Mixed Race Assimilation in Japan

Anonymous student post

According to most assimilation theories, the highest indicator of assimilation is intermarriage. In her 2010 article “What happens after segmented assimilation? An exploration of intermarriage and ‘mixed race’ young people in Britain”, Miri Song explores the identification of mixed race people. The subjects of her study were those who had a single British parent and one immigrant parent, and had grown up in Britain. When asked what group they identify with, many chose the category ‘British’ – claiming that culturally they were British. I believe such findings may be applicable in other settings, not just Britain.

Japan is infamous for not being open to migration. There are only a small percentage of immigrants, especially compared to many other “developed” nations. However, this does not mean there are no intermarriages. In fact, intermarriages have been rapidly increasing recently and Hafu (the term used to call half Japanese, literally meaning ‘half’), have become less of a rare sight. Flick through a few television channels or pages in a magazine and with a high possibility, you will find a Hafu model or celebrity. Recently, Hafu are not only constrained to modeling because of their foreign looks, but also other roles in entertainment.

Comedy duo “Denisu”Here, I would like to bring up the case of Yukio Ueno, a member of the comedy duo ‘denisu’, who is half Japanese and half Brazilian. His character and portrayal in media is a great example of the position of Hafu in Japanese society.

The audience will roar in laughter as he introduces his extremely Japanese name, and mentions that he grew up in Suita city of Osaka. He talks of how he is usually assumed to be a foreigner and treated differently from his Japanese peers. What makes Yukio Ueno funny for the Japanese audience is the fact that he is culturally Japanese but looks foreign.

Yukio Ueno and other similar Hafus symbolize the Japanese attitudes towards at the moment. You can have a Japanese parent, have Japanese nationality, speak Japanese, have a Japanese name, be born and raised in Japan – yet not be treated as Japanese due to features you adopt from your non-Japanese parent. It becomes important for Japanese born and raised Hafus to assert their Japanese-ness, as can be seen in the case of Ariana Miyamoto. Ariana Miyamoto won the Miss Universe Japan contest for 2015, but being half African-American, has been receiving internet abuse for being unfit to represent Japan.

Japan is still less accepting of foreign looks for sure compared to Britain. However, I do believe the Hafu that are born/raised in Japan do identify as culturally Japanese – just as most of the subjects in Song’s study (2010) claims.

However, not all of Song’s subjects (2010) chose the British category. Half-black people chose to identify as the minority category. We see the race of the non-immigrant parent plays a large role in the identification and assimilation of a ‘mixed race’. Race does matter in Japan too. The treatment of a ‘Hafu’ is effected by the race of their immigrant parent. Being half white is usually an advantage over other races. This is perhaps due to the adoration of Caucasian features as aesthetic.

As people continue to move over borders and mixed race people increase, how will concepts of assimilation change??

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Being Mixed Race in Racially Divided America

The New Age of Slavery, by Patrick Campbell

by Lourdes Fritts

Much like the way some people do not care about their local sports team, I do not give much thought to my racial identity. This is mostly due to the fact that if I gave my race anymore thought than the occasional ponder, I would be in a constant state of identity crisis. My mother is Japanese-Korean raised in Japan, and my Father is Irish-German-Mexican raised in America. Thus I have christened myself as an “Euro-Mexi-Asian-American”. Fortunately I have been privileged enough in life where I was never made particularly conscious of my race; I have never let my race define me and very few people I’ve met have defined me by it. However, due to recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, I have become unusually conscious of my ethnic background.

After the grand jury failed to indict Darren Wilson my Facebook was splashed with statuses saying things like“f*ck white people #AmeriKKKa”, and articles talking about what white people need to do about racial inequality. There were many types of reactions to the grand jury’s decision but everything ultimately boiled down to race or more specifically, the oppression of black Americans by white Americans. Every day frustrated black (along with some enlightened white) Facebook friends posted lists of black victims of police brutality and offended white friends posted articles supporting the “not all whites” stance. Quite honestly, I didn’t understand my role in this conversation, I am horrified by the violence and inequality that American society has tolerated for so long but I cannot say that I completely empathize with black Americans. I am upset about Ferguson but I was not exactly sure why.

It is this feeling of disconnect that  had made me conscious of my ambiguous racial identity. On one hand I am partially white, does that put me on the side of the oppressor? Did I feel upset because of underlying guilt?  But what about the times where I was discriminated against, what about all the times where people told me to go back to China? Was I upset because I was afraid of being a victim of violent discrimination? While it isn’t true, I couldn’t help but feel that there was really no place for me in the conversation about race, I straddled an awkward border of whiteness that made it seem that I didn’t have the right to talk about race as a minority.

I thought about all these things for a while and ultimately decided that my disgust with the Ferguson case did not derive from any sense of ethnic identity (as a white or as a minority) but rather a betrayal of my national identity. As Craig Calhoun (1993:235) puts it, “The idea of nation is itself an instance and an archetype of this classifying logic of categorical identities”. As hackneyed as it sounds, I believed that being American stood for unparalleled equality and opportunity and seeing that it was not as I believed upset me quite a bit. I realized that my national identity was stronger than my racial identity because of my racial ambiguity. While this epiphany does virtually nothing to solve the racial tensions in Ferguson, I do believe that figuring something like this out can encourage more people to act as a community.

References

Calhoun, C. 1993. Nationalism and Ethnicity. Annual Review of Sociology, 19, 211-239.

Clarke, R., & Lett, C. (2014, November 11). What happened when Michael Brown met Officer Darren Wilson – CNN.com. Retrieved from http://edition.cnn.com/interactive/2014/08/us/ferguson-brown-timeline/