By Louis Chan
AsAmNews National Correspondent
The future is now in the Japanese American community.
By 2020, just four years away, demographers says the majority of Japanese Americans will be multiracial/multiethnic.
A new exhibition now at the Japanese American Museum of San Jose in California runs through the end of the year. It is curated by Fred Liang and Cindy Nakashima who also co-curated an earlier version of the exhibition in 2013 at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.
“My parents married in 1965, when it was still illegal in sixteen states, but they married in Ohio, where there were no anti-miscegenation laws,” Nakashima told AsAmNews. My dad is a Nisei, my mom is a White Anglo Saxon Protestant(WASP). They met in graduate school.”
The interracial marriage rate in the Japanese American community is estimated at 66 percent. It wasn’t until the Supreme Court ruled in 1967, (Loving v. Virginia) that anti-miscegenation laws are unconstitutional, each state had control over who could and could not get legally married.
Until then, many were forced to leave their home states to get married much the same way gays had to find states where their marriages were legal until a 2015 Supreme Court ruling.
“In our exhibit you see a couple (Gunjiro Aoki and Helen Emery) who went from California to Washington state to be married,” said Nakashima. You also see the marriage certificate of the Nakaya-Mortons, which is in Spanish because they went from Los Angeles to Mexico to be married.”
According to Liang, the hapa experience is multifaceted and Japanese Hapas bridge the Japanese community with other communities.
His grandfather was born and raised in Yokohama as the son of a Chinese merchant and a Japanese-Chinese homemaker.
“My memories of my grandfather were very bi-cultural and it was through him that I became interested in the hapa
Japanese experience,” said Liang to AsAmNews.
“Aside from multiracial representation, the exhibition is important because it questions the concept and idea of “race” and it’s implications on history and society. It also touches on issues such as racial inequality
in the United States and overseas. We strongly feel that an open dialogue on multiracial experiences is much needed in the Japanese community.”
JAMSJ board member Bob McKibbin is one of the sponsors of the exhibition. He married into a Japanese American family and told AsAmNews his children were raised hapa.
“The term Hapa is also relatively new to my family. Working on the exhibit opened up my eyes to the depth of history within the Japanese American community in relations to mixed marriages and their offspring and how extensive it was and is,” he said.
For him, the highlight of the exhibition were the 2nd, 3rd and 4th generational photos submitted by local members of the community to make the exhibition truly “hapa-centric.”
The face of the Japanese American community is clearly changing. Nakashima compares it to concentric circles with the mixed race experience overlapping with the Japanese American experience forming the hapa Japanese American experience.
“As the Japanese American community becomes increasingly mixed, being mixed Japanese American might start to become somewhat synonymous with being Japanese American,” she explained. “But what I think is more likely, at least in the short term, is that notions of who and what is Japanese American will continue to expand as the community becomes more and more diverse.
“It’s important to remember that mixed Japanese Americans are by no means all Japanese/White. Japanese Americans have very diverse marriage patterns in terms of race and ethnicity, so many hapas are Japanese/Chinese or Japanese/Chicano or Japanese/Jewish, or Japanese/Black/Native Hawaiian, etc. etc.
“Also, mixed people are quite a bit more likely than “purebloods” to “marry out” – so as the community gets more mixed, there’s an exponential effect.”
The Japanese American Museum of San Jose(JAMsj) is open Thursday through Sunday from 12 to 4. The Hapa exhibit will be up through 2016 with planned changes during that time.
The museum will also be sponsoring programs throughout the year in association with the Hapa exhibit. In conjunction with the J-Town FilmFest, Jamsj will be viewing the film Hafu on May 22, 2016 at 12:30pm. The public is invited and encouraged to go to www.jamsj.org to see the latest programs offered at JAMsj. The museum can also be reached during normal business hours at 408-294-3138.
The Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Northern California are the 2016 sponsors for the rotating exhibit area which holds the Hapa exhibit.
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