Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Insults Or Ignorance?

Honestly, the amount of insults hurled toward me by monoracial folks lately seem to be growing exponentially. It makes me wonder if something's been added to the drinking water.
Last week, I wrote about two people who attributed my ability to earn good grades and academic achievement to my "Asian side". In both instances, I was flabbergasted by their thoughtless remarks.

Well, there's more. Earlier this month, I attended a monthly get together of artists, writers and other creatives. Walking in late, I spotted a friend at the large table so I sat across from her. During lunch, most of the attendees chatted with others they knew, too. But towards the end, a couple got up to leave when the Caucasian man suddenly leaned over to introduce himself. As always when speaking to Westerners, I spoke my name with clearly enunciated syllables. I watched as the man visibly wrestled with a question gnawing at him.

"Where's that from?" he said, before changing his query to, "What kind of name is that?"

Warily, I answered, "Japanese."

Most of the time, the response I get when I reply with that answer is, "Really? You don't look all Japanese."

So, that's what I was prepared for when, instead, the man looked at me intently. "That doesn't sound like a Japanese name," he told me with an air of authority. "It has too many consonants. Most Japanese names start with a K or M," he added.

Incredulous, I looked over at my friend sitting across from me but she, herself a monoracial Caucasian, said nothing.

"Actually, a lot of Japanese names start with Y," I replied. "My mother's name is Yuriko, her mother's name is Yone, and..." I trailed off as I realized that I had no obligation to explain anything to this stranger who already thought he knew it all anyway.

Since he had the nerve, basically, to let me know that he knew more about Japanese culture than I did, I wanted to respond with something really flip, like; "Tom? What kind of name is that? Is it English, because most English names have two or more syllables so your name should be Thomas, shouldn't it?" Alas, I'm a peaceful type who doesn't like confrontation so I just smiled weakly. After the man left, I leaned in to tell my friend how insulted I felt, but it was too loud in the restaurant and she didn't seem to grasp my agitation.

Then, last night on a thread that I was a participant of, one of the women became upset over some of my stated opinions. In a final hurrah, not only did she call me the "B" word, but also flung at me her conviction that I was a coward who hid behind, quote, "all that ridiculous hip hapa stuff". Ridiculous? Since she's a monoracial African American, I had to wonder what she had against mixed-race folks.

On to better news. The producers of Watermelon Sushi in our Tokyo office are revving up for more action so keep checking back for updates. Meanwhile, calling all talent, get your submissions to us by visiting the Hip Hapa Homeez group page on Facebook. There, you can read the breakdowns and get the address to send your headshots, resumes and DVD's. And if you sign up to join us, you'll be in a group that includes luminaries like Todd Bridges, Kool Mo Dee, Professor Griff, Jasmine Guy, Oran Juice Jones, Patti LaBelle, MC Lyte, Biz Markie, Lonette McKee, Bern Nadette Stanis, and more. We're about to get real serious here, folks.

Finally, it appears that haru (spring) has arrived. Check out the pix of sakura (cherry blossoms) in my 'hood, above.

Funny, that my mom likes to make gohan (rice) with ume (plum) which turns the rice a little pink. I started calling it sakura gohan. At the left is a pix of the sakura norimaki we recently ate.

And, below is a photo of my Mom cutting her birthday cake last week. Notice her red eyes caused by haru allergies. As for her age, well...if you're that interested, please drop me a line at

Your Hip Hapa,


LadyWritesTheBlues said...

Is there a such thing as a monoracial African-American? We are multi-cultured just like you-although many times we can not pin point our history due to slavery, etc. Just a thought-not that anything that the AA lady said should be justified-just wanted to add that-love your blog, btw, the guy at the table was an idiot-lol

Yayoi Lena Winfrey said...

You're right, LWTB. In fact, most likely everyone on the planet is multiracial in some way. But here, I refer to people as monoracial who identify themselves as such. For instance, that particular woman never called herself mixed or biracial, but "black"--whatever that means. Stay tuned for my upcoming interview with Michael James Brown and his Other Awareness Project where he will dispel the myth about race period. No such thing, he will tell us. Thanks for your thoughtful comments!