Friday, September 30, 2005

Being "haafu"

My ten-month-old son is a "haafu gaijin" (half foreigner), to use a phrase borrowed from this excellent article by Associated Press writer Natalie Obiko Pearson.

Actually, as soon as I put down that "haafu" description in print, I realise how inappropriate it is for me to describe him as any such thing. In the end, other people in England and Japan will choose to label him in all kinds of ways. Some will do it with love. Some will do it ignorantly. Some will label him maliciously. In the end, though, his identity is his and only his to decide. It will emerge from his own experience, thoughts and feelings.

I found myself quite emotional after reading Natalie Obiko Pearson's article. I often worry that I might have caused unnecessary problems for my son by coming to a country where, undeniably, there is more consciousness of race as a definer of nationality and social identity than, for instance, in London/middle class England (I'm not sure about the whole of the UK and whether that applies to all races). On this particular issue, I am sure he will have to meet challenges but I don't think I am being too superficial in saying there are problems growing up everywhere for everyone. There is so much love for him here too and so many good things for him to experience.

In the end, as I say, the one thing I feel I must try to do as a dad is keep my mouth shut on my various thoughts and theories on this issue and give my son space to feel his way into his own life. Neither his mum or dad can really predict what the challenges will be, because neither of us have ever or could ever be in his particular situation. I am sure his choices will be quite unexpected. I suppose all I might be able to do is arm my child with the sure knowledge that any individual identity is about much much more than just race and nationality. It is also about locality, family, education, culture, individual will, gender etc. etc. etc. etc. A person who could only identify themselves as "Japanese" or "English", "white" or "yellow" would, in the old medical sense, be an imbecile.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Food for thought