Throughout the years I have witnessed how strong culture can create communities that prioritizes the group over the individual.
As an Asian American growing up in Hawaii I was not a minority. In fact, about 37% of Hawaii’s population is Asian. Hawaii is also the state with the largest proportion of multiracial Americans which contributes to the State’s diverse culture and traditions. When I was 12 years old I learned that my father, a driven businessman, made a conscious decision to stay in Hawaii despite receiving career opportunities in the mainland US because he wanted to raise his kids in a place where Asians were not a minority. This has stuck with me and has been foundational as I think about my own plans for my future family. Because of my parents decision to stay in Hawaii, I never really had to think twice about the color of my skin or my race. As part of the majority, I was always accepted.
When I meet people for the first time they often have a hard time determining my background and ethnicity. On one hand, I am a fourth generation Asian American from Hawaii, my parents speak perfect english, and being Japanese / Korean means I know how to order the best sushi at a restaurant and how to pronounce “udon” or “tempua” correctly. On the other hand, I have to constantly explain to people that although I was born and raised in Hawaii, I am not truly “Hawaiian”. Being from Hawaii does not necessarily make you “Hawaiian”. I am a “local” girl, which means that I take my shoes off when I enter someone’s home, I know the hidden beaches and restaurants around Hawaii, and I call my friends parents “Aunty” and “Uncle”. Unlike many Asian Americans I do not affiliate with my ethnic background but rather with the place where I grew up which has truly shaped who I am.