Issues facing the Japanese American Community
One of the most pressing, current social issues facing the Asian American community is the growing loss of cultural identity, as Asian minorities try and blend into American society. This issue is especially acute with Japanese American, historically one of the oldest, and most prominent Asian minorities in the United States. Japanese Americans,
according to the recent census, have the highest proportion of mixed raced individuals. The combination of being third, or fourth generation born in the United States and often being mixed race makes it difficult for people to truly identify with their common Japanese culture. Further as Japanese Americans “Americanize” people also forget what their ancestors have done to raise the position of Japanese Americans in society, which is a major sociocultural issue.
Further this issue doesn’t only affect the leaders of the community, or the older generation, within my life I have struggled with my Japanese American identity. Often, it is easy to forget my roots and cultural background because it seems so far removed from my daily life. Being yonsei means that my family doesn’t uphold traditional cultural practices, or speak Japanese at home, and thus to fill these gaps in my identity I had find these aspects of culture in other areas of my life.
In confronting the issue of cultural identity I have, at every possible opportunity, jumped at the ability to learn more about my Japanese ancestry. For seven years I have been taking Japanese language courses, and gone to an international school that focuses on world understanding and cultural exploration. For instance, I have immersed myself in my
school’s Japanese National Honor Society, which focuses on exploring and sharing Japanese culture with the local Beaverton community. Language and culture aside I have also had the opportunity to understand the history of Japan and the historical significance of relations between Japan and America and of Japanese Americans. Through these various experiences, and a tip to Japan with peers a few years prior, I have pieced together my identity as Japanese American.
However, not all Japanese Americans are presented the opportunities that I have utilized to form my Japanese identity. It is through the educational opportunities and cultural events that I have attended that allowed me to shape my Japanese American identity. Therefore, I believe that in order to face this challenge the Japanese American community leaders should increase sociocultural educational opportunities. For instance, offering Japanese learning programs that are run by community volunteers would allow the younger Japanese American generation to identify with their common heritage.
Additionally, events held by the Japanese community that celebrate Japanese culture and identity would greatly help the issues of cultural and social identity. These actions are of great significance, since if current trends for identity continue the Japanese American community will slowly disappear. It is important that the Japanese American community retains its rich culture and history, and celebrates it, as we progress into the future.