Thursday, February 28, 2008

Happy Hapa Leap Year!

In celebration of Leap Year, and the end of February, I've decided to cut back on blogging from nightly to maybe 2 or 3 times a week. Yeah, you heard that right. The Biracial Bloggerette is giving her fingers (and her mind, believe it or not) a much-needed break.

For one thing, I really could use the extra time to focus on creating more designs for the Hapa*Teez line of t-shirts that I'm getting tremendous response for--thank you, Watermelon Sushi fans!

Also, I'm currently producing several documentaries focused on the biracial and bicultural communities. Ever since I met the wonderful ladies of the WWII War Brides Association, I've been hearing that having two Caucasian parents from different countries was as much a traumatic experience for them as being of two ethnicities was for some of us mixed-race folks. I've been told about religious differences, language barriers, and hostile in-laws who refused to accept that their sons had married and brought home foreigners considered enemies of America. I think exploring the whole war brides phenomenon could be a monumental undertaking.

Along with the first hints of Spring, the weeks to come promise more interesting topics so don't stop reading my blog. Try these on for size:

1. Dealing With Tight Hair When Your Entire Life Experience Consists Of Handling Only Your Own Straight Locks: My mom used to blow dry our hair with an inverted vacuum cleaner hose, then rub sticky Alberto VO 5 petroleum jelly throughout it. My sister and I hated having our hair combed by her rough, pulling hands!

2. Asians And Toilet Paper: What's the deal with that? Why does my mom have rolls of that stuff laying around all over her house, and why do Asians prefer it over boxes of tissue to stick underneath their rear car windows?

3. Hapa, Puhleez! Why some hapa folks just get on my nerves. I may even name names. Well, at least in code.

4. Seven v. Seven: There are seven Japanese gods called kamisama takarabune and there are Seven African Powers with beginnings in Benin. What's up with that number 7, and how are the deities alike?

5. Hip v. Dork. Why are blacks considered hip and Asians dorks? I've met folks of both races that were just the opposite, so let's explore that.

6. "Yo!" in Ebonics means one thing. "Yo!" in Japanese means, well, it can mean several things.

7. Speaking of slang, what is up with the phrase "da kine"? People in Hawai'i love to use it, and I suspect that it has origins with the first Japanese that settled on the islands.

8. Hapa Friends Feature: There are some strong supporters of the hapa agenda out there that I'd like acknowledge. Whenever I can, I'll get them to write a Guest Blog. Otherwise, I'll talk about them myself. People like Chicago artist Laura Kina and her Hapa Soap Opera series and the fabulous Jen Chau of in NYC deserve kudos for keepin' it real. That's Jen in the pix above, on the right with my friend Doris Wong, taken when I visited NYC a few years ago. There's more, like high school teacher Paulette Q. Thompson, but I'll shout-out the rest next time.

Meanwhile, oyasuminasai.

Your Hip Hapa,

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

One Drop Rule

What is the "One Drop Rule"?, you ask. Well, it's the premise that most of the world's population holds that defines racial identities like Barack Obama's as being 100% black. If I remember correctly, the presidential hopeful had a white mother. So, why is he called only black if he's half Caucasian? Why deny him his own parent and birthright?

It all harkens back to the "One Drop Rule" of slavery and, obviously, post-slavery. If a white slave master raped a black female slave and she ended up giving birth to his baby, the way that slave master protected his assets (including his slaves who were considered property) was to categorize the bastard child as black based on the "One Drop" of Negro blood flowing in his veins. That's all it took--just "One Drop", and the child was regulated to the lowest end of the American caste system. For one, how would it look to the other slaves if someone nearer their own skin tone had the possibility of inheriting the plantation? Further, how would it look to other white slave owners if a "darky" was elevated to the same social stratum as them?

The "One Drop Rule" ensured that the half-white child would never be considered anything but black and would, therefore, remain untitled to a white man's treasures. Being denied his white heritage meant that the child would have no right to be free ever and (probably the most frightening to the slave master) no possibility of freeing his black relatives if he ever became in charge of the plantation.

So, the "One Drop Rule" was a useful tool for white slave masters and others to keep blacks in their places. But didn't the U.S. abolish slavery a long time ago? So, why are biracial black/white people referred to as being only black when they are so clearly half white? Why is Halle Berry called the "first African American woman to win the Best Actress Oscar"? Quite frankly, if I was her, I'd have made an impassioned Oscar speech about the Academy forcing me to deny my own mother.

Enough of my jaw-jacking. Or, typing. Here are some comments from my lovely friend Daphne Delores:

"Yayoi, thank you for defining 'hapa'. My multi-racial identity goes back at least a few generations, where there was race mixing on at least three branches of the family tree. One great-grandmother, for instance, was the child of a former slave as a result of rape by her former master. Another great-grandmother (Welsh woman) married a black man in New England at the turn of the last century, and our family name is still enshrined on a former plantation in Virginia.

My generation's hapa sisters and brothers, and those of our children, have in many cases been able to explore and accept both aspects of their racial identity in ways that were surely not always possible in such situations in my great-grandparents' time. They were, in most cases, manipulated by the "One Drop Rule" into knowing and keeping "their place". A few may have "passed" for the status and opportunities this afforded them, but they were also looked down upon by family members, friends and others who, even to this day, considered this to be a betrayal of their race. This was my understanding of bi- or multi-racial identity until very recently.

Certainly, most "black" people in this country were/are at least bi-racial if not multi-racial, but in the past to focus on the "Indian" or "Caucasian" aspects of our ancestry was considered borderline delusional as we were, and in many cases still are, perceived as simply "black" (or "African American", if you prefer) no matter how pale our complexions.

Yayoi, you brought to my attention the complexities of loving, respecting and honoring parents who happen to come from different races and/or perhaps religious backgrounds as well, as initiated by other's opinions. Perhaps some of these same kinds of issues could affect the offspring of socio-economically diverse parentage, parents with politically divergent views, etc. In any case, other people's opinions of one's identity, or how you choose to express it, should be just that--not fodder for ongoing frustration with the public's general lack of understanding.

There is a pervasive force in this world that manipulates markets, governments, currencies, etc., and the motto of this diabolic cabal is, as it was a hundred years and more ago, "divide and conquer".

We must be in touch with that which connects us all in a spiritual sense to find the inner strength, the flexibility and understanding to confront this pervasive "evil" if we are to even maintain a trace of our "inalienable rights" and to enjoy any possibility of peace or freedom whatsoever. Dr. Wayne Dyer among others uses the phrase, "What other people think of me is none of my concern." Let not the ignorance (lack of knowledge) on the part of other people become burdens in our lives; there is too much important work to be done.

Peace and many blessings, always.
Bodhi Daphne"

That's Daphne, above, sitting in front of the ArcLight at dusk during my coverage of LAFF.

Peace out, ya'll!

Your Hip Hapa,

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Hapa*Teez Sells T-shirts!

Yay! After only two weeks in cyberspace, Hapa*Teez sold its first order of t-shirts last night. A million thanks to the buyer (who shall remain nameless at this point).

Domo arrigato gozaimashita!

Remember that we're financing our feature film, Watermelon Sushi, through the sales of these t-shirts, and we'd like to give credit to anyone who buys them. If you purchase a Hapa*Teez t-shirt, please contact me so I can verify that your name will appear in the rear crawl credit of our film.

Even though the t-shirt theme is about hapa pride, you don't have to be hapa to buy or wear one. And, if you love a hapa (a child, a partner, a friend), there will soon be several new designs made especially for you--thanks to Brian P. for the suggestion. We hapas do love having the support of our friends. Here's that link:

Above, is a photo of the original Watermelon Sushi cast, left to right: Kathy Chung who played Grandmother Kazuko, Grace Rowe who played Michiko, and Coco Nishiyama who played Mama Junko. Aren't they gorgeous?

That's all for tonight. Tomorrow, we tackle more issues of "war brides" and the "One Drop Rule". Join me, then?

Your Hip Hapa,

Monday, February 25, 2008

More About War Brides

Because of an earlier blog outlining my mother's adventures as a "war bride", I received an email from Michele who is Vice President of the World War II War Brides Association. Here's her website, which is devoted to war brides of every nationality:

Michele is a "war baby" from Belgium.

I also received an email from Erin who handles membership for the World War II War Brides Association. Erin is a "war baby" from Australia.

I'm so thrilled these two women reached out to me because I've been thinking a lot lately about war brides. As much as I like telling the stories of biracial and bicultural children, I also realize that we wouldn't be here if our mothers hadn't taken that huge leap of faith.

For Japanese women like my mother who spoke very little English, the prospect of moving overseas with a man she'd known only a few years must have seemed monumental. That my Moms coped with Southern racism and all the wild elements of Texas (snakes, tarantulas, cockroaches, red bugs, etc.) makes her all the more courageous in my eyes. And, she did it with me as a toddler and my sister as an infant, too. Now, that's what I call strength. While it's true that dodging bombs in Tokyo may have been a little more challenging for her, living in a segregated Texas town without her own family or friends--or anyone who even spoke her language, for that matter--must've been a waking nightmare. My mother used to tell us that she cried every day during her first, horrific year in America.

If any of you out there have some good tales about your own war bride mother, please drop me a line. I'd like to share them with my readers.

And, that's my mother as a young, idealistic woman BT (before Texas) in the photo above.

Your Hip Hapa,

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Eating Asian, Dancing Black

Today as I visited my mother, I was honored with the company of two Japanese and black sisters who live in the area. We'd recently met through the miracle of the Internet when one of the sisters read about my film and contacted me.

Like the dutiful daughters of a Japanese mother that they are, the women came bearing a gift of osenbe (rice crackers) from their Kyoto-born mama. The packaging was quite exquisite. Exclaiming over the beautiful wrapping paper (nobody does wrapping paper better than the Japanese), my mother quickly explained the illustration depicting the man, Genji, who (she snickered) had many "girlfriends". Of course, she meant concubines, but her English isn't always so hot. Nevertheless, we were entertained.

For the next three hours, the two sisters and I were in a state of bliss as we swapped tales of growing up with Japanese mothers and black American fathers. Sharing their family photos with me, my mother and her husband, the ladies were an absolute delight as we sipped green tea and munched on the osenbe.

When the older of the two asked me if I had ever experienced rejection from African Americans, I told her that I had never felt that--that it was Asian Americans who would hold me at arms-distance whenever I appeared at any of their social events. The sister then wondered if my fairly light skin didn't arouse suspicions among black folks if I showed up at their functions.

Thinking about it, I realized that there might have been times when blacks looked at me as if thinking, "Now what is she doing here?" But, as I told the sister, those attitudes never fazed me. I would just think to myself, "Just watch me on the dance floor, fool."

And, it's true. There was one incident I recall that took place in the mid 1980's when my sister and I visited Oakland. We'd heard about a really hip club in Jack London Square, and as we pulled into a parking space, about 3 or 4 brothas surrounded our car, talkin' trash. They were clearly interested in us coming inside the club and their admiring looks encouraged us to strut into that venue as if we owned it--not that we required their compliments. Back then, my sister and I were young and cute, and we knew it, too.

But as we entered the doorway, it seemed as if every pair of eyes in the room turned towards us. Nobody in that club was anything else but black. This was a time when Oakland was fairly segregated. While the men seemed to shrug us off after checking us out for sex appeal, a lot of the women continued to glare at us. I had the feeling they thought we were Mexicans. But my sister and I are not the type to be intimidated by anyone merely staring at us. After all, that had been happening most of our lives followed by the tasteless question, "What are you?" As far as my sister and I were concerned, we were just as black as anyone else and had a right to be in that club.

But more than that, I knew I had the secret formula for assuring acceptance. I knew it was just a matter of time and, sure enough, a gentleman soon asked me to dance. You see, I may tend to look more Asian to most people, and I eat that way, too, but I most definitely dance black.

But aren't those stereotypes, you may well ask. Well, that's a whole other conversation that we'll deal with later.

Thank you Cassie and Doris!

Your Hip Hapa,

P.S. That's my sister and mother together in the photo back in the day. Hey, please, don't forget those t-shirts at

Saturday, February 23, 2008

War Brides Revisited

About that phrase, "war bride"--well; it is redundant, isn't it? I mean, how does one marry a war? It's a lot like that word housewife. Are you the wife of your house? When did the two of you take your vows?

In fact, "war bride" was often derogatorily spat out towards obviously foreign women married to American GI's following WWII. And, sometimes it was used by people who were merely ignorant--like the Caucasian shopkeeper in Texas who greeted my mother with, "Are you a Jap?" He was simply using language acceptable at the time and printed in mainstream newspapers everywhere. Further, he'd never even seen an Asian before. Not that it excuses his idiocy, but my Moms is cool. She tells us that she just laughed at him like she always does when people act stupidly towards her.

There's a lot to acknowledge the brides of war for--like their courage in marrying and mating with men once considered to be an enemy of their country. Not to mention the symbolism of their union looking as if the winner is collecting his spoils. And, for those women who married American military men, moving to a strange land and leaving behind their families has to be tops on the list of brave things to do.

For my mother, coming to Richmond Texas in the 1950's was a shift in consciousness. Evidently, she'd heard the rumors about the streets of America being paved in gold, and may have even wanted to believe it after living through the devastation of her country. So, not surprisingly, she was ill-prepared for the segregated all-black housing where we ended up--she and I, before my sister was born. My father, still an active soldier then, was stationed 200 miles away and made a trip home only once every two weeks. With a limited ability to speak and understand English (especially the Southern variety), Moms somehow managed to keep my sister and me clean, well-fed, safe and entertained in that small Texas town. That clever girl even had friends sending her Japanese food--from New Jersey!

Even today, Moms still tells the tales of how she once fended off a snake that crawled over her feet after my sister, then a baby, awakened screaming one night. And, there's the story of how my paternal grandmother attempted to teach her how to wring a chicken's neck. Finding it a repugnant chore, Moms nervously attempted to cover the chicken's head in newspaper--like a blindfold--as if preventing the poor creature from seeing its executioner. But no matter how much Moms twisted, turned and swung that poor chicken around by the neck, it still walked when it landed--its head securely fastened. So, my mother changed her tactics and stepped on the chicken's head instead. By the time, she got the head removed, the muscles had become so stiff with fear that the chicken made a tough fryer. Moms laughs when she tells us how my dad tried to take a bite of drumstick, but had to settle for gnawing at it. (Personally, as a vegan, this story is hard for me to hear. Sob!)

Just like that unfortunate chicken's flesh, those were some tough times in my mother's life. She recalls being with my father's relatives one day when they were all catching a bus. As our kin climbed aboard single file, the Caucasian driver stopped my mother and waved towards our black relatives already in their seats at the rear. Smiling conspiratorially, he told Moms, "Oh, you don't have to go to the back with them." I guess he reckoned that with Mom's skin only a shade darker than his, she was qualified to ride up front with the likes of his hillbilly self.

Oh, there's more--the tarantulas covering the screen door every morning, the red bugs that ate us up so badly we looked like ashy ghosts in calamine lotion suits, and the rednecks that we didn't dare speak to first nor look directly in the eye. Backwoods Texas was the hell my mother thought she'd descended to on her very first trip to the U.S. as the bride of a war.

There's her photo, above, taken while she was pregnant with my sister.

Your Hip Hapa,

P.S. Don't forget to go here for some hip hapa Hapawood stars:

Friday, February 22, 2008

Tabasco v. Wasabi

I don't know 'bout ya'll, but in our humble abode we always had two kinds of hot sauces sittin' up on that dining room table. As you know by now, my father hails from Texas and my Moms from Japan. Since both of them love spicy food, my sister and I were exposed at any early age to all the hot stuff our stomachs and tongues could bear. Which was a lot. Especially for kids.

I remember that way back in the day, before Fritos became so popular, there was a snack called Chili Chips. A lot of children didn't care for them because they were so peppery, but my sister and I would lick our fingers clean of the powdery, red hot residue that inevitably covered our hands.

Since my dad's parents owned a barbecue joint, our family also ate lots of homemade hot sausages that my grandmother would send us via the U.S. post office from Texas. Now that I'm vegan (and veggie for over 25 years), I can't even imagine how I used to stuff myself with all that pork that my grandparents butchered themselves. Folks would come from near and far to taste my grandfather's barbecue sauce--a truly spicy concoction.

But the Texa-cans were never outdone by the Nipponese in our household. My Moms could out-sweat all of us while she slurped boiling hot udon (noodles) sprinkled with seven-spice pepper. Then, there was the wasabi (Japanese horseradish mustard). Squeezing a tube full of the green stuff, Moms would use the end of her ohashi (chopstick) to gather a tiny bit before swirling it into shoyu (soy sauce). She'd caution us about how hot it was, but my sister and I were hardheaded and always put more on our food than we could stand--causing our sinuses to become raw, but exhilarated.

It's really hard to say which of the two was hotter--the tabasco that we dumped all over our meat and side dishes, or the wasabi we'd dip our tempura, sushi, and gohan (rice) into. Like all good Japanese, we ate rice at every meal--even if Moms cooked burgers in buns that night.

This need for heating of the mouth even affected members of our family that came later. I remember when my sister's kid was about 2 or 3, and the three of us had lunch at a Thai restaurant. My sister, who was ordering for all of us, told the waitress what we wanted and added, "I want three stars, my sister wants four, and no stars for him," she finished pointing to her son. Upon hearing that pronouncement, the poor child looked as if he was ready to burst into tears. Choking and sniffing, he blurted, "I want stars!" Of course, he thought that we were getting the celestial variety and didn't want to be left out. But to the kid's credit, he did end up eating his phad thai that day replete with several stars' worth of heat. And, to this day, he is carrying on our family legacy of hot, spicy eating. That's him, an adult now in the photo above, about to grease big time on Moms' cooking.

So, how many stars can you handle? Talk to me. Let me know about some of the unusual cultural combinations your family shared at the dinner table. That Watermelon Sushi comes in many flavas, ya know.

Your Hip Hapa,

Oh, and don't forget that we've got some really hip hapa t-shirts at

And, to learn more about my Texas grandparents and their b-b-q joint, read their story in the anthology Brothers and Others. Email me for more information:

Thursday, February 21, 2008

War! What Is It Good For? Absolutely, Uh, Something!

Earlier, I wrote about the tensions between Japanese in Nippon v. the J/A's (Japanese Americans) in the U.S. Even though I slammed Mr. Sulu for his snide remarks about how I pronounced my name, I didn't mean to make light of the issue of Nipponese v. J/A's. Certainly, there is much to be said about the suffering on both sides.

J/A's languished behind the barbed wire of interment camps and were separated from family and friends, lost careers, property, and--most important of all in Asian culture--face. The Japanese in Nippon, also lost face along with millions of innocent lives in Hiroshima and Nagasaki which were destroyed by American atomic bombs. My own mother, living in Tokyo at the time, often found herself racing towards a bomb shelter to avoid the constant rain of B52 bombs dropped by Americans. One day, she arrived at work only to find her office in shambles; completely demolished by bombing.

No one ever really wins a war. The devastation comes not only in the loss of lives, but also in the deeply psychological pain that often lingers following the trauma of war.

But if there's any kind of light at the end of the tunnel to be celebrated, it's the births of thousands of mixed-race babies who would've never been born had it not been for a war somewhere. So, war can be a kind of cultural bridge, too.

Who would've ever thought that an African American man from the South, whose ancestors were brought in chains from a place he has no recollection of, would end up marrying a Japanese woman whose own sad personal history made her eligible to move to America? And, who would've ever thought that a spirited and artistic Japanese woman would marry a man who should've been considered a representative of the enemy of her people?

But it happened. And, it happened to many others like my parents. It happened to Germans and Italians, too. One of my best friends in high school had a French mother and Swedish American soldier father who had met his bride while he was stationed in Europe. Another had an Austrian mother and Caucasian American father. War brides are what they called these women, but they were so much more. They were brave souls who struggled to recover from the devastation of war and, if that meant marrying a stranger from a strange land, whether or not love fit into the equation, so be it. I'm sure most of those women loved the men they ended up with, but who among us can say how we would behave romantically after losing our families, friends, countries, and even our hope.

About 3/4's of the kids I knew while our family lived at Ft. Lewis were either Japanese and black or Japanese and Caucasian, and German and black or German and Caucasian. Quite frankly, if it hadn't been for a war, I wouldn't be me.

Still, it's too bad that it takes a war to bring some folks together. Perhaps in the future, people will make an effort to not segregate into tribes and, in the words of Bob Marley, "Spread out! Spread out!"

Cool runnin's, ya'll.

Your Hip Hapa,

P.S. That's me and Moms, above, with her bike in Tokyo many moons ago.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lovely Lunar Light Shall Never Fade

"Hey! Didja see the eclipse?!?," everyone around me shouted as I maneuvered from work to home to yoga class and back to home today. As I gazed up at the night sky (what sky?--all I saw were annoying city lights), I was struck dumb by this simple act of Nature that was totally unhampered by MAN. At least for that moment it was. Behold, the vision I encountered was lovely.

First, I watched Ms. Moon as Mother Earth's shadow cast a smoky red glow over her right side. Then, I went into the yoga studio. When I came out, Mother Earth's shadow was much darker (as was the night), and was creeping up on Ms. Moon from underneath. What a scene! This moment shall live eternally.

Meanwhile, I received several questions about my father after my posting yesterday. To learn more about African American soldiers during WWII, you could start by reading an essay I wrote about my dad in 2000. Here are links to comments that were made about the anthology, Brothers and Others, that I published then:

And, that's me with Papa Legba, above. Alafia!

Bon nuit.

Your Hip Hapa,

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Life Is Worth Waiting For

For a Southern black man like my father, watching Barack Obama inch closer to the Democratic nomination is a big deal. In fact, it's monumental.

Born in 1927, my dad joined the military in order to leave behind a life divided by black and white. In the backwoods Texas town where he grew up, both blacks and Mexicans were lynched without any intervention by local law enforcement. His escape was the U.S. Army, but what he found there was just more more segregation.

Forced into the "colored" unit, he thought it ironic to be stationed in countries like the Philippines, Japan and Korea where the locals didn't even know that they should be prejudiced against blacks since they'd never seen any before. But the military bigwigs took care of that by imposing their own racism on the natives. By designating which local eateries should feed only whites, and which ones only blacks, they guaranteed that Americans wouldn't be the only folks imposing segregation by race.

In the 81 years since my father's birth, major changes have taken place in this country. As a kid, my dad (along with all of his schoolmates) was forced to pick cotton without pay by local Caucasian plantation owners. Today, my father can look at a television set and see someone near his skin shade running in the primary for the presidency of the U.S.

Sometimes life is worth waiting for.

Your Hip Hapa,

P.S. That's my father in the photo above in his Army days.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Prez Day

On this day in observation of presidents (originally Washington and Lincoln), I'd like to wish all the boys and girls of color everywhere the opportunity to grow up to become president someday. Which country, it matters not, but perhaps it will be our growing Hapa Nation.

Night ya'll.

Your Hip Hapa,

P.S. Check out Ralph Nader (under red umbrella) and Pete Seeger (in denim), above, in D.C. Thanks for taking me there, Joe C.!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

It's The Japanese Electric Slide!

Watching the popular singing show, Nodojiman, every Sunday on NHK always trips me out. Featuring amateur crooners attired in homemade costumes and singing songs ranging from traditional Japanese standards to convoluted, Western-influenced, but clearly Asian-style R&B-cum-pop, the show makes for a highly entertaining morning.

Twenty singers (or singing groups) compete with each other to become "champion" (the word is spoken in English and not Japanese by the announcer), but it's never quite clear what the prize is. But then again, in Japanese culture, it's enough just to win whether or not a statue or award is ever presented. Ichiban!

One at a time, the singer announces his or her number in the line-up before belting out a tune for a few minutes. Before s/he is finished, the judges ring some chimes either once, twice or many, many times. One chime means you were really horrible and you should probably go home and commit seppuku now that you've shamed the entire nation. Two chimes are for those who performed well, but weren't exactly the next Japanese idol. And, of course, multiple chimes means you're in like Flint.

At the end of the show, all the contestants who received many, many chimes stand together in front of the others to be judged on who was the best of all. A special mention and plaque is granted to a particular act that put on a really original show even if their singing stank. Often, there's a mother-daughter or a father-son duo, or even a bunch-of-guys-who-work-together act.

The audience, which includes the other contestants sitting in chairs onstage, is highly involved in supporting each other. Everyone enthusiastically claps along to the singing; albeit a clapping that seems off-beat to my Afrikan sense of rhythm. Lots of family members show up to support their relatives, too, bringing along elaborate banners displaying messages while they yell out their encouragement.

After the singer has been chimed once, twice or thrice and more, the MC asks him or her for their name and some personal info. I hear the words okasan (mother) and otosan (father) often in the conversations so I'm sure the singers are being asked about their families.

One thing about the Japanese, they're so respectful toward their elders. Even though some of the participants are horribly off-key, anyone over 80 usually becomes a finalist as if the judges are saying, "We honor you for making it to 80 and still having the nerve to act a fool on stage."

Besides pure-blooded Japanese competitors, there have been several singers who were Caucasian or of black Afrikan descent. I once saw a brotha who blew everyone else away with his amazing pipes (he sang in Japanese, of course). But I knew his style of soulful singing wouldn't be considered traditionally Japanese and would be held against him. Japanese singing is different. I can't really explain it, but the expressions and inflections that are valued are uniquely Japanese. The brotha was just too brotha-ish for those Japanese judges, even though they acknowledged his talent by making him a finalist.

In the months that I've viewed Nodojiman, I've seen everything from a woman turning continuous cartwheels in the background as her partner sang a touching ballad to a woman wearing a firefighter's yellow rubber outfit as she warbled a tune. It seems that the winner is often a skinny, young girl with a huge, powerful voice and disheveled hair that cries out for a stylist.

I'm telling you, this show is riveting. I understand that it began as a radio program in 1945, and that the producers now travel all over Japan to select contestants from different prefectures so that everyone in the country has a chance to participate. Nodojiman has also spawned several singers that went on to become huge stars in Japan.

Today, as one of the guest star singers (a pro who appears on the show regularly) led everyone onstage in a dance to the song he was singing, I was struck by a sense of familiarity. As I watched intently trying to decipher the lyrics of the song, I realized that the dancing folks appeared to be doing the electric slide! Perhaps, you've attended an o-bon festival and have seen the line dances I'm referring to. Think about it. See, what I mean? I'm telling you, it's the electric slide!

More and more, I'm seeing the similarities between Japanese and Afrikan cultures. Watermelon Sushi, ya'll.

Your Hip Hapa,

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Back To Biracial Bizness

After five straight hours of talking, I'm exhausted. What was supposed to have been a 20-minute videotaping of a young Japanese-Caucasian American teenager turned into an all afternoon gab fest with his cool white mother. Now in her 40's, Mary (not her real name) told me about growing up in the Northwest with relatively no racial awareness. Her Danish grandfather, she said, taught her that all people were the same, and that America was a place where everyone should mix together. Taking his words to heart, she married a Japanese man, produced two gorgeous children, and now hosts foreign students of all ethnicities in her comfortable home. Determined to do her part in making the world an accepting place for all races, Mary told me that being bussed in high school was the best education she ever had. Imagine that. Then contrast Mary's experience with those Southern white kids who spat at, and called degrading names out to, black children attempting to integrate their schools. We've come a long way, baby.

And, it's been a long day, so I bid you adieu.

P.S. A happy belated Valentine's Day to Brian P. Thanks for the card (pix above), sweetie!

Your Hip Hapa,

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Name Game And Who's More Japanese, Fool?

On Wednesday, I wrote about my birth name and why I began calling myself Yayoi instead of Lena as my family used to do. As we know, life imitates art and today, during a discussion with coworkers, I was asked to explain the whole March/May, spring flower/early spring sky, Yayoi Clan/bronze bells significance of my Japanese name.

As I did, I suddenly remembered attending an Asian-American, star-studded event some years ago, and being introduced to various celebs at the soiree. Because few people of Japanese descent were in the house, I very carefully enunciated my name (as I do when among those not well-versed in Japanese pronunciation) so that I was repeating, "Hi, my name is YAH-YOH-EE" over and over again. (In Japanese, there is no emphasis on any syllable.)

When I was introduced to George Takei (Star Trek's Mr. Sulu in the photo above), I automatically repeated my mantra. Eying me suspiciously, Mr. Sulu wrinkled his nose and blurted out, "You're not pronouncing your name correctly!" Well, gee, thank you Mr. Second-Generation-born-in-Cali-but-knows-everything-about-Japanese-culture-actor man!

You see, there's been this little ongoing rift between Japan-born Japanese and issei, nissei, sansei, yonsei, ad infinitum. All of those Japanese terms refer to various generations living in America. Issei, derived from the word meaning "first" or "number one" as in ichi, are the first generation that emigrated to the U.S.--like my mother and me. Technically, I'm issei. I wasn't born in America, but in Tokyo; and, Japanese was my first language even though I stopped speaking it by age two. Even with an African American father, I have a more direct link to Japan than Mr. Sulu because my mother is uber Japanese and has never stopped sharing her customs and culture with me and my sister. Yet anyone seeing both Mr. Sulu and me on the streets together is going to proclaim him more Japanese than me.

Which reminds me: I was in Little Tokyo (J-town, Los Angeles) with a sansei (Third Generation) actress friend one night when we decided to eat at a Japanese restaurant. When I opened the menu, I saw natto (fermented soybeans) listed, and promptly exclaimed, "Oh, look! They have natto (pronounced nah-thoh)! "What's natto (she pronounced it gnat-toe)?" my friend asked. I just sighed.

Back to that rift. The Japanese in Japan oftentimes look at the Japanese who left for America as traitors, especially since the Japanese in Japan fought the U.S. during WWII. As for J/A's (Japanese Americans), a lot of them resented Japan attacking Pearl Harbor as they struggled for acceptance in the U.S. Because Americans had a hard time separating the Japanese in Japan who started the war from J/A's who were American citizens, the unfortunate consequence was that J/A's were rounded up and put in prison camps. Of course, time heals and, although people aren't as angry now, there's still a sense that prevails in Japan that J/A's abandoned their own country.

Actually, I find it amusing that a J/A like Mr. Sulu felt the need to correct me. He probably saw right off that I wasn't a 100%er, and automatically assumed I didn't know anything about his culture. But, I bet I know a whole lot more than he does about Yoshitsune, Genji tales, and old Edo. What, are you kiddin' me? My Moms is a storyteller who can't stop talking. Even if you're busy and clearly doing something important, she will boldly interrupt to talk about some significant point in her life (like when she used to heave her baby sister upon her back and run really fast so that the unfortunate asthmatic kid would gasp non-stop).

Really, though, my Moms is cool. And, she still tells many fascinating tales of Shogun v. Tenno, the 47 ronin (master-less samurai), and Benke, Yoshitsune's vassal whose statue graces a bridge in Japan. When the taiga drama series featuring Shinsengumi aired a few years ago on NHK, I was riveted--having already heard of the rogue cops' adventures from my mother.

Moms also talks about entitled samurai who tested the sharpness of their swords on unsuspecting citizens late at night. She claims the victims would walk city blocks before realizing that one of their arms had been sliced off from their shoulder. That's how sharp those swords were, and how swift the samurai would strike as they strolled past their innocent targets.

Before anyone in America even knew what a ninja was, my mother demonstrated to us how the mercenaries would literally disappear by jumping high into a tree to hide. Of course, she herself didn't jump into a tree, but she'd hop into the air to show us. (You had to be there.)

On a more personal tip, Moms loves telling about the time she put her hand through a paper wall (typical in Japanese homes when she was growing up) after suddenly standing when she'd been sitting on her knees for hours (her legs had fallen asleep). Now, that is pure Japanese. I bet Mr. Sulu never sat on his knees in his life.

Truthfully, I have no quarrel with Mr. Sulu, or anyone either J/A (Japanese American) or straight-up Nihonji. I'm just saying that just because you happen to LOOK more Japanese than me, it don't mean a thang.

And, to answer that question that's always on people's lips after they realize what my last name is--yes, I AM related to Oprah. I'm sure I am. I just wish the sistah would realize it. Say, Oprah, if you're reading this, do you know that you have half-Japanese cousins, cuz?


Your Hip Hapa,

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Sistahs Do Think! And, The Skin We're In

Please check out the comments left below the heading, What Do Sistahs Think? Here, two very intelligent and rational black women discuss their feelings upon seeing "their men" with women of other races.

Black women, more than any other group, are still shunned by media when it comes to being celebrated for their beauty. When I say "black women", I mean women who are considered black because their skin is a richer brown than, say, Beyonce Knowles. It's still a sad fact that we live under a caste system where people are judged by the shade of color they happen to be born with--something they have absolutely no control over!

I remember when sistahs in South Africa were dousing themselves with chlorine bleach in the hopes of attaining lighter skin and, by doing so, becoming more acceptable. To whom, I wanted to scream? But we know who.

Someday, I hope we can look back to see that our ancestors didn't suffer in vain. That will be the day when we're all treated equally regardless of the skin we're in.


Your Hip Hapa,

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What's In A Name?

Although I was born Yayoi Lena Winfrey, my parents called me only by my middle name, Lena, until I was old enough (at 33) to reclaim my birth name. Actually, I was going to art school at the time. While redefining who I was, Yayoi seemed a better fit than Lena.

Now, don't get me wrong. Lena is a nice name. It was my paternal grandmother's nickname although her given name was Eleanor (how anyone got Lena from that--well, it's just a black thang.) But back to art school and finding myself; I just felt Yayoi was more definitive of who I was becoming so I began demanding that everyone call me that--even when they couldn't pronounce it.

The story goes that when my mother chose my name at my birth, the Japanese doctors who delivered me laughed at her. In case you don't know, the Japanese are very specific people. That's why they make such good cars. The kanji used to write Yayoi has meaning that connects it to the spring season, but it's not just any old time during spring. It's early spring. Thus, Yayoi translates into an early spring sky which occurs in March. If you tell a Japanese person that your name is Yayoi, they will automatically assume that you were born in March. But, sigh, my rebel mother (remember, she married an "enemy" of her people) had me in May, and refused to budge when those doctors made fun of her. Giving your May baby a March name in Japan is akin to naming your September-born daughter June. It confuses.

Over the years, discussions with my volatile mother led me to believe that Yayoi meant "spring flower". But one day she changed her mind, explaining to me that the meaning is in the kanji and the condition of the sky was more significant. I mentioned this to her Caucasian husband who then emailed me a link leading to the historical significance of my name.

Yayoi, it seems, was actually a clan of people in Japan believed to have originated in China. Arriving on the Nippon islands about 2,000 years ago, they were the first to cultivate rice there. They were also incredible artists and made the first bronze temple bells. Wow. Can you dig it? I can because I love the sound of temple bells!

Recently, I read that the Ainu, the indigenous folks of Japan, were sort of pitted against the Yayoi, but the Yayoi won. To this day, the Ainu are ostracized in Japan.

Here's a guide to pronouncing my name:
Yah (with a short "a" sound), yoh (with a long "o" sound), and ee (with a long "e" sound).

Your Hip Hapa,

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Answering Children's Questions About Race

Greetings! Once again, it's your biracial bloggerette here to champion our cause.

Below is an email I received a couple of weeks ago from the concerned mother of a biracial son. It's truly heartbreaking that people will judge this mother's child based on his skin color. But the difference between what his life will be and what mine was, is that his parents are being proactive early in his life so as to minimize the psychological damage that could potentially occur. For that, I salute this woman!

But before I giver her my answer, I invite you readers to leave your comments. Check back here periodically to stay updated on this topic:


I am currently a senior at the University of North Texas, and am writing a paper on a discriminated population. I was very excited to get to work on this piece because I knew exactly what group I was passionate about. I chose to research and write about biracial people in the United States. My son is one of them. I am a white 24 year-old woman and his father is African American. Our son is prominently darker than me and obviously mixed with another race. The majority of the time I do not think about our differences because he is my son and he is perfect. But recently, it was brought to my attention when we were at the grocery store and my three year-old son shouted, "Look, Mommy! She has black like me!" He said this with great excitement as he pointed to his arm. I didn't catch on until I looked at the little African American girl he was referring to. It was so innocent and so precious to me that my son is starting to realize that there are different races out there, and not everyone is the same. I desperately want my son (and any potential children I have) to be well-rounded in both their heritages. What I am getting at, is how I can make sure that is happening as I raise him? What did your parents do when you were faced with being called the awful "n" word? Thank you for all that you do to advocate.

Devin Gorton"

Your Hip Hapa,

Monday, February 11, 2008

What Do Sistahs Think?

The question I'd like to put forth to the sistahs, i.e., women of black Afrikan descent, is this:

How do you feel when you see a brotha with a woman of another race? With so few black men available these days, it's said that black women resent race-mixing because it cuts into their chances for relationships with the few brothas left.

Do you believe that, sistah?

Talk to me.

Your Hip Hapa,

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Fame Is Fleeting... please check out this link now, while you can:

Please let me know what you think. I truly appreciate your comments.

Mahalo nui loa.

Your Hip Hapa,

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Pix That Got Away (Rae Dawn Chong)

Black Women/Yellow Men

With all the recent activity around Watermelon Sushi, the line of Hapa*Teez t-shirts, and a short documentary about biracial people that I'm producing, I feel stuck in a racial rut. I can't stop thinking about race! Whenever someone mentions Obama, I want to talk about his ethnic heritage--not about his candidacy. If I'm not writing about race, I'm drawing it, or filming it, or discussing it. Perhaps all of this race reflecting will lead to a cleansing of sorts, like being purified after walking through a fire.

As I was contemplating racial matters today, I remembered reading once that the two most maligned groups in the U.S. were black women and Asian men. The author had suggested that individuals from both groups should begin to seriously consider hooking up with each other since both were being left behind in the marriage game. Black women have one of the highest statistics for never marrying at all, and it seems Asian men are rapidly catching up.

Well, first of all, if you think that marriage is the be-all, end-all, to life, then you've been watching too many soap operas. But, seriously, if a close personal relationship with the opposite sex is something that you really desire and want to manifest in your life, and you're either a straight African American female or a straight Asian American male, you might want to consider your odds with each other.

Why are these two disparate groups being painted as undesirable? Well, I blame the media. Black women are often portrayed as being unfeminine, aggressive, loud and having loose morals while men of Asian descent aren't even visible--especially, older Asian men. Why is that we see Asian American women newscasters on every TV channel, but not their male counterparts? And, why are black women handed such a one-dimensional portrait by the media?

The answers are too long to delve into at the moment, but, of course, it all points to racism. One of the reasons black women outnumber black men in the marriage pool is simply because so many brothers are locked up or living lives of crimes (including doing drugs) that make them undesirable husbands--some of which is directly related to racism. Asian men, on the other hand, have been doused with the image of a stern, sexless math wiz. Hardly the type an ordinary heterosexual woman would find hot or cuddly.

So, what about it? Sistahs are you ready to consider a nice Asian brotha as your beloved? How about you Asian men? Are you in the market for a decent black woman? Personally, I'd like to know more about black women and yellow men together.

Any comments?

Above is an old photo of me with Rae Dawn Chong--whose half-Irish, half-Chinese father (Tommy Chong) married her African-Canadian mother.

Your Hip Hapa,

Friday, February 08, 2008

Hapa*Teez Hits Cyberspace!

At last! After months of delays, my Watermelon Sushi store is finally opened for business and my Hapa*Teez t-shirts are for sale. Just for you, I've created three designs splayed across the top of several styles of t's all using the word hapa.

Now, about that word that some communities like to claim as their own. Personally, I feel that it belongs to all of us blendies. Originally, the Hawai'ians used it to mean "half" as in a measurement. And, it was traditionally linked with the word haole--a combination of ha (life's breath) and ole (nothing); literally, "he without breath". You see, the first Europeans arriving on the scene looked much too pale to the Natives to contain any ha or life's breath, and because they didn't prostrate themselves before the King and expel their last ha as was the custom, the Hawai'ians figured they had none. Thus, haole. And, please, don't mispronounce it by saying howlie as if you're referring to a wolf or something. Instead, try "hah" "oh" "leh". Ah, much better.

As Europeans began marrying Hawai'ians, their offspring were called hapa haole--half European. Then, with the arrival of East Asians, even more intermarrying occurred. Soon, Native Hawai'ians could boast few among them as being pure blood. The hapa haole phrase then became more applicable to those who were half Asian and half white.

Like I said, I use hapa to describe anyone who is biracial. Half is half of any race as far as I'm concerned.

So, please check out my store at:

I know some of the prices are a bit much, but believe me my commission is not. On a serious tip, I hope my Hapa*Teez t's grow so huge in popularity that I'll be able to finance my feature film this year. If that's the case, I'll give an onscreen credit to all of you who buy them.

Another project I'm currently working on is a short documentary about hapas. So, if you're biracial and have a story to share onscreen, contact me at

And, here's a shout-out to my SWIRL girl, Jen Chau. You can read her blog at or check out to connect with the largest mixed-race organization on Planet Earth!

Next up, Mia G updates the website with new photos of Kool Mo Dee and Chuck D at Studio 52 in LA where we watched Mo Dee tape his new TV pilot, this past November.

And, I'll keep you posted about that newspaper article featuring hapas (including yours truly) that should be published this weekend.


Your Hip Hapa,

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

That's omedeto gozaimasu in Japanese, hau'oli makahiki hou in Hawai'ian, and Happy New Year in English. Welcome to the Year of the Earth Rat! Let's hope that all of our entrepreneurial dreams manifest into solid, material reality in this fresh time. (For insurance, remember to clean your stoves and hang a mirror behind it to reflect extra burners--the more burners, the more money to burn!)

Speaking of fresh, as I left yoga class today, I was NOT thinking about race at all. You know, yoga does have that effect on you even when you're a double-minority surrounded by the dominant majority as I currently am. Anyway, as I entered a supermarket to purchase orange juice (non-concentrated so that the vitamins are still intact), a young Caucasian woman (again, I wasn't thinking race--this is an afterthought) attempted to hand me a flyer offering a free Valentine Day's card if I purchased three. Refusing, I explained to her that I was an artist who made my own. Instead of being angry, she was overjoyed because, she told me, she was a musician and singer who writes her own tunes. When I uttered the word "artist", it sealed an unspoken spiritual connection between the two of us and, for the next 20 minutes, we engaged in an inspiring discussion of just what it means to be a creative person in this world. During our talk, we both expressed our frustrations about having to perform work that we didn't like just to earn a living. And, it's not just about doing meaningless work, it's also about not having any time left to express the natural talents that we possess.

Here, this lovely creature was handing out flyers in a grocery store instead of sitting at her Mac and mixing sounds. As I revealed some of the challenges surrounding my film, Watermelon Sushi, she told me about her aspirations to cut a record deal. Then, she relayed a story about how she was casually listening to her TV the other night when she heard a familiar song. Shocked, she realized that it was one that she had written and licensed to MTV. She had been so thrilled hearing it then, yet today she found herself standing in the cold draft of a chain store handing out coupons to shoppers. I had few words of comfort to offer the girl. You see, I'd done similar gigs (and worse) just to pay the rent--all the while resenting the time spent working at jobs I didn't want while putting my REAL work on the back burner to deal with late at night, on weekends or on holidays.

Even though our conversation veered towards the depressing, it felt good to link up with someone who still believes in herself. I walked away feeling uplifted, and ready to tackle more creativity.

One of my many upcoming creative projects is a documentary about mixed-race people. I'd like to get a good cross section of ethnicities, ages, and sexual preferences. As with most documentary projects, it's hard to predict exactly how these stories will unfold. However, I'm interested in all aspects of multiracial stories. For instance; how your parents met and the kind of challenges they faced for crossing racial lines; what your early life was like and any repercussions you encountered in your environment. Also, how you identify racially, and why.
So, if any of you knows a biracial person who would like to share his or her thoughts onscreen, please let me know. You can find me at:

Meanwhile, I send you all creative vibes. That's me above with two of my illustrations sitting on the futon. Both pieces feature palm trees, and one has a Rastaman playing a guitar. Irie.

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Your Hip Hapa,

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Solar Eclipse

Aloha, again. Well, it seems the solar eclipse of today has me in a funk.

An Aquarius Sun blocked by a New Moon in Aquarius ought to bring innovative ideas to the forefront. Alas, my Sun is squared by those two celestial bodies, so it will be business as usual tomorrow.

Meanwhile, stay tuned for the launch of Hapa*Teez t-shirts for mixed-race folks and their friends. Tomorrow. I promise.

Your Hip Hapa,

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Who Will See Watermelon Sushi?

It's late, but I wanted to pose a question to all you conscious mixed-race people (and your friends) out there.

Earlier this evening, I attended a press screening of Martin Lawrence's new film, Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins. The premise is that Jenkins, a highly successful reality show host, returns home after 9 years in Hollywood for his parents' anniversary. However, since they are country folk (the word is synonymous with "ignorant" in Ebonics), they've never appreciated his prosperity. Jenkins arrives with his high maintenance fiancee and neglected son amidst a mess of a family reunion. There's Cedric The Entertainer as Clyde (Roscoe's orphaned cousin) who has always competed with him and who always won every competition between the two men. Mo'nique plays Roscoe's loud-mouthed, overweight, and over-sexed sassy sister lusting for her own cousin while Michael Duncan is Roscoe's backwoods sheriff brother with husky, overfed children. And, so forth.

But as unsophisticated as those film characters were, I was more astounded by the screening audience--a large group of mostly black folks who got free passes to the show. I counted no less than three baby strollers (why would anyone take a baby to a movie?) and at least a dozen children under the age of 15 (the film is PG-13). Is it responsible parenting to expose your kids to dogs having sex for pleasure? Further, cursing and partial nudity was a frequent occurrence. Sadly, at the end of the screening, the theater was totally littered with trash.

Looking back, I'm hard pressed to say which of the two groups was louder, cruder, or more foul-mouthed. I mean, that audience truly reflected the people up on that silver screen.

My question to you, then, is this: If a film reflects its audience and vice versa, who will come see Watermelon Sushi?

Your Hip Hapa,

Monday, February 04, 2008

Remembering Racial Moments

I call them Racial Moments because, like most mixed-race folks, I don't tend to think about race all day long. Of course, I do right now because of my film, chapbook, upcoming musical, t-shirts, and comic strip all involving biracial issues. But, under normal circumstances, much like the average mono-racial person, I'm just me. Having made that clear, I do confess to experiencing, now and then, a Racial Moment--a memory of something significant that's steeped in race.

At a meeting this evening, conducted by an arts organization promising to fund worthy projects, I was casually taking notes on how to apply for artists' grants when one of the speakers walked in. I recognized him as a local filmmaker who, upon being introduced to me in the past, had promptly turned his face. Although he is one of my mother's people, I felt that he may have been showing his disapproval of her choice in a mate by ignoring me, the result of that union. I'll never know because I never asked him.

But if that is the case, this man would be shocked to learn that not only did my mother, a first-generation Japanese woman, marry a black American soldier, but later, when he divorced her, paired up with a Caucasian air force retiree. Clearly, my mother holds no animosity towards any racial group. But neither is she unique among so-called Japanese war brides. In fact, I remember growing up on military bases after World War II when many of our neighbors were Japanese and German women married to both black and white American soldiers. Additionally, many of the folks in our 'hood were Filipinos, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans--all who joined the U.S. military in a move towards American citizenship. It was an idyllic, multicultural time when no one ever asked, "What are you?"

But, back to my mother. I remember the times when she and her Japanese girlfriends would stay up all night while their men were "in the field". The soldiers were sometimes away for days, training outdoors somewhere. Meanwhile, these seemingly delicate women would gather at one lady's house and, while sipping whiskey or green tea, smoke cigarettes and play hanafuda--a Japanese game using tiny, colorful cards. If Emiko was there with her front gold tooth and permed hair, we'd eventually hear her raspy voice yelling at her two half-black boys, "Stee-bee! Lay-mon!" Although their names were Stevie and Raymond, it was the best she could muster. Her pre-teen boys were always fighting and forcing poor Emiko to shout at regular intervals, "Lee-bee lone, I say!" It was her attempt at telling them, "Leave him alone, I'm telling you." Like his father, Stevie was tall and large-boned while his younger brother, Raymond, was frail and light-skinned. I always liked Emiko. For some unknown reason, she often wore a Chinese dress (if you know anything about China, Japan and WWII, you'd be puzzled, too). Even though Emiko gave off a vibe that said she could take down a sumo wrestler, her heart was tender. I felt sorry for her because of her bad boys. Sometimes I think she wished she had two gentle girls like my mother's, but I don't think she was ever sorry that her children were half-black.

But that's how it was with my mother's friends. Those Japanese ladies were so blase about their mixed-race children. They might've fussed over their nappy heads, but they were never derogatory or demeaning in their speech or actions towards them. They loved their children no matter how much their skin or facial features differed from their own. My mother didn't look at me or my sister with repulsion and think, "Yuk! What's up with their hair?" Of course, she had some difficulty in managing our locks, and I do recall her being distressed whenever we wanted to leave it loose in what she referred to as "making hair so bushy". But her remarks were never directed towards us with any sense of racial superiority.

Which brings me back to that filmmaker. Some would venture that when Asian American men see mixed-race Asian children that aren't theirs, it may remind them that their women are mating with men of other races in droves. The last time I checked, out-marriage rates among Japanese American women were at 80%. And, if the Asian man is not an American, there may be some residue of resentment--a reminder that their side lost the war and their women became the spoils. As horrible as it sounds, the reality is that women often become brides of their enemies because their own homes are so devastated, leaving them with no choice but to start all over in the winner's country.

But memories can never be destroyed. And, I will always cherish mine of sneaking into the dining room to watch my mother and her Japanese girlfriends play hanafuda. While billows of cigarette smoke hovered over them, they'd munch crunchy osenbe and speak in rapid-fire Japanese, all the while loudly laughing and slapping those cards down on the towel-covered table. Every once in awhile, a mixed kid with dark brown skin or straight, blondish hair would enter the room whining about something, and the mother would casually reach out to comfort her child.

Your Hip Hapa,

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Aloha, Again

It's late in the evening (or early in the morning depending on your lifestyle) as I compose today's entry. So, I'm going to keep it short as I still have much work in front of me on this never-ending night.

However, I do want to drop a comment about the presidential race as it seems to be affecting everyone around me. And, most of the folks I'm talkin' 'bout aren't even politically aware. Actually, I think it's a good thing that people are super-charged by the campaigning even though a lot of them are flinging around a bunch of half-truths and rumors. Still, the alternative--what's referred to as voter apathy--is worse.

So, again, I would like to pose this question: What do you think about Obama identifying (it's been reported) as an African American as opposed to calling himself biracial? Here's a huge opportunity for us mixed-race people to jump in America's face to make our presence known. Do any of you have any ideas, suggestions or remarks regarding this issue?

Don't you all answer at once. And, please don't forget those Hapa*Teez t-shirts are coming soon.

Until tomorrow, Namaste.

Your Hip Hapa,

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Stayin' Widdit

Unlike in the past (I know, I know), I'm challenging myself to blog daily--so, here goes.

Earlier this week, I was interviewed by a local newspaper reporter writing an article about biracial people followed by a genuine studio photo shoot. As I went through the process of bringing myself into this mixed-race frame of mind (as you blendies know, we don't go around focused on being mixed 24/7), I realized I had too much to say on the subject to keep it short. Indeed, the phone interview spanned some 1-2 hours. I just couldn't stop talking!

Besides the usual negative stuff--society at large identifying mixed-race folks according to what they look like physically--I also had some positive observations to share, i.e., being biracial means having two cultures to draw from which can make life pretty darn interesting, especially if you enjoy eating collard greens with inarizushi.

Only the weekend before, I got into a heated bickering session with an actress pal who identifies herself as African American. During our conversation, I brought up the "Obama dilemma"--that he (and others) has chosen to call himself black as opposed to biracial--and, I cited the One Drop Rule as the reason (more on that in another blog). Well, my friend (like many African Americans) was not happy with my assessment. Hey, as proud as I am of being black, I'm also proud of my Asian ancestry, and I'd never dream of excluding my mother from the credits in the creation of "the me who I am today". My actress buddy was not having it so I opted out by telling her, "I don't argue about biracial issues with monoracial folks." As mortified as she was, she would've felt the same had a Caucasian person attempted to tell her what black is/was/will be. Yet she had no problem telling me what biracial is/was/should be.

(In another blog, I'll address why African Americans get so upset when hapa black people want to claim the other side of their identity.)

It's really interesting to note how mixed-race people, generally, are able to transcend group affiliations, and that's the way it should be. Had it always been that way, slavery of a certain race of people could never happen. If folks didn't have the capability of separating by ethnicity, they could never deem one group superior over another. I'm not advocating that a biracial world population is the answer to a better planet, but when humans can't bunch up together according to race and pit one group against another (which is usually the case--pitting, that is), there just might be a chance for understanding and harmony. Even if there isn't, even if we end up segregating ourselves by other categories (like those who wear red versus those sporting blue), we will at least have a sense of what all races share in common.

Now, culturally, there may be differences. Based on my own experiences, I find Japanese society to be highly organized and systematic. I understand it because part of that is inside of me, cultivated by my issei (first generation Japanese) mom. On the other hand, I also feel a strong sense of music which often releases itself without inhibition. I recognize that as an outward expression present in many African cultures. And, that is also inside of me, thanks to my dad. So, what to do? Repress one of those urges to the detriment of the other? Hey, I'm hip to both of them because I am both of them. Two races, two cultures, two ways of being, but one person.

In closing today's ramblings, I have to say that my sister's kid may be an interesting look into the future. This manchild in his early 20's has an African American father and, of course, my Japanese/black sister for his mother. As a baby, toddler, and teen, he spent many summers living with my issei mother and her Caucasian husband. Throughout his adult life, he's dated women of different ethnicities. Today, this kid proudly showed me a photo of his girlfriend, a woman who is half Samoan and half white.

Until next time--oyasuminasai, bon nuit, later.

Your Hip Hapa,