The Double Standard of Diversity in California
After growing up in Utah, living in Southern California for three years has given me a different perspective of the United States.
For one, white is no longer the majority in California (at least, in the big cities anyway). Almost all of the friends I’ve made here are either Hispanic, Asian, Arabic or Black. In fact, I’m sometimes hard pressed to find a white person here and it’s a great thing. As someone studying international affairs on a professional level, diversity warms my heart and it makes for a very interesting place. Now, after three years in diverse Southern California, I’m dumbfounded by how white dominated Utah is every time I return.
More than, that, though, I’ve been shocked by the comments from my minority friends who were born and raised in California.
“Utah freaks me out. Too many white people. When I’m around so many white people it bothers me.”
“I couldn’t live anywhere else besides California because of the diversity. I need to be around Asian people. Being with white people makes me uncomfortable.”
Most recently, I talked to a fellow half-Asian from SoCal who said:
“I never liked being with white people, and even though my dad and I have a good relationship I never felt close to him like my mother–because he was white. Even today I don’t have very many white friends.”
That, to me as a fellow half-Asian, was shocking.
When I heard these comments, a part of me felt offended. I am, after all, half-white. And more than that, why do we have to hate or bash a certain race… even if they are the majority? I know white bashing is all the rage now, but just because someone is white doesn’t mean you should shy away or assume that they have the inability to understand your culture.
As someone who grew up in all-white Utah, I had the opposite experience of my newfound SoCal friends. Asian Americans (notice I say Asian Americans (AA) and not Asians) made me very uncomfortable, mostly because I didn’t grow up with the AA clique growing up. I also looked more white than Asian and was thus often rejected as a fellow Asian. The Asian American club at my university even had the guts to ask me why I was joining their club, since they assumed I wasn’t Asian. In the United States, Asian Americans have their own unique culture that is nothing like that of their parent’s home country. It’s a weird blend of western values and American pop culture mixed with their Asian traditions (especially in SoCal, this culture is very strong).
Ostracized, but still in love with Asia, I lived in China and Japan and felt more welcomed by the locals there that called me ‘foreigner’ than by my fellow Asian Americans in the United States. Even today, I have closer relationships with Asians born and raised abroad than with their Asian-American counterpart. Asian Americans flaunt their Asian-ness, but if you planted them back in the homeland, most would suffer and experience extreme culture shock.
My Stance on Diversity and How It Came To Be
As the new kid in second grade, and the only half-Asian in an all-white school, all my classmates avoided me like the plague. Everyday at recess I sat alone on the green grass of the playground, wishing for the bell to hurry up and ring and for the day to be over. Being the loner kid sucks.
And then, one day, a tall girl with long blonde hair and fierce green eyes towered over me. Her arms were crossed, her head held high, her confidence unwavering. I could do nothing but look up to her with my mouth agape.
“You,” she pointed at me. “You’re going to be my best friend starting from today.”
With a “who, me?” look on my face, she repeated herself and I, the lone kid at the school with no friends whatsoever, had no choice but to consent.
H and I were inseparable after that day. We played tag together. Read comics together. Hung on the monkey bars together. The other kids started to see me as a normal person, and I felt like I was finally fitting in.
“Ew, look, it’s smelly Shelly,” the classmates cried at the other loner in the class, an overweight girl with tattered clothes and oily hair. Although I didn’t know it at the time, Shelly was extremely poor. Her family couldn’t afford to give her proper clothes and it was obvious to see she came from a broken and difficult home. Kids are cruel and thus called her Smelly Shelly, and she was perpetually without friends.
Despite this, she gave everyone an invitation to her birthday party at her house.
“Ew, who would go to your stinky house Smelly?”
“Gross, I might get fleas if I go to your party, Shelly.”
H took the invitation, passed it to me and said: “We’re going.”
When you’re a kid, you worry about your image way more than you should–and that included me at the time. What would the kids say if they found out we went to Smelly’s party? Would I really get fleas?
“We can’t let Shelly be alone on her birthday,” H said. Wise and powerful words from an eight year old. I decided to go.
And we went to the birthday party. I got her a coloring book, H gave her a poster. There were four of us there, and you could tell that Shelly was elated to have us at her home. I remember she lived in a trailer and her mom was nice.
Just Go For It
Throughout the years, H never talked to me about how we should protect the lesser man. Or how we need to help the less fortunate. Or how minorities weren’t represented to their fullest and we had a duty to fight for diversity.
She just went for it. In her actions, and not words, she treated everyone as equals.
She befriended the only Hispanic girl in our fourth grade class and introduced her to the group. Even in college H managed to befriend more Asian, Indian, Arabic and black friends in Utah than I ever did (in fact, she introduced me to almost all my Asian friends in undergraduate school). She wasn’t on a vendetta to make minority friends; oh no, she was just being herself and keeping an open mind. She saw everyone as equal, as a person (not as a skin color or certain culture) and created friendships. Bonds. White or not, it didn’t matter.
“You shouldn’t judge someone by how they look or dress Mary,” H would often tell me when I shied away from those covered in tattoos or other people who seemed ‘strange’ to me. “Be fair. Learn who they are first–because that’s what’s most important.”
As I learned from H, I strive to go into any social situation with an open mind and without prejudice. Sure, there were times when meeting with different cultures or people (white included) made me uncomfortable, but I knew that, like H said, it was about heart. I couldn’t judge a book by its cover.
Sure, H is white and maybe she doesn’t understand Asian, Indian, or any other culture as well as she should–but she’s more than willing to. She bashes and hates and shies away from no one. She just goes for it–she dives in with an open mind, introduces herself, and becomes a friend to those who need one. Myself included. And really, that’s what we should all do.
As I’ve learned from H, I do not hate, discriminate or judge anyone without, at the very least, giving them a chance.
So I say, let’s stop with the “Asian people make me uncomfortable” or “I don’t like white people” mumbo jumbo. Just go out there and meet someone different. Keep an open mind. Give help to all who need it.
PS: H commanded me to be her best friend in second grade, and I have obeyed the order ever since. H and I have been friends for 22 years now and, most recently traveled to Thailand together.
What do you think? What was it like where you grew up, and do you feel more comfortable with diversity or homogeneity?
49 thoughts on “The Double Standard of Diversity in California”
Oh, my gosh, I want to know H’s story. How did her parents raise her to be such a great person? With such confidence and such an unerring ability to do the right thing?
New Hampshire weirds me out the same way sometimes. I’m just used to seeing more color. (Also, sadly, white people are way more likely to be Trump supporters and sometimes I am just not up for the battle. Damn it, I bet H would be up for the battle.)
Haha, you know, I don’t know either because her parents are just your everyday, average American folk. Maybe it was all those comic books she read as a kid about justice and fighting for the underdog. Even to this day I am in awe of mini-H from grade school.
Oh man Trump supporters are everywhere!!! I went to a lecture on Japan-US-China-Korea relations with foreign ambassadors as guest panelists the other day, and a military dude in the front row stood up, faced the crowd and said: “DIPLOMACY IS DEAD. VOTE FOR TRUMP!!” I was so embarrassed of my people in that moment, and I’m sure the ambassadors thought that US-Asia relations are now doomed, haha.
I know I can’t change the minds of uneducated whites, but what I can do is vote for Hillary and the lesser evil (which I think H is doing as well). Sigh. What an election!
OMG. I used to think President Bush was a national embarrassment. (The Dixie Chicks were right!) But now Trump has empowered the idiot racists who are too stupid to know they are stupid and they will not shut up. Ugh. Mortified for my nation.
I have to say this because there is misconceptions about what makes you Hispanic and the whole Hispanic somehow always equal to non-white. There are white people who are Hispanic….after all, many people who are Hispanic have Spanish ancestry….and last time I checked….Spaniards are white. I know people from Mexico who have German ancestry.
Hispanic- from a Spanish speaking country.
You are very right! I should correct my post as the friend was actually Mexican more than the general “hispanic.”
Darn, I try to be PC and I still fail. I guess the best term would be Mexican and Latin Americans? (instead of Hispanic?).
Thanks for the comment and correction Eileen!
my European friends and I are totally confused by the “Hispanic” label used in the US. What does it even mean?
It seems a bit arbitrary but perhaps there is some context we are missing here. I asked a few (white Spanish-speaking) friends from South America and they said the label is meaningless.
Spaniards are white (as Eileen says above) so why are they put in a separate “non-white” category whereas say, Greeks, Portuguese and Italians are not? Brazilians speak Portuguese and range from black to mixed to brown to white – would they count as ‘hispanic’?
Actually, at some point in history, Spain (or Castille I think it was at the time) was dominated by Islam. Their culture was influenced and presumably their race was mixed slightly as well.
This is a really lovely post and it touched me! Thank you for sharing.
@autumnashborough, I don’t think it’s fair to say that whites are way more likely to be Trump supporters and to assume that you are going to have to “battle” – Trump has plenty of minority supporters, including Asians and hapas.
What a lovely, touching post!
My European friends and I are totally confused by the “Hispanic” label used in the US. What does it even mean? It seems a bit arbitrary but perhaps there is some context we are missing here. I asked a few (white Spanish-speaking) friends from South America about it and they said the label is meaningless.
Spaniards are white (as Eileen says above) so why are they put in a separate “non-white” category whereas say, Greeks, Portuguese and Italians are not? Brazilians speak Portuguese and range from black to mixed to brown to white – would they count as ‘hispanic’?
Oh man, I don’t think I can answer this. I think most Americans think of “Hispanic” as ‘Spanish-speaking’ or ‘Mexican-Latin American.’ Of course, Spanish speaking means that people from Spain are also included (and a lot of them are white, so it’s hard to say), so it’s a complicated issue.
The Spaniards invaded Mexico and took over land from the indigenous people, which is modern day Mexico. So I think the Mexico of today is a mix of Spanish/Inca/Other Indigenous races that has become, well, “Mexican.” Yet south of Mexico we have Costa Rica, Panama, El Salvador.. and then we get to South America, which is a whole other ball game. I think in the U.S. we get lazy and instead of say “Latin American” we just say Hispanic (but what this means, no one really knows, just Spanish speaking).
I think cause Spain conquered Mexico for so long we have this habit of calling them “Spanish,” which is terrible. Kind of on par with “oriental.” It’s a dying fad, but it still exists.
I had brought a couple of friends, an Indian-American (who was very “white-washed” and felt internally white) and a Vietnamese-American to an Eastern-European party. They both felt uncomfortable being at a white party. I never had thought of it that way. Plus it was filled with Eastern-Europeans who as a group, also face prejudice.
Then I recommended a delicious Jamaican restaurant to an Italian-American who grew up in a diverse city whom I’m sure views himself as liberal. Anyway he later told me he went to the restaurant but everyone was black and he felt uncomfortable.
I don’t know, I don’t mind being surrounded by all whites, all Asian, all Latin-Americans, all blacks, all Native-Americans. Of course, if I were in a shady part of town, I’d feel weird or as has happened a few times, I’ve been in areas where almost everyone was male and as a female I felt vulnerable. Yet as far as color, I don’t embrace being in a diverse environment nor do I embrace a solely homogeneous environment. I just hope to be surrounded by decent people.
I do my best not to see others as different. I like to think others and I share things in common. I try my best to be inclusive. By being inclusive I can appreciate what makes others unique. Diversity to me is not about coloring and features but about experiences, interests, and personalities. Anyway as the physical goes, I share physical features with many blacks, whites, Native-Americans, and Asians because I’m brunette with brown eyes. I have high-cheekbones which many blacks, whites, Asians, and Native-Americans have. I see a part of myself physically in everyone I meet. I don’t ask someone if they are of a certain ethnicity unless it were my own ethnic background because everyone on earth physically looks like my possible blood kin.
At the end of the day whether you are Asian, white, black, a mix of all three, we share similarities. Some are shy, some like sports, some are jerks, some are romantic, some don’t curse, some like cars, some like arts, some like jazz, some are materialistic.
I know a good number of people have wanted to know my ethnic heritage and walked away if I wasn’t what they assumed or who got upset with me because I didn’t disclose my ethnic heritage but they missed out getting to know someone who shared similar hobbies, experiences, values and even a similar ethnic background.
You sound like me Bunny! I try not to see others as different either, so when people make a big deal about race I’m kind of baffled. I just think to myself: why do we have to talk about race so much? Can’t we just talk and get to know each other as fellow human beings?
Also, in today’s global world, I feel like race doesn’t even define one as strongly as it once did. It’s all about where you grew up. I’m half-Vietnamese, but honestly, because I grew up in America I don’t feel a strong connection to Vietnam (unfortunately); yet I feel very close to Japan and China because I lived there and studied these two countries in-depth. As you said, it’s about culture and experience. That’s why when Asian Americans complain about white people and how they feel uncomfortable, I get upset because while they feel comfortable identifying as ‘Asian,’ I know for a fact if I put them back in China/Korea/Japan or wherever their parents are from, they would feel MUCH more uncomfortable than if they were with fellow white-Americans in the states. Double Standards.
I love your quote: “Diversity is quantity. Inclusion is quality. Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”
Instead of focus so much on labels so much (especially in a society as open as the USA), let’s just all get to know one another.
I think allot of whats going on in the U.S. with race relations was caused by white people themselves. It was a white supremcist society, then they felt guilty about it and diversity became the answer, now that whites have realized that diveresity didnt make them any more popular, they have become even more alienated and many turn on each other. Perhaps Im too much of a realist, but the U.S. was founded by white culture, and thats how it will always be, no matter how diverse it becomes. Japan taught me this; they are Japanese no matter how international they become, and the same goes for any country. The best you can do is work with what you have; if its a white president who creates an enviroment where everybody has a job, then all those people will get along. If not, then you got massive problems. Just electing a person that is non white doesnt really mean anything in the U.S.; he/she still has to work with the system they inherited. The strange thing about the U.S. is that I see non whites calling other races words that were invented by whites when they are looking down on them or feel those other races are “taking over”
The U.S. is full of a bunch of hypocrisy. You’re right, unfortunately the US is still very white-male dominated, but at the same time I think: well, we are a country that was founded by white males. I know that in the 200 years since America has been founded we should have more progressive rights, but considering how old other countries are we have a pretty good track record going for not just women’s rights, but everyone’s rights.
Anyway, I think it’s easy to diss the white man and I say back it up. I know a lot of white people who not only support and befriend minorities but fight for their same cause. Bashing white people means bashing them–and in a way, me as well–and that’s not cool.
Wonderful post – again.
What an awesome friend (I’m so glad to see you are still friends after 22 years!). I think that people who aren’t willing to make friends with people from different races are missing out. I think it would be extremely dull to only have friends with similar backgrounds and experiences.
I agree with you 100%! I’m always excited to meet people from new places 😀
I echo what Jim said above. Great post… again. =)
I just read something that I like. Diversity is quantity. Inclusion is quality. Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance. Some may disagree but I think that is how I feel.
H sounds pretty awesome. I was such a brat way back when; had no idea kids could be so cool.
I grew up in a super white area, which was often weird in many ways, but felt relatively natural since my entire family is white. I do feel comfortable — more comfortable? if only because my subconscious isn’t auto-searching for fellow POC out of curiosity — with diversity, but I’ve never lived it in the US. And due to that upbringing and my adoptee background I feel uncomfortable around Asian Americans en masse (some of the strangest things said about my adoption have come from AAs). I’ve made AA friends over the years while traveling, but none in my current area, none that I’ve grown up with.
I think, for minorities who grew up in California, it’s like…honestly, it’s hard to wrap my mind around it. Still being a minority, but not the highly conspicuous 1%, the only one in the school district or anywhere else you go. Honestly, if I’d grown up like that, I’d have weird feelings about going to 99% white places too. It’s not necessarily about white people, but whiteness. Because, like Autumn says way up there, people in those areas are more likely to be Trump supporters, or at the very least a bit more likely to break out the internalized racism. Sometimes, even my extended family, with their FB statuses and sharing of inane articles…facepalm.
Kelly, I’m with you. Since I grew up in a white area I felt way, way more uncomfortable around Asian Americans (much more than I was when I went to China or Japan).
I think in California, despite it being so diverse, it’s still a very big divide between white and Asian. I think in the big U.S. cities minorities like to hang out with their own people (which makes sense). I have a British friend who told me that this was a distinctly American trait, as different races in the UK tend to mix a little more in the big cities.
Anyway! I can see both sides of the story. I guess it was really bizarre to me to hear a half-Asian girl say that she was uncomfortable with white people. It all depends on where you grow up!
And yeah… Trump supporters… sigh. I hate to admit my dad is one… don’t tell anyone though.. haha…
Yeah, I can see both sides too. That’s interesting about the divide. I know some AAs from California and I remember thinking it was weird that they had mostly/all Asian friends. But then, honestly, I have almost all white friends so…But you’re right, it’s kind of strange not to mix when you have the…opportunity? for lack of a better word. Hah, I forgot to comment on the half-Asian girl – definitely bizarre to not be comfortable around half your family!
Great article and what a wonderful friend to have!
Thank you! And yes, she is, she’s practically my sister now 😀
A wonderful piece. We need more people speaking out for equality in this world (and more people like you and your friend. She sounds like she’s the cat’s meow.) The more open minded people out society creates, the better – especially in places and/or sub-cultures that are not diverse. Racism is certainly not limited to white people (as a white person who lived in Detroit for a long time, I’ve experienced a lot of racism coming my way too. Oh, and I live in China, so….) and a little self-reflection goes a long way to keeping your mind open and challenging yourself to overcome the prejudices that our own upbringings can place on us at a young age.
The one thing that you touched on that most people seem to ignore in whole diversity conversation is a diversity of class. Almost no one ever talks about class differences. Have all the rainbow, harmony, pat-yourself-on-the-back, we love diversity moments you want but if all of the people of color have daddies and mommies who are doctors and lawyers, that’s not diversity. Diversity is so much more than skin color. Sadly that side of it is lost in most conversations (probably because many people don’t actually want that kind of diversity). I know for me personally, my most difficult prejudice to overcome was against poor white people from the south (and I now consider redneck, trailer trash, hillbilly and white trash to be racist slang – even if the culture doesn’t seem to recognize it for what it really means). It took me a long time and a lot of reflection to see that prejudice in myself and I still work hard to keep openness and acceptance in my mind when I deal with that group of my fellow white people.
Anyway, keep rockin’ the great posts!
Thanks for the comment Zhou!
I’m sure you have some real great stories from your time in Detroit! I can only imagine what it’s like to switch places from majority to minority. I remember the first time I went to Tennessee (and remember I grew up in Utah) I was REALLY shocked at how I instantly became a minority in a black community. It was different, but after a while I really started to enjoy the southern hospitality of Tennessee and I loved their passion and infectious fun attitude. Very different from the west and east coast.
And yeah, people here complain about diversity and racism when my everyday life in China or Japan was a barrage of unintentional racial comments. Some of the stuff my friends/employers/coworkers said to me in China/Japan would be a lawsuit in the USA. I still remember to this day when my Japanese boss told me to dye my hair blonde for a meeting with a global client so that I looked more ‘foreign’ and our company looked more global! Gasp!
And yes, class. It’s very easy to hate on rednecks like you say and we have to remember where they come from–it’s not like they chose to be uneducated and poor. They were ruined by the system to begin with. It’s sad. I never considered myself a redneck, but I did grow up poor, and now that I’m an adult and interact with people who had access to more resources or grew up with more opportunity in life, I realize that without an educated person to teach you (whether it be finances or personal life goals), it’s hard to change your social class or to even rise the ranks. You have to put in 10x more the effort, and hope to god you meet someone like H who can you teach you to do the right thing.
Thanks again! I loved your comment about class, very good point! I heard in UK this is also a big issue…
Yeah I agree with you about white people (Im one of them) but I think to understand racism, you must either :
1) experience it yourself. The only way to do this is to leave a country where the majority are white, OR the system is based on white ideals (european, enlightment, john locke, all of that good stuff) then become a minority yourself and see how sucky it really is where they are coming from a whole different place and process the world differently.
2) marry someone of a different race. For example, you really cant see the sufferings of a minority in a country until you see what they go through on a personal level. You can only pay lip service like “but Im not racist” when in fact you probably are, just not intentionally so because your not connected to it. Yes, 100% agreed, and not in a patronizing or politically correct way either, that people have and are being discriminated against by whites in the U.S. Before I couldnt “see” this, but now I can
3) live in a country where the oppressed minority is now the majority and most of them have MBAs, are lawyers, and have never lost their dignity (some countries in Africa are like this). There are people in Africa who dont even consider themselves black, because its the default race, they pay no mind to it.
It doesnt mean throw everything thing out; you got to work with what you got. I think it starts at a personal level, however, the government can only do so much.
Todd, those are some fascinating points you’ve made there. And I agree that things start on a personal level. Where are you living now? Are you living somewhere where you are a visual/psychological minority?
What a fascinating post Mary. I think it’s wonderful you and H are still friends after all this time. Wish I had a friend like that!
Thank you! And I am very blessed to have H, she is so amazing! I would like to write more about her life because everyone fall over if they knew how amazing she is despite what she’s endured (but it might be a little too personal). I’ll have to ask her if I can tell that hard story.
Yes, I would be called a minority.
agreed, it starts on a personal level, but I think one of the good things about the U.S. is that there are laws that try to create an enviroment where all players can get a chance, regardless of ones views, etc. or if on a personal level one is racist or not.
If you dont have that, then anything goes. I remember at one place this guy told me that Japan, for instance, does not discriminate, and for his evidence, he used an example of where he worked. He helped get his friend from abroad hired, because he had lived abroad. Otherwise if a foreigner applied there, it would be on a “case by case” basis on if there were to be hired. Its a bit complicated, the dynamics of personal racism or bias vs institutionalized racism, but the U.S. has made considerable progress at the institutional level. In a multicultural society like the US or SG, you really have no choice.
and perhaps I contradicted myself a bit with this ” I think it starts at a personal level, however, the government can only do so much at that level.” with what I just posted. The gov can create an enviroment where all get a fair chance in the workplace and academia, but cant police your thoughts. If your grandmother told you that a certian race was bad, because of an experience she had, there isnt much the government can or should do, except prevent you from commiting racist offences based on your beliefs. That journey is one you have to make and fix yourself, but in the case of some countries, I guess they actually have laws against posting racist rants etc. Thats not freedom of speech like in the U.S. What the government can do is prohibit and punish employers and schools ect who use exclusion to keep out of jobs due to race gender age etc. Racism is a really really suck ass thing to experience and process, Its complicated because you got those who want to keep their culture and traditions, and that trumps anything else for them. For me personally, that is fine, but I dont want someone to feel that cringe or feeling you cant describe but only know by experience when someone is being racist towards you, That stuff is not cool at all, like somebody just gets up and moves away from you for no reason, except because your not “one of them”. I notice these things now, and can check myself when any of my own bias might arrise.
Interesting points you make there.
Love. it. Thank you, Mary. I am not there, as you know, so the anti-white bullshit has got me thinking, “What the F is going on?”
I’m going to sound like I’m into conspiracy theories here, but I’ll go out on the limb, nonetheless. I think all this identity politics stuff is driven by the 1% to keep us divided and distracted. I mean, what can we do about race? Nothing. We are who we are.
So, we fight and blame each other, when what we should be doing is focusing on those in power who are taking away our freedoms and our abilities to live a comfortable life.
Racism cuts both ways. You can’t say, “I don’t like white people.” or anything stupid like that and not be called on for what it is. Here’s to hoping that we start to see that our brothers and sisters all around us are not the problem.
p.s. this AA is not into her Asianness, and I’d welcome you to my club. 😛
Wow Lani, I might have to jump on your wagon because that sounds like a very viable theory. I mean, look at how well Hitler and Trump used it for a means to rule and attain more power?
Anyway, your line about how racism cuts both ways is exactly what I want to say. It’s so easy to blame white people for all the problems in the world and, while they do deserve some of it, all that name throwing and blame won’t do anything. We need to think about how to resolve conflicts, not make more.
And I would totally join your club! I actually met another Asian American from Hawaii who was quite cool and open minded, so maybe it’s SoCal Asian American that weirds me out? Hard to say!
Not sure. We’re living in strange times, indeed. Lots of finger pointing, lots of blame on things we can’t change (i.e. skin color) and lots of hate and anger, which is scary and is causing deep divide and death! I’m still shaking my head over it. Unreal.
Ah, well, at this point, we’ll either continue to riot and kill each other or we’ll wake up and realize it’s the 1%, the corporations, and the ultra-rich that are pulling the strings.
Yeah I agree, because once you get away from the superficial like the riots, hate groups and all that are operating at an intellectually lazy level, your left with something else to process. like high corporate taxes where US corps have to leave the U.S., thus keeping jobs and taxes out of the US, but foreign companies can operate there with ease etc, but bring their own culture and even racist? practices to the mix. New things to process appear. You think about it, even if all these people who are promoting separation etc., if they got what they wanted, then what? They will still be working at the same place with the same limited opportunities, but even with that, they have much more than do people elsewhere. If things disenegrated to the point where it was anarchy, they think that strongest would survive etc or some nonsense, but what could happen is that another country would just come in and mop it up, then they would be wishing for the “good old days” where they were free, and the “solutions” they were looking for would suddenly be self apparent and all that other hype was just domestic made B.S.
@Todd, picking up on the point you make about ‘operating at an intellectually lazy level’, people often seem to confuse the concept of diversity and the idea of mixing everything together, when they are separate concepts. If you blend everything together, things get less diverse.
Yes, its complicated on many different levels. I will try to explain;
In a country like Japan, where most forienger (gaijin) are diverse within that small 2% catagory of the population, we all are brought together by the commonality of being outsiders. Any differences we once had are soon dismissed or forgotten in order to stay “connected” to our original self; go back and forth between the tiring act of acting Japanese and then trying to stay connnected to our default culture, whereever that may be. Everyone Ive met who is not Japanese will try to connect back to their “world”, if only to keep or regain their dignity, human beings require this time to time or you risk alienation and other crushing symptoms. To be Japanese is to NOT be anything else, its that extreme, so we gaijin are by default are all in the same catagory, and any differences we might have now seem insignificant.
The U.S. and other “diverse” cultures are not really diverse, I do agree with what you said. There really is no need to connect with “others” unless they share your same interest, school, background, etc because its a free enviroment; with little oppression or need to conform from a majority. It is still there, but not to the extreme of some Asian countries,
The best you can do is to change yourself, but as wel all know change is very difficutl to do and expect from others. You hope to find others who have been through it as well. In Japan and other countries, allmost every foriegner is dealing with this so its an easy connect or fellowship. Try connecting with somebody who doesnt get it and youll soon find your better off keeping your mouth shut )
Hopefully I made some sense; its a difficult subject to bridge, but a very real one. You cannot stay in an ethnocentric lane forever; its those who left it and have dealt that really know.
@todd – true that gaijin connect in Japan solely because they are gaijin, but it’s often very superficial. For example a white American gaijin, an American born Chinese, a French gaijin, an Indian gaijin and a gaijin from mainland China generally might not have anything else in common, other than the fact of being gaijin.
well actually they got allot in common, and that commonality is NOT being Japanese, therefore they have to continuosly connect/disconnect from the reality of conformity. Can be a tough existance so we “build” by discussing various differences in Japanese culture vs our own like loop logic and other oppressing characteristics about Japan. Sometimes its very heavy stuff. In this circumstance, nationality is not important, its just trying remain or find sanity. When the majority is telling you that their way is superior, but you are from another way, it can be difficult to stay connected to what you learned. My point was, once we leave, we no longer need to build or connect, so we dont seek each other out. I wouldnt call the experience in Japan superficial at all. A difficult experience to bridge or explain unless you been in it.
Hi, just to clear things up: I’ve lived in multiple countries, including Japan, as an a foreigner too so I understand the experience very well. You don’t need to explain it to me. And I’m hapa like ruby ronin so we know what feeling of being an outsider more than most. In addition, I don’t think I called the Japanese experience ‘superficial’, I just meant the connection one has solely by virtue of being a gaijin can sometimes be a superficial one. Have a nice weekend.
Hi, just to clear things up: I’ve lived in multiple countries, including Japan, as an a foreigner too so I understand the experience very well. You don’t need to explain it to me. And I’m hapa like ruby ronin so we know what feeling of being an outsider more than most. In addition, I don’t think I called the Japanese experience superficial. I just meant the connection one has solely by virtue of being a gaijin can sometimes be a superficial one. Indeed the fact that you state you no longer need to seek each other out after you leave Japan also suggests we more in agreement than anything else 😉 Have a nice weekend.
well yeah your experience would be quite different than mine in many aspects but other ways the same. Ive read about the “halfu” experience in Japan and worked with some. Some thought of themselves as Japanese, others didnt want anything to do with that, but they were coming from the same culture as I do, and then were asked to conform, and were uncomfortable with it. Ive seen this behavior in Japanese Americans coming to Japan as well.. So I dont think nationality or ethinic has allot to do with it. I worked for a guy that was “halfu” before, but he was “made in Japan” 100% and he had many issues with anything international. For example he did not ever want to speak or learn English and wanted nothing to do with me. Something about “pride” but I never got that one figured out. Needless to say it was a hellish nightmare working with him. So I didnt want to stray to far from this by bringing race etc into it, but at the same time, its part of it, that is nationalism and being Japanese. Its a heavy topic that many dismiss.
Would be interested to hear your thoughts on that, including race. If it’s a heavy topic that people avoid even better :b Makes it all the more interesting. Maybe we can discuss on my blog though.
Sorry Ruby for clogging up your comments!
Strangely I grew up in the whitest part of Guelph Ontario, I’m a quarter Russian Jew which means minus the pale skin and my natural tolerance of vodka (*no joke, 23 & Me confirmed I’m a genetic alcoholic), I look 100% Chinese. Growing there being a minority wasn’t a big deal as I had 80% white friends including white Muslims like Albanians and Bosnians, the rest are Sikhs, Afghans. The only time a joke came is my good friend Benjamin joked that I’m his brother and his mom had a lotta rice when she had me.
But then I moved to rural New York state as 1 of 3 Asian kids in the whole school. The chink and gook jokes came with it. Then I joined the US Navy and was the only Asian guy in the division. AND… then I moved to Utah. I guess I’m used to being the token in any group. I don’t feel weird if I’m the only Asian guy in a group of white, black, Indian Sikhs or even in a mosque. But upon visiting China 4 months ago, I felt weird. It was surreal cause people gave me looks cause my wife is white. Sometimes people would speak Chinese to me ’cause I look the part, other times they can tell I’m not one of them. But being in a large group of Asians was a surreal alienating moment for me.
Wow, really interesting story! I thought New York (even if its not the city) would have been a little more diverse, but it sounds like you suffered a lot of the same treatment that I got in rural Utah. Was it better to grow up in a more diverse place like Ontario, or do you think the New York experience was more character building?
And you ended up in Utah! So crazy! I’m sure there’s a great story behind that, haha.
I’m sure it was a mind-blowing moment to be in a completely Asian environment. Sometimes I wish I could look more Asian in China or Japan, that way I won’t stick out like a flamingo and get stared at all the time… but I guess there’s good and bad to both sides.
I’m also excited to bring my Chinese husband back to China someday (he hasn’t been back since he was a very small child); I wonder what kind of culture shock he’ll get there.
I hope you enjoyed Asia! Thanks for sharing your experience, it was very fascinating.