Monday, March 24, 2003
I had been planning to finish up a post on intermarriage and immigration, but a basic problem has stopped me dead in my tracks. See the table below. Numbers in thousands. "Total" refers to all persons of the given category, whether married or not. "Married-Couple and Unmarried-Partner Households: 2000" does not provide this figure. Note that the counts for foreign born are estimates based on projections which have been reweighted to fit Census 2000 numbers, and are not actually compiled directly from Census 2000 raw data.
|Foreign-born Asian Men
||Foreign Born Population, Table PPL-160-3.2
|Foreign-born Asian Women
|All Asian Men 15+
||America's Family and Living Arrangements, Table P20-537-A1
|All Asian Women 15+
|All Asian Men
||Married-Couple and Unmarried-Partner Households: 2000, Table PHC-T-19-1
|All Asian Women
Basically, the number of married foreign-born Asians with spouses present (which I am fairly sure means present in the same household) is reported to be greater than the number of married Asians in the whole country. This isn't only a problem for Asians --- for Hispanics, the number of married Hispanics shown in PHC-T-19 is exceeded by the number of foreign-born persons from Latin America with spouses present shown in PPL-160-3.1 and is only about half the number of married Hispanics 15+ with spouses present indicated in P20-537-A1.
Also note that Population by Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic or Latino Origin for the United States: 2000 (PHC-T-9), Table 1 indicates a total 4,948,741 Asian men and 5,294,257 Asian women in the US, implying around 1,440,000 US-born Asian men and 1,367,000 US-born Asian women, some of whom are presumably married.
A partial explanation is offered by the explanation in the report for "Married-Couple and Unmarried-Partner Households: 2000" on page 2 that:
The numbers in this report do not show a complete count of all married couples and unmarried partners but only of couples and partners where one person was the householder. If the household included more than one couple, the household designation was determined by the status of the householder. For example, if a household was maintained by an unmarried couple but also contained the son of the householder and the son's wife, the household would be tabulated only as an unmarried-partner household in this report.
That would imply that plenty of Asian and Hispanic couples aren't householders, which isn't so surprising when you consider intergenerational households (grandparents and parents all under one roof, meaning as many as three married couples in a household), or multiple families sharing a single unit. I'm also not too clear whether "householder" includes a family renting an apartment; it doesn't sound as though it should, though this would seem to make the Census report on Married-Couple Households a rather unrepresentative sample of married couples overall, since it would automatically exclude married couples of lower socioeconomic status who can't afford to buy a house, an increasing problem in California, especially among immigrants who are more likely to be in poverty.
Furthermore, this still doesn't explain how the number of foreign-born Asian women with spouses present could exceed the total number of Asian women ages 15 and above who are married, unless there are a lot of pedophiles here getting 14-year old Asian mail order brides, no US-born Asian women are getting married, or the Census Bureau's estimates of the foreign-born population are inflated. However, for various reasons, most people seem to agree that the Census Bureau's annual estimates of the foreign population actually undercount it.
The Census Bureau claimed in December 2001 they would have real data about the foreign-born population based on the 2000 enumeration up "in 2002," but fifteen months later we're still waiting. Moving at the speed of monopoly ...
Anyway, this makes things a little difficult if you want to compute the marriage rates for US-born Asians and compare it to foreign-born Asians, which is what I had been planning to do before I got sidetracked.
Sunday, March 23, 2003
Hapa attacked by Asians, Revisited
A reader looking at one of my earliest posts points out that the link to this article was broken. Indeed, the article seems to have disappeared from the present Internet, so I went to the Wayback Machine and dug it out for you all to see:
Hate Crime in Japantown
by Rocky Kiyoshi Mitarai
I was raised in Sonoma, California, which is a small, predominantly Caucasian town. When I was growing up, people made slanted eyes in front of me and called me names. My group of friends in grammar school would brag about being Italian American or having Italian ancestry, and I was treated badly because I was Japanese. I went home and asked my mom if I had any Italian blood in me and it turned out that I am one-eighteenth Italian, which I remember being very excited about. I went to school the next day and told them, but they didn't believe me.
Once when I was in seventh grade, we were told by the music teacher to get into groups and make songs. This other group put up a big piece of butcher paper, and on it was a picture of a man with a rice picker's hat, buckteeth and two slanted lines for eyes. Their song didn't involve much more than these lines: "I come from China. I don't care if you kill me. I eat sushi. And my eyes are so slanted that I can't see."
After they were done, all the kids in the class and even the teacher were laughing. I felt angry, but I didn't know why. I had been hearing racist things throughout my life and I had started to feel as if it were normal. My friends who wrote the song said, "Why is that song racist? It's not even racist." Whenever I did say something in response to their insults and jokes, I was told by my teachers that I was taking their comments too seriously, and I always looked like the bad guy who had an attitude problem.
In the eighth grade, I hung out with a kid who was half African-American and half white and another kid who was Cuban-American. There were hick types-who would scream obscenities at us, like "You f---ing Mexicans," for example. At one time, my friends and I were labeled as a gang by the school administration and were sent to see the school psychologist during lunch period for a few weeks. If you were a person of color and hung around other people of color, it was automatically assumed that you were a gangster.
Things like that hurt me while I was growing up, which is probably why I denied my Caucasian side after grammar school and identified myself as full Japanese.
My father told me many stories about my Japanese ancestry and how important it is. He told me that our family is of the samurai-class warriors who lived by a strict code of honor, and would go as far as death to uphold this code. My jichan, which means "grandfather" in Japanese, would always remind my father that we need to be proud of and show respect to our ancestors. My jichan was a very honorable man. He was raised with Japanese cultural values.
What happened in 1942 changed my jichan's life, along with the lives of all people of Japanese ancestry in America. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, newspapers told how the "sneaky Japs" were evil. President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which authorized the evacuation of everyone on the west coast who was seen as a threat to the war effort-all the Japanese Americans were interned. My father, at the age of 3, and his family were sent to the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming. They were given 10 days' notice to sell everything they owned.
The relocation camps were located on very barren, desert-like land. It was terribly cold in the winter, especially in the small crowded wooden shacks that every family had. The bathrooms were just big rooms with toilets, usually without partitions around them.
When my family was released in 1945, there was no house or land to go back to. They had had a successful farming business before the war, which they also lost. My jichan did his best to start over from nothing and support the family. After being interned, my jichan felt that knowing the Japanese language might be dangerous in this country. They had a hard enough time as it was convincing people here that they really were American, so many Japanese-American parents tried to mold their children into "mainstream American" children; this was the main reason why my father and many other Japanese Americans were never taught how to speak Japanese by their parents. At the age of 85, after living a hard life, my jichan passed away.
When I think about things like this, I feel enraged. But at the same time, I have such admiration and pride for my family and my people for standing strong through all of this oppression and allowing me to live the good life that I do now.
I thought it would be great to go to a school where whites were not the majority. I came to the University of San Francisco (USF) so I could be with other Asians because I felt that they were the ones who would support me. But when I finally got to USF, my world seemed to collapse around me. The Asians usually hung out together in big cliques-cliques that I couldn't be a part of. I was not accepted by many as an "Asian" person. I heard things from people like: "Why do you try so hard to be full Japanese?" "Why is your last name Japanese?" "You shouldn't be in the Japan Club-you aren't a real Japanese." "Eating rice today, huh? Are you getting in touch with your Asian side?" "Hey, what's up, Mexican? What's up, Paco? Do you want toeat some refried beans?" "Look at this guy-the Asians don't want him, the Caucasians don't want him. He might as well be Mexican."
All of this rejection affected me in many ways. I used to have my hair combed back on top and shaved on the sides, which was a popular hairstyle for young men at the time. Asians would tell me that I looked "Mexican" because of this haircut. What I didn't understand was that some of them had the same hairstyle but nobody was telling them that they looked "Mexican." I also got the same reaction to my '94 Chevy Camaro. Since it is an American-made car, I have been told that it is a "white car." The popular car for an "Asian" person to have is a car made in Japan, they say. I know many Asians who have American-made cars, but they don't get criticized. When I wear something that is not considered very popular by the Asian-American crowd, I am told that I am dressed like a "whiteboy" or a "Mexican." In response to the criticism, I used to sometimes wear clothes that were considered stylish by many young Asian people that I knew, and I had my hair cut short so that people didn't make comments about it.
One recent experience taught me some very hard lessons about the world. On Friday, May 9, 1997, I was attacked and nearly killed by a group of Asians because I am hapa. That night I went to sing karaoke in San Francisco's Japantown with four of my friends. When we were leaving for the night, there were about 10 Chinese and Vietnamese guys standing outside of the karaoke studio. As a good luck charm, I wear a Chinese character on my necklace that says fuku, meaning "happiness" in Japanese and "good fortune" in Chinese. They were all staring at me angrily and I heard one of them say, "But why is he wearing that necklace? He doesn't even know that it means."
I knew that they had a problem with me because I am not "full" Asian. My friends told them that I was half Japanese, but that didn't seem to matter.
I left the building and started walking to my car. I turned around and saw three of them walking behind me. They all started punching me in the face and stomach. Then one of them began choking me. I fell down, and they started kicking me in the head. At that point, I was covering my head, trying to protect myself and thinking that I might die. One of the guys yelled, "You see Bruce Lee movies and you want to be Asian, huh?" My friends did not help me. I guess they were too scared to act.
I kept telling him that I was half Japanese. Finally, he left with all his friends. My necklace had been ripped off. My friend found it for me but it was bent and broken. I must have been struck in the face and head at least 35 times. I had huge bruises on the side and back of my head, a black eye that I couldn't see out of, and a swollen head for about a week. Things had gotten to the point where I was almost killed by other Asians because I am proud of being Japanese.
After my violent experience in Japantown, it became clear to me that something must be done to stop the oppression that hapa people face every day. I wrote an e-mail describing my assault to Hapa Issues Forum, which is a mixed-race club at the University of California, Berkeley. I got a great deal of support from them. Identifying myself as hapa is very important to me. I do have an identity. I shouldn't just be seen as some confused person who doesn't fit in anywhere. I want people to understand that being multiethnic-half Japanese and half Caucasian, for example-does not mean that you only know half of your culture. If anything, people like us should be considered to have a double cultural background. People can't assume that culturally we are any less Asian or Pacific Islander than anyone else. A person can't be split down the middle.
After that incident occurred, I was scheduled to leave for Japan to study abroad for a few months. I felt that something needed to change-whether it was my attitude toward the whole situation of being rejected and ridiculed because of being hapa, or whether it was those who oppressed me who needed to change. When I finally got to Japan I had some of the greatest times in my life, and I learned so much about my culture, my ancestors and life in general. I met some of my relatives who I never knew I had, and I made some friends that I will keep for life. When I got back to the United States I realized a few things. When I was in Japan, I was able to fit in well with the Japanese natives, just because I had been raised with many of the same cultural values that exist there. Of course, there were many differences that existed in my cultural background, which made it hard at times. But I was able to connect with the country of my ancestors. When I got back from Japan, I seemed to know who I was.
Now, even if people tell me that I look Latino and that I am not a "real" Japanese person, I don't care because I know who I am and their comments are ignorant, anyway. I think that this knowledge has helped me greatly in extinguishing that flame of anger that I carried around inside me before going to Japan. I never thought that things would get better, and the situation felt pretty much hopeless. But looking back on my experiences, the situation did get better.
Many hapa people's experiences today are similar to those of the Japanese Americans about 30 years ago. Many of them had an identity crisis because their knowledge of Japanese language and culture was limited because their parents tried to mold them into "Americans" for their protection. At the same time, people were constantly questioning their knowledge about the United States and their ability to speak English-they were judged by their appearance and nothing else. I know that the oppression I have been subjected to is not at all equal to what my father and Japanese family went through during their terrible internment experience. But the rejection, the need to probe my "Asian-ness" and being hated because of my multiethnic background, are issues that weigh heavily on my mind every day.
People may choose not to accept who I am because I am hapa, but this ignorance cannot change me. Nobody can take my heart and spirit away from me. I am a very proud Japanese American.
Selections of this story were originally published in What's Hapa'ning: The Hapa Issues Forum Newsletter, and in What Are You? Voices of Mixed-Race Young People, by Pearl Fuyo Gaskins and published by Henry Holt.
(reprinted under "fair use" doctrine).