Thursday, August 24, 2006

Token Pride

First of all I want to say, I am so insanely happy about emergency contraception FINALLY being approved without a prescription although, obviously the whole age requirement for it is a bunch of silly nonsense. This is the biggest victory we've had for reproductive rights for a long ass time! Especially considering it wasn't the sort of victory that happens when we prevent chauvinist bastards from taking back rights we already fucking won, which isn't so much a victory as a relief. Now women whose insurance won't cover the doctor's appointment to get a prescription can walk right into a pharmacy and buy it. Now if you're raped you can get it easily without having to wait as long as there's a 24 hour pharmacy near you, who carries it, and your state doesn't allow bullshit conscience clauses. Now tons of women will be able to buy it in advance so they'll have it on hand just in case. This is big news people! Cheers to everyone who has fought for this to come through. I'm so proud of us.

Getting down to business, I am back from Hawaii and I sure am tan, but I'm always "tan" I guess considering that I am "of color." For those of you who don't know, I'm a mixed race person with a blonde, blue-eyed, WASPy as all get out mother and a Japanese American father. To further explain, I am a fourth generation American, meaning that my grandparents were born in America and did not speak Japanese. They did end up in internment camps during World War II when they were supposedly a gigantic threat to national security, what with being 9 years old and all though. Admittedly, children may be the single most frightening thing to me on the entire planet, but I think that might be more of a personal problem.

Anyway, as a result of being mixed and being fourth generation (a.k.a. further removed from my ancestral roots than most kids I know of European descent), and being Asian American (we're such a problem minority, aren't we?), my racial identity is what you might call complicated. Further complicating things, I grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah for the most part, which according to Wikipedia is 80% white, and went to school in Iowa, estimated at a whopping 95% white! That's not just white, it's practically fucking see-through people! Token anyone?

Over the years I've become, not comfortable, but extremely used to being the only person of color in the room, in a class, in a club, in a 50 mile radius. It's a difficult position to be in considering I don't feel a very strong connection to my Japanese cultural background and I have had plenty of conversations with white anime nerds (and at least skin color wise, who's whiter than an anime nerd?) which plainly revealed that they knew an assload more about it than I do. For a long time I felt guilty about this lack of knowledge, frantically taking Japanese classes, watching Kurosawa movies, buying everything ever made by Sanrio, but you know what? Do most white people that you know have complete, comprehensive knowledge of "ye olde country'? Eh? And whether or not I know very much about being Japanese (since I'm, you know, AMERICAN) I know what it's like to live here and experience racism. That's enough to be an important part of my identity, enough to give me a different perspective on things, enough to inspire me to go on long ranting diatribes all the fucking time. Woooo.

Being in Hawaii was the first time in my entire life when I actually felt like I BLENDED IN. Like, REALLY blended in. People kept assuming that I was from Hawaii and shit. At one point while we were eating at a big restaurant my mom realized she was the only white person in the entire room, which was quite the role reversal. I found myself day dreaming a little bit about moving there and how my life might change. It is fucking HAWAII after all. I pictured myself with a huge group of multi-ethnic friends who I could bitch with about our crazy schizoid identities. I imagined dating another hapa (slang for half Japanese) like I always fantasized about when I was a little kid. I imagined never again having to give my perspective as a "woman of color" since apparently I am the only one on the planet. Never again would I be referred to as "the Asian" girl. And maybe, just maybe, no one would ever ask me the dreaded question, the bane of mixed race people, "Where are you from?" Oh yeah, and I could always buy my alcohol poured into a coconut shell with a teeny tiny pretty umbrella and go to the beach all day. That is an essential component of my happy fun racism free dream land.

But on the other hand, when I think about those times when I was the only one speaking out to a room full of white people, I'm glad I was there. For all the bitterness and frustration that has come out of being vocal in such a homogeneous environment, I would like to believe that I made some people think about their white privilege in a way they didn't before. I like to think maybe it will be a little easier for the next person who comes along with token stamped on their forehead. And the TRUTH is, being a mean feminist, I'm never the kind who avoids a good long ranting brawl. I like provoking people, I like challenging their beliefs and their ignorance, and I just so happen to be pretty damn good at it.


Blogger spotted elephant said...

I couldn't tell you anything about my (European) ethnic heritage.

I'm sure you make a huge impact, especially since you're mean, but dammit, when are white people going to realize it's theirresponsibility to learn about and fight their whiteness?

The Plan B victory is exciting, but I had a snarky thought: will people working the checkout aisles refuse to ring it up out of religious objections?

11:07 AM  
Blogger Edith said...

My obnoxious comments about you getting tan now seem even MORE obnoxious in light of this explanation. I think coconut shell glasses should be an essential item on the shopping list of utopia.


1:53 PM  
Blogger ms. jared said...

ha! you rule, vicky! i love this post too!

xoxo, jared

3:28 PM  
Blogger asdgasdfaserwe said...


For a meanie, you sure sound very nice. What do you tell people when they ask you when they're from?

3:10 AM  
Anonymous DaveL said...

Total aside: "hapa" in that context is short for "hapa haole" or half Caucasian, not half Japanese. AFAIK the origins were in half-Hawaiian, half-haole kids, but it now applies to pretty much whatever mixture of brown and white you may be, and it's kind of more a matter of mixing white into the brown than brown into the white, if that makes any sense.

5:31 PM  
Blogger Vicky Vengeance said...


Thank you for the information about the origins of hapa. I wasn't aware that it came from Hawaii originally, but that makes a ton of sense and actually fits to the point of irony with my post.

In slang, or at least in the circles that I am familiar with, hapa has come to mean half Asian or half Pacific Islander with a stress on the Asian side of the equation rather than the Caucasian side. For example in the new photo book "Hapa" by Kip Fulbeck he does portraits of a lot of mixed Asian people some of whom are not mixed Asian-Caucasian, but Asian-Latino or Asian-Black for example. Which isn't to say that you're wrong, just that the word's become more ambiguous maybe. I would be really interested to find out how this term has evolved from it's original connotation.

12:40 AM  
Anonymous DaveL said...

That's interesting. I live in Hawaii and am only familiar with how it's used here. I didn't know it had acquired another set of connotations elsewhere.

3:21 PM  

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