A New Year!! Another useful and constructed moment in our passing of life and time. Can we use it? And in using—what do we repeat? What do we do that we think is great but repeats some kind of problem? What do we do that would be fantastic if it weren’t for someone or something, some force–crushing it at its birth? What have we not thought of? What can we do if we’re too busy caught in traps of what we’ve inherited? What can we do if we’re too busy not acknowledging and perhaps honoring our ancestors and how they live in us? The photo on this blog is an example. The Black-Asian ‘beautiful’ is made into something. By what for what?
Celebrate and lament? I am happy for the new categories that now proliferate across America, then to the world, on identity formations, labels and then political jostling. Re-shuffle, renew, engage, dismantle….yes the new identity categories for mixed-race peoples are growing in our globalizing, corporatizing, shifting world. But people forget so easily, that each of our nations, countries, cultures, come from what has passed–what is good and bad. I, for one, wish that we would become more educated and more ethical. Knee-jerk, spontaneity is great but can also hurt, debilitate, crush, annihilate, make invisible, as well as create the ‘new.’ Too much speculative forms of intellectual play can disconnect, hurt, debilitate, crush, annihilate, make invisible, as well as constructing the ‘new.’
Just to mention the different labels and ways of being in the world with race and racial terrain, in culture and nation, subaltern and dominant, we have created many things. For those of us whose heritages are of African/Black and Asian, living in the US, there are now a host of different cultural and heritage labels: Blasian, Blackanese, Blambodian, Amerasian, Hapa, Blorean, Blietnamese, AfroAsian, Black-Asian, Japa-nigga, Blilippino, on and on and further. We can see, also in the US, that identity is often about ‘feeling happy with our self’ and wanting the world to ‘accept us.’ It’s almost always about the ‘self.’ Often, we may connect this to a color or race, memories. But where is social justice? I’m not talking about getting what we want in the USA. Is race and color enough for unity? And if it isn’t, then arent’ we participating in the very disconnecting, isolating structure of individualism – that is devoid of history? I’m all for individuality. But extreme individualism is often the result of the isolating ‘self’ and glorification of a hero-self; successful ‘self’, the happy ‘self’ and the perfect ‘self.’ In the US, often, this is how identity and life is supposed to be lived. Or it’s the nuclear family version of making our specific families happy, glorious, accepted.
In Japan, the self is assimilated into blending in, to doing what ‘Nihonjin-ron’ wants. Most Black-Japanese in Japan, for instance, are working in bars, as singers or are agents of entertainers and models. The most beautiful and ‘exotic’ looking ones are in singing and modeling. They are ‘forced’ into a version of ‘Blackness’ borrowed from Japanese images which are from the American commodified versions of Blackness. Indeed, in the US, most Blackanese struggle to be other than ‘only-Black.’ Often, I see Black relatives and friends of mine, accuse me and others I know that are Black and Asian mixed, of being afraid of or not proud or dismissing Blackness if we claim another heritage. “We’re BLACK.”
I’m afraid that those of us in my own generation, struggle to be part of the dialogue and mix on cultural heritage. This also means the PROXIMITY TO WAR CULTURE needs to be examined. Amerasians from Vietnam may be somewhat ‘better off’ in the USA but are still going through nightmarish existences under prejudice in Vietnam. Especially if one of their parents is Black. In Korea and Okinawa and the Philippines, there is the ongoing existence of American military bases. Around the bases, there are what is called ‘Base towns’- which have a culture all its own. Children of American military men and local ‘Asian’ mothers are plenty. Most of them without their fathers who have left their girlfriends with child. And there is the further reality of sex-work and survival for many of these women, who are stigmatized. The offspring of these women are ostracized and abused.
Laws, of course, don’t help in most cases. For instance, many of the children of Japanese mothers are considered STATELESS. They are nether citizens of Japan or the US, since they are born to single mothers. However, if they are children of JAPANESE MEN and American women, they are Japanese citizens. This creates horrific circumstances for both the mothers and the biracial children. Often, the US military refuses to take any responsibility for the tens of thousands of babies born to US military men and the local Asia-Pacific women. For Black-Japanese, Black-Okinawan, Black-Korean, Black-Filippino, Black-Vietnamese, Black-Cambodian biracial children, there are many hurdles and perhaps made impossible through the combination of local racism and anti-Americanism and both the local laws as well as US law.
I am a child born in the 50s in Japan, then able to come with my father and mother to the US in the 60s. I experienced tremendous violence in both Japan and in the US growing up. I also experienced tremendous support and love from certain individuals in both countries. I am a child whose proximities to World War II is very close. Those born in the 1940s and living, are even closer. Those born after these periods, still experience the residuals emotions and parenting from the parents and/or orphanages or foster homes or the streets in which their childhoods were formed. Many honor their fathers, but not their mothers. Or mothers are relegated to the label ‘war bride’ and are made tragic heroes who served lumpia or kimchi or takuan with some kind of ‘Black’ food and cuddled us at night. It’s an ‘exoticizing’ that works well into blending into American society, becoming entertainment for others to oggle us. It’s very gendered and unaccommodating to historical realities. When African-American men were fighting for their survival and dignity in the 1950s through 70s for civil rights in the US, it was a tremendous struggle. But for the mothers who often lived through devastation through bombings and then perhaps various ostracizing behaviors and abuses from their families and/or the general cultures, then perhaps experiencing displacement in coming to the foreign country, in fear and trepidation and confusion, then what is our family and how shall we honor?
Across generations, across proximities to wars and military bases, across gender, across nation and poverty and or wealth, across rank, across civilian/military divide, across language, how can we work together????? What is pride when it is not about raising our brothers and sisters in other places and other memories and existences? What about ourselves? Is becoming a middle-class success enough? In globalization, one of the key factors in globalizing, is FORGETTING. The reality of forgetting makes us weak, depressed, isolated, dishonoring, disconnected. Of course, there are some things that should be forgotten. However, there are things that some people cannot forget. Memory is in the body, forever there. For others in privilege, forgetting is normal and perhaps made superior. Often, we relegate social traumas (such as experiences of extreme violence, prejudice and war/genocide) to something that is abnormal and taken care of in therapy. It’s so convenient.
In the US, the victorious of World War II, the nation was created. People helped make bombs and planes. I am also grateful, lest Japan would have continued with their terrible weapons of imperial suicide. Now America plays out self-destruction. In being ‘Blasian’, or multiracial black-asian identity, what does this mean? So you are happy. Now what? What shall we do in this new year?