gaijin he appeared to be, the one that surely lurked within him? To be honest, after meeting him a couple of times on his own, and seeing how Japanese he really was, I’d secretly hoped the same thing…

The first time I ran into him alone I’d said to him almost instinctively, “Hey! What’s up, Terrence?”

“Loco-sensei, Ohayou Gozaimasu,” he replied, nod-bowing, smiled coyly and tried to keep it moving. It was typical behavior of most of the Japanese boys I’ve ever run  into outside of the school, especially the shy ones but, from him, it came off as cold somehow. I caught up with him. I’m pretty persistent once I get an idea in my head.

“So, Terrence, how do you like the school?”

Blank frozen smile, slightly uncomfortable. I’d seen that face a several thousand times and it’d struck me like a slap: He didn’t know English.

I stood there, a little shocked. In six years I’d only met one other black person in Japan that didn’t know English. It had happened about 6 years ago with a girl, haafu from all appearances, and so beautiful I’d wanted to propose to her right there on that station platform. I’d overcome my shyness and said, “Hi, how are you?” and she’d looked at me the same way Terrence did. She’d told me she didn’t speak English at all but I had filed that away as she was just trying to avoid being picked up. She’d probably been getting harassed by foreigners left and right she was so fine.

I asked Terrence in Japanese did he speak English or any other language besides Japanese and he said he didn’t. There was no guile, no shame. Of what use is English to me? I could almost hear him say. As I walked beside him towards the school that morning, a thousand questions raced through my mind, but I felt uncomfortable asking any of them. It was none of my business. But curiosity trumped decorum and rudely I pried.

“Are you African?” I asked.  In Japan, I’ve learned that black is black. I’ve yet to meet a Japanese person who could distinguish between African-American and African. Though there are many variations of African and of African-American rarely have I been unable to ascertain with a glance whether a person was from my quadrant of the globe or from The Motherland. I might mistake a Caribbean person, especially Haitian or Cuban, for African, but rarely an American. There are distinct physical differences usually.  Skin tone is usually not the cue though people from certain African countries have a certain density of blackness uncommon in the States. Facial structure is usually how I can distinguish between us and them and Terrence’s screamed African, though clearly diluted by Asian, probably Japanese.

He’d shuddered a bit and said that he wasn’t. I was surprised at the response.

“Where are your parents from?” I asked, and immediately regretted it.  I could vaguely hear the echo of a thousand 100% Japanese people asking him the same type of questions. But, with the patience of the culture he has been nurtured in, he told me that his father was Kenyan and his mother Japanese. He smiled again, uncomfortably, offering more than a subtle hint that I should drop this line of questioning if I have any sense of Japanese propriety about me.

I did. So, I dropped it. I would find out later in the school year from my co-workers that Terrence’s father had gone back to Kenya while he was an infant and so he was being raised by his Japanese mother and, shockingly, a Japanese step-father.

From that point on I observed Terrence but never paid him any undue attention. I often go out of my way to interact with the students as much as possible. In addition to making my work life more enjoyable, I tell myself  I’m doing this for the future of Japan. The more these kids interact with me and experience that foreigners are nothing to be afraid of the more likely that in the future xenophobia will be impacted positively and the foolishness I endure now will occur less often then. But, unfortunately, when I interact with Terrence I feel a certain caution.

It’s unfair but it’s real.

I feel I can not treat Terence as I treat the other students. Maybe it’s one of the side effects of my having lived in Japan for so long.  From what I’ve learned of the haafu experience in Japan and from what I’ve experienced as a foreigner / black man living in Japan, and from what I remember of my adolescence and the emotional fragility I had, I figure his life in Japan must be and will continue to be an ordeal. And though I’m very curious how he copes, and would love to offer him any support I can provide, I keep my feelings at bay for his sake. It’s hard enough for a teen to fit in. Even for a teen in a school in NYC fitting in can be a dangerous balancing act. Even for a 100% Japanese teen, I’ve noticed, it can get really tricky. So I knew I had better back off or I’d be responsible for making his school life a great deal less comfortable than it already is.

So, when I saw his face among the kids clamoring to converse with me I figured he had to be curious about the language spoken in his father’s homeland. It gave me a tinge of a feeling I’m not particularly proud of…it’s not pity, but it lingers in that same Pandora’s box of useless dehumanizing feelings better left  locked away. Why? Because Terrence, with his half-African blood and half-African parentage is no more African than I am.

Loco

to be continued…here’s pt 3

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27 Responses to “Are you African? pt.2”

  1. Igor Inocima 22 September 2009 at 9:38 am Permalink

    Humm… I don`t know of what exactly you`re worried about.

    I`ve been to 4 different Japanese schools (elementary and jr.high) and I know that if you aren`t cautious things can become unpleasant for a foreign kid. But on the other hand, when that eventually occurred who helped me out where the teachers and some more open-minded students.

    I`m sorry if I misunderstood, but you feel that if you got closed to T it would somehow put him in trouble socializing with the other students? If that´s the case, I really would like to know why you think that.

    I don`t know your school/students, but from my talks with my Japanese nephew I feel that they`re much more open-minded than a decade ago…?

    • Locohama 22 September 2009 at 12:05 pm Permalink

      I don't know what to tell you Inocima-san. T is not a foreigner, he is Japanese. I don't know how things were in Japan 10 years ago but if now is an improvement over then I'm glad to hear it….must have been pretty bad a decade ago.The other kids ostracize him when I pay him attention. Our interactions draw undue attention.
      Thanks for the shout.

  2. Igor Inocima 22 September 2009 at 12:38 pm Permalink

    Damn that`s sad… but I think I sort of get the picture.
    Btw, actually my experiences weren`t that bad, thanks to some great teachers and friends I made.

    But I was in places like Fukui and Niigata and there were absolutely no other foreigners kids around so I guess they really weren`t used to it. But we`re talking about Yokohama in 2009, I`d hoped for more… but maybe somethings don`t change huh.

    Anyway looking foward to part 3

  3. Bored in Kanagawa 22 September 2009 at 10:01 pm Permalink

    Where I live there are more hafuu black kids than i can count. i'm not a teacher so I don't have the insight you have in a school enviroment, but I can tell you the ones in the sports club seem to get along well. One inparticular is on a soocer team and the parents and kids praise him like a local legend. Just last week I saw a haffu black kind in a Japanese military academy uniform, needless to say i flipped out and saluted him. just my guess here, but if a haffu can make it in the J military scool should be eazy breezy. Almost evetday when i go home from work there are J kids in my mansion like it's a community center and none of them give a damn about me being black, I'm usually trying to avoid the kancho! I just hope T will be ok and make it through to complete high school. In a perfect world his father would be with him and ive him more of a sense of self so that he could indentify with both cultures

  4. Kudzaikun 23 September 2009 at 12:39 am Permalink

    Hi

    I saw your article on someones tweet and i was reading it today in my class. It was fantastic to read both parts. Now i want you to know that i am a Zimbabwean, a true African and in your words i am "from the motherland". I moved to Canada 4 years ago to study, but the last 21 years of my life i grew up in Zimbabwe, i am Native speaker of the "shona language" and english is my second language. That said i am Shona person.

    First thing i want to say is Africa is extremely diverse, and we are not all starving and need help. Sadly North America and other countries post this depressing picture of Africa. Yes poverty is real, yes wars are real, yes HIV/AIDS is real. but so are rich people.

    I grew up with a computer, a pretty darn nice house, my friends lived in mansions, and i knew a lot of people who would drive Mercedes Benz Cars, and BMW's. Hell i even found my college on google. So yes i dont live in a hut. I am paying $15000 a year for my education in canada, and i am not taking out student loans so i am not gona be in debt. I gew up listening to people like 2 Pac, Nas, P-Diddy, Biggy, Emenem, R-Kelly, Michael Jackson, Alicia keys, Aaliyaah etc, I really enjoyed the Matrix, when i was in highschool i started watching Anime, Naruto, bleach, flame of recca, Evangelion, Visions of escaflowne, and non of that american dubbed crap, talking about fansubs. Downloading real media files, making the change to xvid. we learned how to used Napster for music and also bit torrent. and for TV we had satalite dishes where we watched MTV and other american cartoons like dexters lab. On the weekened we even went clubbing where some of my friends would get totally drunk, and some would smoke all sorts of drugs. This is the africa i grew up in.

    My point is people need to realize that the world we live in is changing, the term "Globalization". There is a lesson that every single one of us needs to learn, and i am really not sure we are ready to learn that yet. while its true that we are from our respective countries (Japan/America/Zimbabwe) the real truth is that "WE ARE PEOPLE". if we learn how to identify ourselves as that things would be definitely less complicated. However that may not even be reality, maybe in the next few centuries things will change. Right now

    Loco you are an american – being seen as an African (from the motherland somehow offends you) because thats not who you are, thats not where you grew up. Oh and your note about telling the difference between an african american and an african is not that simple, africans have so many different body types and complexions its hard to tell just by looks, we are not all darker than african americans.

    T is japanese – Yeah he looks a little different because of his fathers blood, but his language and culture are very much japanese, failure for people to look at that can make his life a little complicated

    I am Zimbabwean, and i wouldnt trade that, i am proud of where i grew up, i am proud of the education i have, my family my friends. I have a dream just like an american or a japanese person, i dont need any pity or charity. I need recorgnition as a human being.

    I wasnt trying to bash anyone or anything with my response, i just wish people would look at people like "PEOPLE". Learn about them and not assume thier identities, this is applicable to me, Loco or T. & please dont assume we are all the same.

    Anyway wana end on a lighter note, so i was obsessed with Crystal Kay (the hafu singer) and i was like damn her music sucks but she is hot, i so want to marry a hafu. anyway i found this one blog that has some interesting reading on Hafus. If you guys are interested in that.
    http://hafujapanese.blogspot.com/

    • Locohama 23 September 2009 at 1:33 am Permalink

      Hi Kudzaikun!
      Thank you for your long and thoughtful response. (-:
      I'm not sure how to respond to you just yet. I will though. I need some time to absorb your words. It might become an entire post. (You should be so lucky)
      My first reaction is that there might be a clarity issue in my writing that led you to believe that I would find what you've said surprising in the least.
      I don't.
      Some of readers might be surprised and I suspect a great number of Japanese might as well, however. You're preaching to the choir (so to speak) but I think understand why.
      I'll get back to you…
      Loco

    • Locohama 25 September 2009 at 9:01 am Permalink

      Kudzaikun, I'm back (-:
      Well, I've digested your words and am ready to respond.
      I think you mostly just wanted to voice your opinion about the way the world views the motherland, not respond to anything I've said in my post.
      That's cool.
      But just in case you did misconstrue anything I've said (I realize English is your 2nd langauge and you are not American so the nuance or my sarcasm might be a little tricky to catch) I will clarify.
      I do not think africa is how it is shown on the walls of my school. I know much better than that. My point was that this is how the Japanese view Africa. While it is true that many North americans have a tainted view of Africa, I am not among them. I was using those images of Africa to make a point about the misperceptions that even many Americans have about the Motherland.
      I don't know that my being from America is relevant. The information I have in my head, or that you have expressed in your response, is not esoteric. It's available to people from most anywhere if they are so inclined to learn it. Unfortunately most people are not. Certain organizations take advantage of and many people stereotype based on this ignorance. I was not offended per se by being thought of as African, but as beng thought of in the Japanese idea of African. Also, I was startled by the innocence and ignorance that prompted the question.
      I try to be very careful with what I write but I'm not infallible. And i think I stated my thoughts on that as clearly as I could to avoid feedback like yours. I did not say all Africans are darker than all African Americans. That would be an asinine thing to say. Nor did I say my discernment is perfect. But I can see the differences. If you can't I am surprised to hear that.
      Were you merely trying to clarify what I've said? Thanks, if that was your goal, but please don't purposely change my words to suit your needs.
      I understand you are proud of your country, and your upbringing, but you needn't alter nor miscontrue my message to make a soapbox for your views on globalization.
      BTW Krystal Kay is not haafu (at least not by Japanese standards). She is half black half Korean. Zero Japanese (only language)
      Thanks again for taking the time to respond!

  5. Zen 25 September 2009 at 12:17 pm Permalink

    Jambo! (^_^)

    good post!

  6. Bored in Kanagawa 25 September 2009 at 9:28 pm Permalink

    Loco, that was a great response!

  7. Locohama 25 September 2009 at 10:31 pm Permalink

    Thanks Bored!
    Youknowhatumsayin…

    • Endymion 28 September 2009 at 12:48 am Permalink

      Hey, Loco.
      I came across this post and read it with interest. I want to tread with sensitivity here because it is clear that you are thinking about these issues a lot, and I do not know Terrence, your school or the dynamic among your students. Then I came across our young Zimbabwean's response and then read your response to his; I was disappointed. I thought your response was a little defensive, and, dare I say it, a little biting.

      "Skin tone is usually not the cue though people from certain African countries have a certain density of blackness uncommon in the States."

      No, you didn't say ALL Africans are darker than African-Americans, but I can see how someone might misinterpret the above statement as implying that this certain "density" of blackness (automatically) meant that someone was from the "Motherland." Is this why you confuse Haitians for Motherlanders? I know a lot of Haitians in NY who would be WELL-surprised to hear you couldn't distinguish them from, say, your run-of-the-mill "densely"-blacked Nigerian Ibo (said, VERY tongue-in-cheek, Loco!).

      But this is laboring over a silly point, and I think you two are simply jumping over the same bush in different directions–you seem to be saying that if someone is "densely" black, because this is "uncommon" in the states, they are "likely" to be African, although skin color is not the only cue (you don't say what the other cues are, but I'm assuming they're cultural ones like language and clothing–Kente cloth or a dashiki is usually a dead giveaway these days, but apparently when you were kid running around in one, it didn't actually mean that you were from the Motherland at all! A costume, a charade!). And the Zimbabwean seems to be a little riled by the fact that you've only touched on this one "identifier" of dense color. Perhaps if you had let us know of other "cues" or had mentioned how you could distinguish someone who's Tutsi from someone who's African-American and from Wisconsin with a trait other than dense color, then that probably would not have solicited that reaction. You didn't say all Africans are darker, but you used that single "darker" trait to say the person is likely African. Anyway, you two aren't disagreeing, and I think his main point is to say Motherlanders are all colors including white, as you also point out. Can you pick out "white" Africans from Anglo-Americans? :-)

      I guess I found the soapbox comment a little stinging. Also, one other question for you. You say that Crystal Kay isn't "half". My nieces are half: half French and African-American. What makes them American or French? More one than the other or both? You said Crystal was not "half" by Japanese standards because she is "zero Japanese". That just seems odd to me. In this point aren't you doing exactly what pisses you off about people not being able to see any difference among "black" people? You're collapsing her "blood" and her culture/background into just one simple box. You point out correctly that often people only see skin color and not ethnicity with Black people. Btw, I have many Japanese friends who can tell AND know the difference between someone who's African and someone who is African-American, so I'm surprised to hear this, but what concerns me is that saying Crystal is not half because she is not "Japanese" or has no Japanese blood is using only blood/ethnicity to identify someone (by Japanese standards. I don't know what this phrase means, actually. What are Japanese "standards"? Do you mean blood?). What would Crystal say she is, I wonder? She was born and raised in Japan by a 3rd generation Korean mother, so she's 4th generation. Anyone in American 4th-gen would be AMERICAN and not Italy-Italian, Greek or whatever distant place of origin. They might say Italian-American if there was a hint of tradition in the family, but by that stage, most people are simply American with an Italian sounding last name. Your point is that we should be looking more carefully at people? Separating culture/background and self-identify from ethnicity? She might be ethnically Korean, but as a 4th generation, born and raised Kanagawa girl who speaks Japanese, she's more Japanese than anything else. Just like T. She's half-black, half-Asian, and that Asian bit is culturally and language 100% Japanese, so doesn't that make her "half" by almost ANY standard? At the end of the day, it's up to her what she wants to identify as. I wonder what she'd say, if she'd even care? She's probably just say Crystal.

      Sorry for the long post. It just got me thinking. I find a lot of what you have to say very interesting and insightful.

      • Locohama 28 September 2009 at 8:45 am Permalink

        Hi endymion,
        Thanks for your comment (-:
        Well, I don't know how much more plainly i can state it. Some regions in Africa produce a density of black uncommon in the US. I'm not sure how an observation like that can be misconstrued unless it's a lack of understanding of the language on the readers part or willfully. My statement allows for aberrations i.e. some Americans actually being darker than Africans, does it not?

        Haafu (not half) is a Japanese word (not English) meaning half Japanese and half something else. Krystal Kay is not half Japanese thus by Japanese "standards" (meaning their understanding of the word haafu) she is not haafu. She is just 100% Gaijin.

        What else did you need clarified? Oh, other African features that allow them to be distinguishable by me…that's a tricky one. I can't even explain it well, which is why I didn't explain it. It's a combination Cheek bones, eyes, shape of head, posture, jawlines, teeth, facial expressions even (not superficial stuff like clothes…geez give me a break. I wore a dashiki and a kufi as do many African Americans). There are so many differences, and yet they vary from person to person, region to region, and way too much to get into in a blog entry or a response. Sorry if my lack of elaboration on this point left you wanting. I guess could have been more thorough.

        The reason I said soapbox is because our Zimbabwean friend decided to sermonize about Globalization and how good his life in Zimbabwe is as a result of it (I presume) when none of that had any relevance to my post (aside from the relevance he created by misconstruing my words)

        And are you mocking me or being facetious? I didn't claim to be able to look at an African and tell you his tribe, ethnicity, etc…only that they were not African American (and not without fail). Maybe due to most African America's blood having been diluted by Caucasian or Native American (my father is damn near white), or a lack of exposure to the various climates (environmental factors) or even diet differences with the African continent can explain the difference, but I think it's unquestionable that they exists. This is why I confuse some Haitians (mostly lower caste Haitians, descendants of the "noirs" not the so-called upper class). Many Haitians have purer African blood than African Americans for they were able to defeat the French and take their half of the Island 150 years ago, thereby avoiding generations of mixing.
        Thanks for the shout!
        (-;

  8. Endymion 29 September 2009 at 5:11 am Permalink

    Hey.
    Thanks for the reply back. I'll keep it very quick this time. We all know factually that there are many cultural and physical differences between those "blacks" enslaved in the US and their descendants and those who are in Africa. You're unquestionably and totally right. I don't want to seem to ignore that. I think I just got the "feeling" of the respondent's post–you had stated that you have all of these pictures of poor Africans and starving children up on the walls and your students want to become doctors and save them, so I think his response was just a gut one trying to say, "hey, we aren't all poor." Some of us are just like you, and the "observation" that one can sometimes tell Africans from A-As because of this uncommon "density" of blackness probably wouldn't win you "brownie" points (or should I say, blackie points! OK, now I'm being facetious.) in a crowded bar in Lagos. To put it another way, one could say that it is often just as clear when someone is Ethiopian or Djiboutian because of their distinctive facial features. When I read back, it seems like a PC issue more than anything, and of course, it's your blog. You can say it any d*mn which way you want. But these color/language markers: "upper caste" and "lower caste", density of blackness, and dad being "damn near white" are really charged phrases.

    Two last quick points. I know haafu is Japanese. I speak/read/write fluently. According to the Japanese dictionary, haafu just means someone of mixed blood. It doesn't have the Japanese blood requirement–at least in definition. But in USAGE maybe Japanese people only use haafu to mark/mean half-Japanese, but the word means someone who's mixed. The irony here is she's 4th generation and doesn't know a lick of Korean. She's mixed blood but for all intents and purposes, she's Japanese like Terrence–langugage, background, culture. AND she's half. 混血児. AND she's half "Japanese" b/c that's what she is on the inside. I'm surprised that people call would call her "gaikokujin" unless they had prior knowledge that she was of Korean descent. So, I'm confused here. Why isn't she "Japanese". (Not saying you know the answer…just wondering.) Shouldn't we separate ethnicity and nationality? She's Korean-Japanese, just like African-American or Italian-American. No? What do you think? If she's Korean-Japanese, then she's 100% Japanese in culture, language, growing up, etc. If that doesn't make her Japanese, what does?

    I do wonder if there are difference between white Africans (who've been out of their home country,Afrikaans, for 400-500 years) from the Dutch? I wonder if the Dutch can tell the difference. :-)

    Endymion

    • Locohama 29 September 2009 at 5:37 am Permalink

      Hey again endymion,

      Like I told the the the card-carrying member of the AFG (Africans for Globalization) Zimbabwean you're preaching to the choir. The pictures on the wall of my school were not posted by me, they were posted by the school staff. The AFG guy"s desire to spew his guts all over my blog, I truly understand. He feels some kind of complex,(whether it's superiority or inferiority is hard to say but I'm leaning towards the latter) and I can truly identify with that. But to suggest that my posts was promoting this image of poor Africans is to misconstrue it.

      Haafu's usage is what I'm talking about. Japanese only use the word for half Japanese (in my 6 years here). Caste is the word the Haitians use, not me. This is their history, no judgment of mine. To me (at the risk of being redundant) people are people. Your other concerns you need to take up with your J-friends (about the Koreans and Krystal K, etc…)

      Your final question was an interesting one. If you get any answers don't be a stranger :-)

    • Matt 16 October 2009 at 7:38 pm Permalink

      I stumbled on your post… Great post.

      Regarding Crystal Kay, I would be interested to know what Japanese say she is… I've heard my wife use the word haafu when describing some biracial kids back in the states..so I wouldn't be surprised if Japanese populace would use the same word as well. What would they use instead otherwise?

      • Locohama 16 October 2009 at 7:58 pm Permalink

        They just say "Idol" I have heard people say she's half-black half korean, but never haafu. The understanding is haafu means half japanese half not.
        Thanks for the shout Matt. Glad you're digging the blog (-:

  9. Dan 19 October 2009 at 8:27 pm Permalink

    "If she’s Korean-Japanese, then she’s 100% Japanese in culture, language, growing up, etc. If that doesn’t make her Japanese, what does?"

    Just my two cents on the Crystal Kay / haafu thing… she went to high school on the US Navy base in Yokosuka, speaks both English and Japanese fluently, and so on. I imagine that would have some effect on whether she's thought of as haafu, nihonjin, or whatever. Then again, her Wikipedia page has her as Japanese right off. Personally, I'd be interested in hearing her answer to that question more than anything.

    • Locohama 19 October 2009 at 8:34 pm Permalink

      Hey Dan-
      She's half Korean half American…zero japanese. She was only born and raised here, but here ain't the US so birth does not entitle you to be called Japanese (apparently)

  10. Dan 19 October 2009 at 11:16 pm Permalink

    "She was only born and raised here, but here ain’t the US so birth does not entitle you to be called Japanese (apparently)"

    No doubt about that. Must have been a hell of a choice to make, taking Japanese citizenship, when you consider that officially (whether enforced or not, and feel free to correct me if I'm wrong), Japan and Korea don't recognize dual citizenship, and the US only does so under certain circumstances. The Zainichi topic has led to some pretty hot debates around the house lately, especially with the question of voting rights being discussed lately. Luckily, my old lady's a bit more progressive than these uyoku types:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8b2wivPsyE

    Anyway, sorry for the tangent :)

  11. NCraig 21 October 2009 at 3:08 am Permalink

    At the risk of further perpetuating a tangent, Crystal Kay possesses, according to any info that I can find on the internet, only US citizenship (music.goo.ne.jp/artist/ARTLISD1003324/index.html <- info here seems legit, as long as it isn't old). And no word of her naturalizing that I can find.

    So, she's not "Japanese" in any strict sense of the word, or, rather, such I would intend to say in response to Endymion's question above. Being "Japanese", for better or worse, is not a simple matter of being born and raised in the country. Nonetheless, being born and raised in the country certainly can be expected to instill some level of "Japanese" identity in pretty much anyone, regardless of background. Hence you have 8000 or so Zainichi's naturalizing every year producing more and more bone fide "Korean-Japanese".

    On the subject of the word hāfu, while I concur that the word defaults to "half-Japanese, half-whatever", it is nonetheless still used with other nationality/ethnicity/race combinations. A simple google search of "Crystal Kay ハーフ" will confirm this.

    At any rate, while I don't have anything of any great relevance to add as far as the three "African" posts go, I must say I rather enjoyed reading them.

  12. eccentricyoruba 3 November 2009 at 7:08 pm Permalink

    very interesting post and comments! i am definitely not a member of the 'Africans for Globalisation' club and i do believe that i understood the post clearly. that been said, i have discovered that the best way to find out where someone is from without embarassing yourself is simply asking and accepting whatever answer they give.

    i'm 100% Yoruba (Nigeria, West Africa) but thanks to globalisation *sarcasm*, i can't speak my mother tongue which makes English my first language. to be honest what stood out to me was when you mentioned your method of distinction between black people. i understand what you mean by 'density of blackness' even though i won't use that description myself. and i do know that African-Americans are essentially a mixed race people.

    i guess i don't understand how anyone can look at anyone else and attempt to pinpoint their country of origin, esp among black people. as mentioned above i'm Nigerian, i'm currently in France and the few African-Americans in the region i'm currently residing in have approached me asking where i'm from and showing obvious disappointment when i say 'Nigeria' with my 'un-American' accent. i guess i have one of those faces as people have also assumed i was Brazilian and from several other African countries.

    oh well, i apologize for my first comment here being so long. i do find your blog very interesting :)


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