In the current mixed-race movement that is beginning to become stronger in the United States, and also in some places in Asia and Europe, hāfu may seem to have found an identity-group to activate, stimulate, and rest in belonging outside of family/upbringing groups. In the actions that grow hapa, hāfu, biracial, multiracial, and mixed-race identity groups, there are unquestioned concepts that work in constructing the general umbrella of being “mixed,” working to provide some comfort and same-ness in having a warm place to at least discuss the issues of being considered outside of the dominant mono-racial identity-groups. Now there is a growing openness in parents, for instance, discussing how to raise their multiracial children in environments where there is general ignorance or outright hostility towards being mixed-race.
In my own life, my desire to find people I belong with, has ended up being more about finding individuals. My relation to groups in relation to identity, have not fared so well. This is not a resignation, but a recognizing of the time-period in which I was born and raised and grew, as well as my nationality and places where I grew into the human I am. There is also the disposition of being on a path, a Karmic journey (if we take a Buddhist set of commitment that have influenced my own life) that is very particular to an individual. Because I recognize that the generation in which I grew up, closer to postwar prejudices, destruction, assimilation, and Cold-War era factors in both Japan and the United States, I appreciate that nowadays, it is much easier to find a group of two, or more open individuals, not wrapped up in these older structures of performing difference. But it’s also true that most of the time, it is the younger generations. My own generation of people are usually more spread out. This is not to say that this is for all hāfu of my generation. I know of groups of war-brides, or close-knit friends, or other groups that have been together for long periods and formed life-long places of group belonging. In the U.S., belonging to groups is generally harder, as travel and displacement and financial factors often intrude on togetherness. Also, the prioritizing of individualism, which elevates alienation and isolation above other considerations (“standing on one’s two feet,” etc.), intensifies the fragmenting of groups, affecting how people learn to discard, attract, and dispel people of difference.
This also depends so much on one’s looks. Our phenotypes may also inform how one may “pass,” consciously or not. In relation to this, people have very little understanding about how oppression is not about being a victim but much more about how it informs identity-making.
It is also well-known by many, that the mono-racial identities control many of the factors surrounding how hāfu and other mixed-race people are marginalized. Within multiracial groups, often white supremacy or Black “one-drop rule” histories inform how a darker-skinned, or mixed-black hāfu would be marginalized within mixed-race groups, although to a lesser degree. I have often found that this depends very much on the environment where we live and what the political cultures are experiencing, what communities with long histories of oppression may want to hold onto and are not willing to examine, or how it may affect their upward mobility. This also depends so much on one’s looks. Our phenotypes may also inform how one may “pass” consciously or not. In relation to this, people have very little understanding about how oppression is not about being a victim but much more about how it informs identity-making. How we perform self in the world, depends so much on what we’ve learned in order to survive. When these factors come together, often, it is the place at which time the differences become ways to stay away from that other person or group, or to demean them, or perform the same racial, gender, and sexuality-oriented prejudices that the mono-racial groups perform and inflict.
Social groups often suffer from fear and also may struggle to find leadership that will hold groups together across the conflicts arising from the learned responses to difference that imperial practices have organized most societies around the world with until the present-day.
In an effort to build movements, I have found that such organizations as the Critical Mixed Race Studies (CMRS), offer avenues to critically examine the spaces of division and domination that are residual from colonial and imperial practices as well as celebrate difference and commonalities on a deeper level than most social groups. Social groups often suffer from fear and also may struggle to find leadership that will hold groups together across the conflicts arising from the learned responses to difference that imperial practices have organized most societies around the world with until the present-day. Often, social groups gather their opinions from individuals solely based on personal experience. Examining issues of different identities (which include racial, national, class and caste, cultural, group/tribal, sexual orientation, etc.), reading stories of others, and asking questions, makes for fantastic spaces of interactions and solidarity-building which empower further, the efforts of mixed-race groups. However, these groups cannot be viewed as panaceas for the issues of the systemic prejudices and hierarchies set-up in centuries of people-building and world-building.
Although academic groups have traditionally been noted to be largely irrelevant to marginalized communities and most often participated in marginalizing them, nowadays, there are quite a few academic organizations such as the CMRS, who bring a more interdisciplinary, cross-genre, communal aspect to ideas for mixed-ness, social justice, and cultural change. However, the group is still in its early stages and growing as the U.S. seeks to identify the factors continuing to propel racism and violence into society.
Often, academic spaces offer ways to pull out the threads and inter-weavings of very complex issues that our normal everyday language cannot get to. On another angle of this, are the real practices of domination that academics play, quickly creating condescending crevices toward those who “don’t know”...
This also makes me acutely aware of how reactionary a person such as myself can be, to desperately find spaces of either complete peace and non-discrimination and ease, or to expect conflict and aggravation everywhere. Often, what is abuse, or hurtfulness, is confused with and called “oppression.” Often, academic spaces offer ways to pull out the threads and inter-weavings of very complex issues that our normal everyday language cannot get to. Another angle of this, is the sets of real practices of domination that academics play, quickly creating condescending crevices toward those who “don’t know” and who are deemed unknowing, often over-using academic jargon. Combined with a non-academic’s anti-intellectualism that is prevalent in the United States, both sides grow further apart. I hope that increasingly, we Hāfu enter into dialogues with other mixed-race folks and have healthy dialogues, so that we may enter into the world stronger and better equipped for healthier dialogues that bring about new and better worlds in the future.
Featured Image by Edward M. Haugh