I am Japanese American
I am glad I am Japanese American, even though I feel JA men are some of America's best kept secrets. There is a story of a vertically challenged man who was in the midst of some tall men. One of the taller men said to him, "You must feel pretty small right now." The man replied, "Yes, I feel like a dime in the midst of a bunch of nickels."
Being a JA male is not easy in America. We get no respect, it seems. Often, the image of the JA male is the nerd, the quiet invisible man, or somehow one devoid of sexuality. JA women have been elevated by American society to a somewhat higher level of acceptance, or so it seems from the mainstream media.
I noticed recently that there are more JA (or Asian American) men doing the news on TV; Rob Fukuzaki and others on local news are a welcome sight because it seems we Asian men have joined the rest of society at least in terms of representation on the news (although ...view middle of the document...
And yes, I can say it, I am a man of substance and strength, perhaps even a dime among a lot of nickels.
A part of my JA upbringing also taught me to be reserved and modest, unassuming and uncomplaining. And even though I picked up a trace of racist attitudes from my parents--that Japanese are superior to other people, and that others, especially African American, Mexican and Pilipinos, were inferior. But still, I was dominated by a sense of being inferior myself to the general society around me. And it is a sense that there is safety in silence--that to speak up and stand up is risky so why do it. So often, I have chosen to keep quiet because it was the safe and simple thing to do.
But all in all, I believe Americans of Japanese heritage make some of the best Americans of all--combining the values of working together in a democratic fashion, listening as well as being heard, working hard for a goal without worrying about style and flash, respecting others and their views, empathizing with the oppressed and being sensitive to the minority.
Japanese Americans make for good neighbors who keep their yards clean. They are good business people who run honest shops and value customer loyalty. Their children are good students who generally stay out of trouble. All in all, the JA community is an asset that helps keep America a strong and safe democracy.
This is not to say that all JAs are perfect and trouble free. Of course, we have our share of needs and problems. At the Little Tokyo Service Center, we see many of those problems and their results all the time, and we do our best to deal with them.
In fact JAs have their share of both victims and perpetrators of crime. In that sense, the JA community is normal. But for too long, we have not tooted our horn or taken our place in getting respect.
It seems society will not give it so we must, to some degree, embrace it for ourselves, to give respect to each other, simply because we recognize that we JAs are pretty darn good.