Friday, April 03, 2009

april (a)

warning: this is a really long post.

i don't know. i just don't know.
i've been thinking too much lately. thinking about what we are doing here, on this island, in this country. i know the immediate reasons but the long term? i am uncertain.
i've been considering racism and bullying in japan. wondering if things will ever change. wondering if it is better to give up or stand up.
every generation always says the next generation will have it better. that things are better than they once were. but on this island, we live as in amber. there is no change.
the argument that rises when people question racism, discrimination, condoned school violence is that it is their country. they get to choose.
is it just my happy-go-lucky white american view of multiculturalism and globalization?
does this explain why i feel that everyone around the world needs to let go of prejudice and accept that we are all in this human mess together?
is it better in america?
i don't know. my america is the american south, a region riddled with racial tension and tremendous prejudice. a place where even in my last part-time job, i saw a girl get fired because of "cultural differences" that didn't mix well with the team. aka she was black. i defended her but i didn't quit over it. i needed the paycheck. which made me feel part of it.
which brings me back to japan. we are the token whites. our children are fair and nico looks like a kewpie doll (he gets called kewpie-chan all the time). people give them money, presents, and snacks just for being cute. nico gets it more than sebastian this time. sebastian no longer has red hair but nico's blond is still shining bright, fitting into the stereotype of ideal foreign-ess. he gets a ridiculous amount of attention for his looks. luckily he's not very aware of it, for being two he naturally expects everyone to treat him like the sun. in general, toddlers in japan do get a lot of attention but nothing compares to this.
and yet, is it acceptance? no, it is just the blond hair. so again, i feel in our own way we are supporting racism since it works in our favor right now.
do i have the right to make my children the discriminated against minority? should i gamble that sebastian and nico will be the lucky ones? that they will have good friends and supportive teachers, unlike many others? it's not the minority status i fear, but the institutionalized racism that allows bullying to flourish. the fact that so little is done to amend it makes me wonder, what am i doing here?
at times like these, i try to put on my objective lens that i crafted during my undergraduate studies. but the mama lens refuses to be removed.
raising the kids bilingually and biculturally has to be worth it, right? we have to hope so. but maybe we are wrong. are the benefits of bilingualism enough to overcome what could potentially be a traumatic childhood? i am just being neurotic i suppose but i have to get this out here and ask you, what do you think? seriously, i really need some perspective. thank you.


Anonymous said...

uuugghh! it's such a tricky one, isn't it. personally, after 8 years of it, all of it, the positive and the negative, i'm sick of it. that's the biggest reason we're leaving. my children are sick of it. my husband, being asian (vietnamese), doesn't notice. he fits in seamlessly because of his looks and his ability to speak japanese. but we three, we stick out. and you know how the old japanese saying goes, "the nail that sticks out gets hammered down"...i'm tired of being hammered down, forced into a really uncomfortable pigeon hole.

there is a part of me that feels that perhaps if i just did this or that or the other then things would be different. and i wonder if we should give another go just to see...could it be different for us?

i don't think so though. i too want my children to be aware of the world out there. bilingualism is important to me and my husband. heck, we're both trilingual. i don't think it's absolutely necessary though for a child to grow up in a third culture to be a global citizen or to be multilingual.

one thing i do know is that it is absolutely essential to feel happy and comfortable in one's life and we are neither of those here. we feel isolated, picked on, singled out...

but i do wonder and second guess myself...somtimes.

Sesega said...

Last week my therapist have adviced me to try to find and keep my spiritual home in my heart... This advice written hier in web may looked too formal or too superficial but it helps me to accept certain uncomfortable things, situations, people... I am asian leaving in Europe since 6 years... Same problems...
I wish you and your kids all the best, whatever decision you meet...

Tiffany said...

ladybug-zen: thanks for your perspective. i am really sorry that you guys feel "isolated, picked on, singled out". we struggle a lot with this in our small town but we have hope that being in a more cosmopolitan area would be better. i've always thought that expats in tokyo (though i know you aren't in tokyo proper) have it easier. we certainly had a better experience in nara and that is the source of our hope. i agree that you have to be happy and comfortable and i feel i am still looking for the place where that is possible. i have to worry that maybe my fears for my children are also wrapped up in my fears for myself and my freedom.
i hope you and your boys find that place wherever you end up.

sesega: thank you for your comments. it's true, home is within us. i know that one problem that arises from my anxiety is that i don't live in the present, i don't meditate, i don't enjoy my days as i should. it is comforting to know that my family is not the only one facing these issues, so thank you for sharing. i went through a lot of these problems when i lived in japan last time but eventually i overcame them by recovering elements of myself. i suppose i need to repeat those steps and help my sons do the same. the greatest fear about the situation i have is that they will doubt themselves, their lives. again, thank you for sharing. best wishes to you and yours.

take care.

jan in nagasaki said...

i have lots and lots to say on the matter. too much to go into but i will think on it and come back.

i found your wording and overall comments on the situation very well written... not judgemental or whiney or bitchy... as these topics sometimes difference ,(between my situation and yours) my marriage to a japanese man, i am not always considering whether I should stay or go..rather that i am here and must live with the consequences...

momo said...

I too struggle with this issue from time to time. One of the reason we did not want little O to go to school there was we were sort of sure that he would get picked up or bullied. because he is so different from others. Not just the way he looks but being vegan, having his own opinion etc.
Having said that, it is kind of the same here.
Being half Japanese and vegan but at least everyone is unique here. All races are mixed up and everyone has different back ground. Nobody is gaijin. Well here in Brisbane. It is probably different story in country side.

I hope you will find the best way, Tiffany.