Growing up Japanese-American in a time of Islamophobia | KUOW News and Information

Growing up Japanese-American in a time of Islamophobia

Feb 18, 2017

Recently, my mother sent a picture of our traditional Hinamatsuri dolls.

In the past, my sister and I helped her unpack each doll – about 16 in total – and arrange them on a precarious platform in our living room.

Emperor and empress Hinamatsuri dolls in Sophia Stephens’ childhood home.
Credit Courtesy Sophia Stephens via Youth Radio

This time, it was just the emperor and empress sitting on top of the family piano.

The picture was gorgeous, but something felt wrong. I quickly realized that it embodied how it felt growing up Japanese American: beautiful but abbreviated.

We are allowed to be here, but the way I’m treated sometimes keeps me in a state of doubt. The slights are big and small – from the smirk of disgust from the cashier at Safeway as I buy daikon, miso paste and other Japanese foods, to men leering at me as they guess “what” I am because of my “exotic” appearance. Sometimes racism feels like death by a million paper cuts, other times like being hacked by a machete.

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