Sorry for the long pause of posts. My daughter, Kantra was out of school and I’m working on some things that always get buried under writing assignments.
Last month Huffpost published my personal article, “I’m Raising A Biracial Daughter In Japan, Where She’s Surrounded By Blackface.” I know I should’ve written a reaction to its reaction(s), but I had to counter the vertigo of retweets and likes. The world’s response was head-spinning. I had a TV reporter contact me about doing a story, but I passed, unless the person got at me through a related channel, in which case, it just didn’t work out, kind of to my relief.
Varying shades of the human experience wrote me to share their story and express their support. I’ve received emails from California, Seattle, Washington, Guam, Geneva, Austin, Texas, North Carolina and various other places. I still can’t quite express my gratitude and appreciation for those that reached out. It kind of made me want to shrink. I write and breath air. There’s not much choice in doing either. Stumbling through reality is a consequence of the later. If I could fake the funk I’d be President.
I didn’t know how people would respond, but I knew that racism in Japan, particularly related to black and brown kids or children of immigrant parents, has seldom if ever been publicly talked about or acknowledged. Here, its not directly addressed. Its talked around and side-eyed. Scoffs, chuckles, and petty aggressions fight against the pull of its obvious presence.
Writing that article was like wearing a silver suit and dancing along the edges of unfolding lava. The first thing that I ever wrote about Kantra, “Dear America,” has actually yet to get published by Kweli Journal. It was written while Kantra was still a baby. The essay came out of a necessity to understand my family’s predicament. I didn’t know if it’d ever get published. The Huffpost article was written after I pitched it to them. I was on deadline. I didn’t have the leisure to loom over it and painfully premeditate the execution. Shit had to get done. The click-bate title wasn’t mine. Though I hesitated at first, I approved it.
The day after the piece went live, I spent hours responding to readers and sometimes debating. There’s thousands of comments all over social media. After a short while I stopped reading them. I wrote what I had to say and I didn’t feel the need to defend my experience, especially since there were so many people who could relate to it. Sounds cliché, but they gave me hope. Black fathers in similar situations showed love. There’s people here and abroad that go through the same thing. Some readers asked me for advice. A white father was worried about his twin boys getting bullied. A Japanese mother whose son was half-black had the same concern.
For black fathers, the struggle is like author James Baldwin talking about the nigger that white folks invented. Keep it together or you’re just going to give life to the monster that they’re projecting onto you. They have to accept themselves before they even begin to consider an alternative view of which they know little about. There are Japanese people who are embarrassed by some of their countrymen’s behavior. Some of them, not having even left Japan, know better.
I’m sorry I can’t be of better service for those worried about bullying. Its on my mind everyday because here, it hides behind your absence, when you’re not with your child and it flashes only a glimpse of its existence when you’re with them. Talk to your child. Be willing to listen when they’re ready to talk. A half-black, half-Japanese woman told me that Kantra will need lots of love, extra love. You already know that, but when you’re tired and irritated, you can easily forget to be consistent. Hug them. Tell them that you love them. Remind them of something specific that they did that was positive, that made you happy.
For parents and individuals like us looking for supportive communities, definitely join Mixed Roots Japan：ミックスルーツ・ジャパン（多文化市民社会対話プラットフォーム） . Appreciate Edward Y. Sumoto for getting at me.
Thank you to writer Baye McNeil for your encouraging words and support. His book Hi! My Name is Loco and I am a Racist convinced me that I wasn’t nuthouse-bound. Filmmaker Darryl Wharton-Rigby graciously took the time to meet up with me and drop some jewels. He also let me see his latest film Stay and I got his first film, Detention. Shout out to educator and rapper Paul A. Richardson aka PaulieRhyme and his family, for having a play date with us. I had to keep telling Kantra that yall don’t live nearby. Good luck with your school bruh!
Thanks to my family and friends. To my mentor, out of respect for privacy, I won’t say his name (you know who you are), thanks for always taking the time to edit my work. Your friendship has always given buoyancy to my sunken place. My wife and co-conspirator, Haruki, is a hustler and had it not been for her, I would still be wallowing in self-doubt, trying to substitute my fantasized efforts for actually banging on my craft.
To my daughter, Kantra, you are the metronome to which my heart keeps time. Everyday you show me my limits and then push me further than I ever imagined. I know you’re already way ahead of me, just don’t run too fast, look both ways. Your “ouchies” are battle wounds, be proud, play hard. The pain goes away. Thinking about you and your mother is, a lot of times, too much to contemplate. Both of you drive me up the wall, but you know I love you. Thank you for your patience and fearless love. One.