July 30, 2013

Hafu Kawaiiii!

Japan is a wonderful country known for many things, but sophisticated handling of racial identity and difference is not one of them. I've noticed less use of "gaijin," or outsider, over the years, as more people ask if I'm America-jin But the most common term for biracial is still one a young Cher would be familiar with: "hafu."

The non-Japanese Ryan Surdick writes about "hafu" in the Japan Times, and how it impacts his 1yo half-Japanese son:

The real problem I have is not with the word itself, but rather what it signifies about the user's thinking. It's often one of the first things people say when they meet my son. "Half" immediately becomes the defining characteristic of him to anyone he meets in Japan. And along with this comes a whole host of assumptions.
Yes, now it's all assumptions and kawaii; the bullying and ostracization doesn't start until kindergarten.

There is more to my son than the fact he's a 'half' [japantimes via @abesauer]

4 Comments

Sorry but it looks like to me that white hakujin foreigners like Ryan Surdick like to cry that this term is offensive which is absolute bullcrap

"bullying doesn't start until kindergarten."? How does HE KNOW about any discrimination in kindergarten to hafu he has only got one 1 yo son.
so why is he already using the race card to wrongly accuse Japan of racism??
1000s of Japanese kids get bullied but if mr surdicks[obviously he can predict the future...] son gets bullied its because of his mixed race??

Ryan Sucksdick should concentrate on looking after his mixed race hafu son rather than being a trolling tool in Japantimes trying to claim discrimination where none exists .

In fact claiming that Japanese are inherently racist to his hafu son is a racist statement in itself

Ryan surdick you should be ashamed of yourself

good point, I'm sure he just made that up. thanks for your thoughtful commentary.

Wow Greg, burn what a comeback(sarcasm), yes Takeshima comes off like an ass. But that was weak, either don't feed the trolls or give a good account of yourself....
On the flip side here in the part of Southern California I live in, its very diverse, and I tend to hear the term Hawaiian term "Hapa" used a lot. Most of my cousins kids are "Hapas". On the flipside however I was talking to the mother(Japanese American) of one of my sons classmates and she mentioned her cousin(JA) lives in Missouri with her husband(white) and their Hapa daughter. Where they often encounter people who look at them, giving each of them the once over and just walk away shaking their heads. My favorite story is from a friend(JA) of my grandmother. She said her son married a girl from somewhere back east and when they had their first child, all the neighbors had to visit because they had never seen a Japanese baby before. I wonder what it was like being the only Japanese kid there(Hapa actually).
Now my point is commonality, if its a common thing it's not such a big deal. But if its not very common, Hafu, Hapa or even if you're just different from the main group things like bully's and the like often pop up. Another thing is this makes is sound if its just a Japanese thing, but a quick search finds this issue in many other countries. Take my father, he was one of the only Japanese Americans in his High School in Southern California(1960's) and he often got into fights. Eventually he was banned from the school bus and the city bus and had to get rides home from the local police officers he knew from his Judo Dojo. On the flip-side(1980's) my middle brother was a bit of a runt and would get into the occasional fight(I never did).
I'm just wondering is this bit of hand wringing coming from someone with no idea of what it's like to be different from a young age?

To respond to your last point first, absolutely not, you are 100 percent wrong.

The reason I posted this was because it's the firsthand account of a new dad's experience, and because I thought his perception and approach to his multiracial family's situation in a complicated racialist culture like Japan's might be interesting or useful for others. For people in a similar situation, for multiracial families in more diverse cultures, or for total white guys in whiteguyland who have no idea what it's like to be different from a young age.

Biracial families are always going to put the world to the test, and there will always be blinkered knuckleheads who fail to see anything beyond race [or more specifically, their own racial prejudices]. That's as true of Japan as it is of the US, as your JA friends and relatives are finding out.

The kawaii haafu! reaction this dad writes about is the early, seemingly benign incarnation of the bullying kids inflict on each other, the ways people process differences. The hope, I hope, is that there are enough self-aware adults around to show kids respectful, constructive ways of living in a diverse world.

Which is a long way of saying I'm sorry that the sarcasm of my comment shutting down the rightist wingnut troll was not clearer.

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