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half enough

Japanese School memories, Part V: Liking Asian guys

I didn’t have any crushes on the boys in Japanese school and it wasn’t because I didn’t like boys.

My very first crush on a boy was in the first grade. His name was Jesus (as pronounced in Spanish). I had a crush on him because all the girls had a crush on him. He would chase the girls (the not-so-shy ones who liked to be chased) during recess. I remember liking that he wore a blue Batman t-shirt because I watched Batman reruns on television. Liking his Batman shirt was enough of a reason for me to call it my “crush on Jesus.”

For a while, I thought I didn’t like the boys at my Japanese school because I wasn’t attracted to Asian Americans. But I briefly dated a Chinese American guy in high school (his parents were from southern China and spoke Cantonese at home with them) so I knew it wasn’t that I was not attracted to Asian men. I just didn’t like any of the Japanese American or other Asian American boys at my Japanese school. A lot of it had to do with the cliques there, exclusive to Asian Americans who looked Asian—it didn’t matter what country of descent.

Now that I think about it, me not having crushes on any of the Asian American boys at my Japanese school also had to do with coming from a predominantly Hispanic community (mainly Mexican and El Salvadorian) and having predominantly Hispanic friends. I was not used to seeing so many Asian Americans at one time in one setting. I remember feeling more Japanese during the week among my Hispanic classmates then feeling more Hispanic (and less Japanese) on Saturdays at Japanese school. There were times when I stood up for the Hispanic people because my Japanese school classmates made fun of them, calling anyone Hispanic “Mexican”, and saying things like “Mexicans don’t know English.” Similarly, during my regular school week I stood up for fellow Asian Americans of whom there was no representation except for myself in most of my classes. It was common for my predominantly Hispanic classmates to make fun of the few Asians at school. They would pull their eyes back and call anyone who looked Asian “chink” and/or Chinese. I would say, repeatedly on numerous occasions, that Asians weren’t just Chinese but that there were Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Filipino and Malaysian people, among others, and that there were many distinct Asian languages.

It was in college that I began to deeply question where the ignorance of my predominantly Hispanic or Asian classmates throughout my K-12 experience stemmed from. We didn’t have discussion on ethnic American identity in contemporary American literature in my AP (Advanced Placement) English Literature class. I wasn’t introduced to bell hooks, Gish Jen, William Carlos Williams or Frank Chin until taking a class called “The American Experience” in my second year of college. I hypothesized that it was due to ethnic and culturally concentrated communities—socioeconomic status also being an important factor—where the major disadvantage was exposure to and interaction with a diverse community of people.

My taste in guys changed in college. I saw my peers, males included, as intellectuals seeking beyond just the words on the page and answers to multiple-choice questions. The books we read on race issues in American literature and the discussions we had in class touched each student differently. We responded to critical questions based on our own unique experiences. I found myself in a setting in which ethnicity was no longer solely a means for exclusivity but that everyone, in my American literature classroom at least, were intrigued by the cultures and experiences behind the term.

I recently had crushes on an Asian American guy (I prefer not to reveal what country of Asian origin) and an Iranian immigrant. Neither of them reminded me of the ignorant guys at Japanese school or in high school. They were just nice—and attractive—guys. I couldn’t help but have a crush on them.

On one hand, I don’t have ethnic standards on what guys I have crushes on. On the other hand, I have to ask myself whether I’m being ignorant by judging a book by its cover. I’m attracted to Asian (and “Other” men) who are not like the ignorant ones I knew throughout my K-12 school years. But then who knows whether those seemingly exclusive Asian cliques at my Japanese school were only seemingly so and would have considered my being half Japanese enough to include me in their social gang?

© 2007 Victoria Kraus

About this series

"Half Enough" is Victoria's first regular column series. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of Discover Nikkei.