OPEN END-O: We’re Here, We’re Hapa, Get Used to It


Ellen Endo headshot2By ELLEN ENDO

“Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as a racial melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, a nation of cowards.”  — Eric Holder (1951- ), first African American U.S. Attorney General

Whenever someone asks me, “Where are you from?” I literally stop breathing, but just for a few seconds. I take those seconds to try and come up with a smart response because often the question they really want to ask is: What race are you?

Sadly, my reaction is usually more tepid than torrid. Sometimes, I actually say nothing at all, so I have prepared a series of clever comebacks to go along with the attitude I wish to convey.

For example:

Obnoxious “Where am I from? Where are you from? Planet Obvious?”

Sarcastic: “Oh dear, I left my race card in my other wallet.”

Condescending: “I’m sorry, did you just time-travel here from the ’50s?”

Indignant: “Are you taking a survey? In that case, my answer is ‘none of your business.’”

Generally, people know that it’s impolite to pry into someone’s ethnicity, but that doesn’t necessarily stop them from trying a sneak attack. “No, I meant, where are you from originally?”

We’re living in an age of labels, an age where Donald Trump can make sweeping remarks about Mexicans, Muslims, and Arabs and not only escape reprisal, but increase his fan base.

According to the 2010 Census, there are more than 1.3 million persons of Japanese ancestry living in the United States. Of that number, 763,000 identify themselves as 100 percent Japanese, while approximately 540,000 reported that they are Japanese mixed with another Asian ethnicity or they are mixed with one or more other races.

That means that 41.5 percent of America’s Japanese population is mixed, and about 58.5 percent are purely Japanese. But wait! By the time the next census comes along in 2020, it is likely that those who are hapa or hafu will constitute the majority of the Japanese population in this country. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

When my sister, Barbara, and I were children in Denver and later in Los Angeles, we were cultural anomalies — half Japanese and half Italian. We were a duo indeed. Barbara looked like a curly-haired, brunette Shirley Temple, while I wore long braids, had tanned skin, and looked more like Pocahontas.

I have been mistaken for Latina so often that I eventually had to learn how to say, “Sorry, I don’t speak Spanish” in Spanish.


It’s hard to believe that just 48 years ago, interracial marriage and interracial sexual relations were against the law in some states. On June 12, 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court declared Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law unconstitutional in a landmark decision, paving the way for removal of such laws in states across the nation. There is even an organization that promotes June 12 as Loving Day in celebration of interracial marriage in America.

In Japan, 5.6 percent of marriages are interracial. Huffington Post blogger Grace Buchele, who is white, is married to a Japanese man. Buchele reports that she often hears misguided comments based on stereotypes. “Here’s the thing about stereotypes,” she wrote, “not all African American men end up in jail; not all Japanese men are emotionally unavailable; not all Mexican men cheat on their spouses; not all white women are loose; not all Arabic women are docile.”

Buchele says that she is often asked, “Aren’t you worried that (your children) will be bullied?” Her answer:

“In this day and age where divorce is becoming the norm, I’m more worried about making it to our 10-year anniversary than whether or not my possible future children will get bullied because of their mixed heritage.”

Here are a few fun facts:

• Dean Cain played Superman on TV.

• Apolo Ohno became the most decorated American Winter Olympic athlete of all time.

• Mike Shinoda leads mega-rock band Linkin Park.

• Film director Cary Fukunaga received an Emmy for Outstanding Directing of a Drama Series for “True Detective.”

• Ariana Miyamoto is the reigning 2015 Miss Universe Japan.

• On Dec. 1, Dave Roberts will officially become manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

I am delighted to report that the hapa kids are doing just fine.


“Excellence is the best deterrent to racism and sexism.” — Oprah Winfrey (1954- ), American television mogul

Opinions expressed to not necessarily reflect those of The Rafu Shimpo or its management. Comments and/or inquiries should be directed to [email protected]










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