Sophia Lo: Hi everyone, welcome to…
Everyone: Second GenerAsian!
Sophia: I’m Sophia.
Hannah Julie Yoon: I’m Hannah.
David Deloso: and I’m David.
Hannah: And today’s special guest, we have our friend Gabby!
Gabby Rabon: Hi!
Hannah: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Gabby: Sure, so I am a quarter Japanese and otherwise very very White. I’m a freshman here studying Journalism and Spanish.
Hannah: How do you know us?
Gabby: We all live together in CRC.
Hannah: Yes we do!
Gabby: It's great.
David: So when you were growing up, were people aware that you were part Asian?
Gabby: I mean, sort of. I look very White so it's not something people would have guessed right away, but it was always one of those “fun fact” things for when we had culture day in school, you know, the teachers would always ask my mom to bring in our Japanese dolls and make sushi or something, so it was something that people were aware of once they knew me, and then it became sort of a weird thing in that most of my school was, or almost 100 percent of my school was very White growing up so when I left, I was told I couldn't leave because I was the diversity.
Hannah: Wow, diversity matters.
David: So did people treat you differently, as the sort of diversity?
Hannah: As the token Asian kid?
Gabby: Right right, which is funny because I'm really not, but...
Gabby : Definitely because once they knew they would either make jokes about it. I got the eye thing a lot, or I got called names which I am not going to say on the air because I am a White person. Also, there would be sometimes where people just wouldn't believe me, which is fine, it's valid, but also, but also I don't know what to tell them. I guess I don't really care what they think or whether they believe it.
Sophia: So how do you relate to your Japanese culture?
Gabby: Ooh, um, that's a tough one.
Hannah: Well, how much, I guess how Japanese was your life growing up?
Gabby: Yeah well, so when my grandmother came to the United States, she made a very very determined effort to force all of her kids to assimilate so that they would be accepted because she faced so much discrimination. So even my mother who is half Japanese does not have as strong of a relationship to her culture as a lot of the half Asian people that I know nowadays for that reason. So I definitely didn’t have that much exposure to it growing up we would have mochi on the new year, we would eat pocky or whatever and we would go visit my grandmother. She lived in Ohio, so we didn't get to see her that often. We were several hours apart. But when we did see her, I was aware and I had a book of Japanese fairy tales that I would read. So, I had some relation to it growing up but I sort of kind of tried to ignore it because it was a reason I got made fun of, and I didn't really feel comfortable with it because I don't look Asian, so now I'm trying to reach out and accept it more.
David: So what forms has that taken? How have you tried to reconnect?
Gabby: I think a lot of it has to do with processing and learning more about my grandmother's history. Part of the reason that I want to dive more into my Asian background is because of all the things she went through and I don't want that to just die out because she's no longer alive, because she went through a lot and I feel her experience is important and it’s incredibly unique but it's also a part of the larger story of immigration to the United States and feeling forced to assimilate to White American culture. So really just diving into her story and learning more about it, I've also, Subtle Asian Traits has been really helpful, going to dim sum or whatever, having a good time, it's been fun.
Sophia: So you seem to have a lot of your grandma in mind when you're thinking about your Asian identity, could you tell us a little bit about her?
Gabby: Sure! So my grandmother's name was Katsuko Ujihara and she lived in Japan, she was born in Japan, she lived there until she was around 30. She grew up during World War II, so there was an air raid near her school and a piece of shrapnel decapitated her best friend and lodged in her arm, so that's the beginning of her struggle. And then her family had her in an arranged marriage but right before she got married she eloped with an American GI, my grandfather, because she wanted to get out of this arranged marriage. And she kind of expected the whole American Dream, you know, white picket fence, suburban living, whatever, but what she ended up getting was an abusive husband, five children, and a single wide trailer. And then her husband ended up leaving her, she didn't really speak English very well, she couldn't drive, she worked for less than minimum wage, which was at that time two dollars and 33 cents an hour. So, she had a really rough time. She was heavily discriminated against not only for not being able to speak English very well and for her appearance but also because this was right around the time of the Korean War. So everyone hated Asian people!
David: So how do you feel the White side of your family has interacted with the Asian side? Do they click together?
Gabby: Yeah, I mean, my family on my mom's side is very melded together. We're all just kind of a hot mess. We have a lot of fun, we're all very loud, very in your face. It's less about, the difference between who's Asian and who's not — that doesn't really come into it. It's just sort of a fun thing we all laugh about my grandmother because she was very much a character at the end of her life. So we like to talk about those memories, but it's mostly just about coming together as a family in a fun group of people.
Hannah: Just curious, do you have any more family members on the Japanese side of your family?
Gabby: Not that I'm aware of. From what I understand, most of my grandmother's relatives have passed away. But I am not super familiar with that side of our family, just because when my grandmother broke off the arranged marriage and eloped with my grandfather she was disowned from the family. So I don't know any of them.
Sophia: Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Gabby: I'm really proud of my heritage and specifically my grandmother, just as much for being a strong woman and surviving everything that she did as for anything else. I'm just really proud of that and that's kind of what I associate with this part of my identity.
David: Um, so I guess what are some of the struggles that you've encountered just trying to find and build your identity here as someone who is mixed race?
Gabby: I think a lot of it has been White guilt, quite honestly. Because I feel bad claiming this part of my heritage a lot of the time when I don't experience the discrimination that comes with it because I don't look Asian. And so there's like this big conflict in me where my grandmother sacrificed everything so that we could have this better life and she would want us to accept who we are and to be a part of everything, but she also had this part where she experienced so much discrimination that she felt she had to assimilate and that her family had to. So kind of this conflict between should I or should I not even be thinking about this.
David: Do you think your mom's parenting was influenced significantly by her being half-Asian?
Gabby: Oh I definitely think so.
Hannah: And the fact that she had an Asian mother?
Gabby: Yeah, yeah, my mom is like, I like to joke that she's sort of a tiger mom even though she doesn't look it, just because she was always very strict. Yeah, I think she was definitely influenced by the way she was raised.
Hannah: Well I feel largely whether you feel the need to assimilate to White America or not just depends on where you live in America. Specifically, because I was born in White America Pennsylvania. And then I lived there for six years, the first six or seven years of my life before moving to “mini-Asia,” a.k.a. the Bay Area. "Mini-China;" we literally just call it "mini-China" because all the signs are in Chinese, the school is 60% Asian, so it's basically Asia. You feel, I mean of course, as a kid you are influenced by the people you're surrounded by. So growing up, when I was in pre-school I was the only Asian kid in my pre-school. And it felt no matter what I did, I never fully fit in. When I came to mini-Asia where supposedly I could fit in because 60% of the school looked like me, I still didn't feel Asian enough cause at that point I wasn't super good with Korean. Part of the reason I am at the level I am today is because of Asian guilt. I had to relearn Korean cause I felt like "Wow, all these other kids are super fluent with Chinese, I have to be as good as they are." And then, part of the reason why I was in advanced math was because "Oh shit! Everyone else is in advanced math, I have to be in advanced math." Part of the reason why I developed decent drawing skills is because "Wow, everyone else is decent at drawing. I have to be decent at drawing too." So it largely depends on where you grow up because I do know back where I went to high school, a.k.a. Bay Area, there was a clear racial divide between all the White kids and the Asian kids who were friends. And there was, not a total sense of shame, but it did look a little strange, we did look strangely on the Asian people who liked to hang out with the White people and who didn't necessarily connect with their Asian side, because of how Asian-dominant the culture is in the Bay Area.
Sophia: I mean, I think it's important that if you are fully Asian, if you're half Asian, if you're a quarter Asian, you can identify as Asian. It doesn't mean that you need to be completely immersed in the language or the culture because everyone who is Asian does have some pieces of them that are rooted in culture, language, or just like kind of how they were raised. So I've always felt not as Asian because in comparison, you know, my friends are better at the language, the culture and all that stuff. And I think it's kind of taken me to come here and be a little separated from that, to figure out, like, yeah there are actually parts of me I do embrace and there are parts of me that aren't as Asian, maybe more rooted in American culture, and that's ok!
Hannah: Yeah, I know. Coming here after joining KASA, which is the Korean American Student Association, there's a weird sense where I do feel at home, cause I am with a bunch of people who have gone through similar experiences as me, you know, growing up Korean American. But it's also a weird sense of not feeling Korean enough because there are a lot of people there who are from Korea and who speak the language better, and then, sometimes some cultural jokes I just don't understand sometimes. But honestly, be who you wanna be. As long as you're not hurting anyone, it's like, I mean why not. If you're a little more American, if you're a little more Asian. If you like to drink hot water, if you like to drink cold water, just do what you want.
David: Alright, so, I think we're gonna wrap it up.
Hannah: Today's snack of the week is Sticko.
David: So if you're familiar with Pirouettes, the American snack, the long wafers that are rolled up with some cream in them, Sticko is like the Filipino version of that. And they have some interesting flavors such as ube, which is a purple yam that is very popular in the Philippines.
Hannah: Ube is so good.
David: And it's just a very, delicious snack, you know, not too filling so you can eat a bunch of them. I love Sticko so much, highly recommend that you try it.
Sophia: Please come to CRC and take the Sticko so David can stop saying "Sticko Mode."
David: I'm David
Hannah: I'm Hannah
Sophia: and I'm Sophia
Hannah: and we're signing out!
David: Our theme music was composed by Tenny Tsang, this is NBN Audio.