I’ve been living in Japan for eight months now, and though I had always feared it might happen, not once has a child run screaming or starting crying at the sight of my blackness.
Not until yesterday that is.
I was shopping at Don Quixote. For those not living in Japan Don Quixote is a department store similar to Wal-Mart. I was shopping for stuff to pimp my crib, when I spotted a black man with an adorable half-black, half-Japanese two year old daughter. As I try to do when I see another person who looks like me in Japan I gave “the nod” of acknowledgment, which opened the doors for conversation.
“Where are you from?” he asked, with an African accent. I told him I was from Canada.
“Are you a student?”
“No I’m a teacher”
“Oh, I’m looking for someone to teach my daughter English, and I want her to have more interaction with the black community.”
It was at this point that the little cutie started crying.
“She must be tired,” I commented naively.
“No, whenever she sees a black face, or anyone not Japanese, she gets scared. She’s only used to me.”
Whaaaat? She’s afraid of…me? Little old me?
The irony, that the first child who cried at the sight of me was half black. Don’t that beat all huh? Well I think I’ll take the teaching job, so she’ll be seeing a lot more of me. But we’ll be best friends in no time
I sometimes think about how difficult it would be to raise a visibly foreign child in Japan. I don’t think I would do it. This little darling believes in her childlike way that she’s Japanese, and technically she is. She was born and raised here. Yet sometime soon, maybe when she starts school, she will encounter people who are only too quick to show her that no, she is not “real” Japanese. And it won’t just be Japanese people either. It will be the foreigners who expect her to speak perfect English.
I don’t envy her (even though I can tell she will be a complete knockout when she grows up). She has some tough life lessons ahead of her, and I think in order to have the necessary tools to face the upcoming challenges she needs to have an understanding and healthy self-love for both sides of her heritage, so I’ll do my best to get her to stop crying.