That's Why I'm Turning Japanese*
(In which a white girl waxes inappropriately about race and ethnicity.)
"Do you think I look kind of Japanese, mommy?" Lana asked me yesterday.
We were sitting in a Lebanese restaurant, and she was eating hummus and chicken schwarma at the time.
Which kind of made the whole thing feel that much more surreal.
(I do suspect I am raising the only Vietnamese-Episcopalian-Schwarma-Addicted six-year-old in the Midwest. I could be wrong, though.)
I didn't know what to say.
The truth is, I don't think she looks Japanese AT ALL.
I've been told (repeatedly) by people who are Vietnamese, Chinese, and Korean, that she does not "look Vietnamese". (Vietnamese and Chinese people tell me she looks Chinese. Korean people tell me she looks, "a little bit Korean." Is there any appropriate way to respond to this? Anyone? Please? The worst was a Vietnamese guy who looked at her and said, flat out, "She's NOT Vietnamese!") (Dude! She TOTALLY is. I swear.)
But, I do know that I lived in Japan, and, to me, my child doesn't look Japanese. (In fact, last summer, when we were at the water park with our Japanese exchange student, and the life guard asked Miho to keep a hold of her sister's hand, my first thought was, "they look nothing like sisters!" (Which is ridiculous, when I let myself think about it, because she doesn't look like her brother either. Obviously). (Photographic evidence of the two of them not looking anything alike below.) (Although, admittedly they ARE both wearing horizontal stripes. It IS amazing no one asked if they were twins...)
But, back to Lana's question.
Ultimately, I took a bite of hummus and I said, "Why?"
And Lana said, "Sadie** says I look kind-of Japanese." (I find this very interesting, because Sadie's parents are from Hong Kong and Thailand. Well, actually they are from Vancouver, but, via Hong Kong and Thailand.)
So, I said, "Well, I don't think you look Japanese. I think you look Vietnamese." (This is a lie on my part, because I don't really feel like I have enough knowledge to say that I think she looks Vietnamese or not. But, it IS where she is from, and I feel like she should feel secure in her identity.)
"Do YOU think you look Japanese?" I asked her a few minutes later.
"No. I think I look like Lana."
Well...that much is absolutely true.
* The Vapors, Turning Japanese
**Sadie is not her real name