My neighbor was having a stoop sale this morning, and although I have been living next to this woman, her son and husband for the past two years, today was the first day that I reached out and talked with her. She is Japanese, from Japan. Her husband is from Japan. Her son was likely born in the United States but goes back every summer to Japan.
I am half-Japanese and, like an imposter, feel both attracted to and intimidated by Japanese Japanese people when I encounter them. Maybe this is why I haven’t reached out to this neighbor before?
I get self-conscious about the degree to which I am what I say I am if she doesn’t see it. I imagine this Japanese woman looking at me and wondering to herself: Japanese? She doesn’t look or sound Japanese. But, she does know something about my dishes … hmmm.
I’m a white mother of six children, five of whom are children of color, and four of whom came home to our family through foster-adoption. When I’m out and about with my kids, I often field questions about how my big, multiracial family came to be, and I try to receive them with generosity and openness — to a degree. I want to give people the benefit of the doubt, and I hope that their curiosity stems from goodwill and perhaps an interest in adoption that comes from lived experience, or even from plans or hopes to become adoptive parents.
But I have to admit that I chafe at some questions that seem rooted in limited and limiting assumptions about race. One that really sticks in my craw is:
“Where are they from?