I have done a lot of work around multiracial identity with young people over the years. i started a summer camp, co-founded an after school club for multiracial youth... and it’s just something i have spent a lot of my life celebrating and creating spaces for. i have taken a long break away from being in that kind of work specifically. but recent conversations about privilege and identity have been swirling in my mind and i wanted to put them down on paper and share something i drafted (i may make changes), which is inspired by dr. maria p.p. root’s groundbreaking bill of rights for mixed heritage people as well as her multiracial oath of social responsibility.
the first image is of my bill of responsibilities for multiracial people of color with light skin and white passing privilege. i’ve written it for myself but share it here if other folx find it supportive (text below). the second photo is taken from my child’s room where dr. root’s bill of rights is framed and hanging in a place of pride. the third image is of dr. root’s multiracial oath of social responsibility.
i have the responsibility
to acknowledge my light skin privilege and white passing privilege.
to use my privilege to actively fight against racism and dismantle white supremacy.
to be mindful of how i take up space when people with more marginalized racial and ethnic identities are present.
to hold people with similar privileges accountable for being a part of the solution to eradicate racial inequities.
i have the responsibility
to combat colorism.
to listen to and center the voices and experiences of people with more marginalized racial and ethnic identities than myself.
to call out racism and discrimination when i see it.
to be thoughtful about how i am speaking up for marginalized communities i am connected to as someone who holds light skin privilege.
i have the responsibility
to heal my own racial trauma.
to honor my experiences with racism while being aware of the privilege i hold.
to learn about the histories and stories of the people of color in my family.
to honor my ancestors by being a whole person who loves myself.
Boundaries are an act of self love and self preservation. this morning i spent time setting boundaries in the comments section of a previous post of mine. because my limits were not honored after more than one request, i blocked the people commenting. a deep bow of gratitude and hug to my friend @chadrific for showing up with love when she didn’t have to. i am so grateful for our connection and how powerfully you work to educate all of us with your wisdom and lived experiences.
my account is currently public, but it is still my space. having a public account does not translate to having access to me 24/7 or being able to verbally and emotionally abuse me— which has been attempted repeatedly this past week.
i actively moderate the comments and set clear expectations about how to engage with me and others. when those boundaries are violated, then i block the person. i also spent the morning deleting and blocking hateful dm messages.
i am not here to do on-demand education repeatedly. it is not okay to speak over me or dismiss my perspective even if we disagree. today i was told more than once that what i was setting a boundary about was small and i needed to get over it. it is not anyone’s place to tell me what and how to feel. disagreement will happen but disrespect and derision of myself and other bipoc— even coming from other people of color— will not be tolerated.
setting boundaries is also an act of upholding my values. while i value hearing different perspectives, that can only happen in a container of safety, which means i do not tolerate any comments that center white supremacy, white fragility, tone policing, or gaslighting. those commenters will be warned and if the warning is not respected, the account will be blocked.
my boundaries are firm. i will fiercely protect my heart because my heart is how i show up fully for my child, family, and community each day.
image description: [outfit selfie of this japanese american mixed mama in the changing room of @morningtide.shop wearing a @twodaysoffclothing dress that is a cactus green linen and an @elizsuzann flax linen trench.]
I have read before that experiencing racial micro-aggressions feels like death by a thousand paper cuts. that is exactly how it feels. papercut patterns has participated in, whether unintentional or not, many racial micro-aggressions these past few days.
how not to behave as a white owned brand:
1. release a statement that your company is for equity and inclusivity when making a positive change and then fail to moderate comments when women of color are being attacked for sharing their truths and experiences.
2. shut down comments altogether after many bipoc have put labor into free education while enduring racism.
3. release another statement about being for equity and inclusion and tag a woman of color, me, without consent, offer for compensation, or solidarity, which only serves to direct hostile people to my account.
4. remove my tag from the statement without releasing an apology.
5. ignore my respectful and genuinely curious email about the brand’s plans for next steps.
6. block me and other bipoc and allies who were asking for accountability and amends.
image description: [wearing my @bryrclogs joyfully with my mother’s persimmon colored haori in front of a brick wall. thank you @mutualfriends for the picture! bipoc cannot culturally appropriate from white cultures because of how systemic racism works in our world— i am not appropriating from the dutch. (this is in reference to a violent white person who harassed me on my account and then on @buyfrombipoc which i founded and co-moderate, for appropriating clogs.)]
When i share my pain and people respond with— it doesn’t matter, get over it, you’re too politically correct, you’re a bully... and those comments go unmoderated, but i still take time to respond and share my perspective and my story— and then my comments and all my labor gets deleted... it’s tiring, triggering, nerve wracking, disappointing, and hurtful. this just happened on a @papercutpatterns post and it is not okay.
thank you to @keinhelm4 for doing the work to ask them to change their kimono pattern to a different name in the first place. you and @pineandwillow have been asking for this change on multiple occasions.
here are a few reminders about why the cultural appropriation of kimono is harmful:
many japanese heritage people had their kimono and cultural items destroyed and stolen during ww ii when japanese heritage people were put into concentration camps in the us, canada, and peru. yes, the literal translation of kimono is “thing to wear,” but to think that’s what it means to many of us is false and insulting.
many of us japanese heritage people have endured racism and ridicule because of our culture and to have an item, the kimono, that many of us have emotional and spiritual connections to, used for profit and used so lightly without consideration for the personal context and history, often feels like erasure.
yes, japanese heritage people will have a range of opinions and reactions to kimono-inspired garments— but to elevate the opinions of people who give the green light and ignore those of us saying to brands and makers, please pause and think about your actions and consider your next steps— is compounding pain with further harm.
if a brand is going to commit to self reflection and make changes such as no longer mis-appropriating terms like “kimono,” there also needs to be a commitment to things such as: actively moderating comments sections on posts about said name change, transparency about what other anti-racism and inclusivity work the brand is doing— all things @ajabarber has written about extensively.
image description: [close up a japanese american mixed mama who is looking at the camera. she has long brown hair.]
Yes, i am at it again: asking a brand to do better after giving them weeks and weeks to respond to comments about their cultural appropriation of japanese heritage garments ... and i was ready to just let it go, but then after seeing their latest image utilizing sacred shinto marriage ritual garments in their clothing campaign called, “wabi sabi,” i had to speak out.
i speak out for so many reasons, which i have written about before, but one of the biggest reasons is this person pictured here, my mother.
this woman is in my heart today and every day: my first mother, my first teacher. she was a successful classical japanese musician, who played at carnegie hall in ny, recorded and collaborated with jazz great, pharoah sanders, was reviewed in the ny times, taught and performed extensively; married my father against her family's wishes; carved her own path and career and had me at age 36; battled racism and then aids-phobia toward the end of her life with such grace that she transformed a discriminatory san diego aids ward into a place of compassionate care-giving. she believed in cultural exchange and understanding through music, and those seeds are planted within me as i also strive to build understanding through the respect and honoring of origin cultures and voices. may i live my life as fully and passionately as my mother -- and with as much humility and beauty. she made this world a better place. may i do the same. anything i do, i do in her name and in the name of my child, her namesake. #aapiheritagemonth
image description: [vintage black and white portrait photo of a young japanese woman wearing kimono, with her hair swept up in a bun, looking off to the side.]
For most white adoptive parents and caregivers the choice to adopt is deliberate and there is a depth of thought at some level about the decision to adopt... and if that is the case, then it is my desperate hope that there will also be a commitment to their own healing before and even during the journey of bringing a child of color into their lives. and if that healing work has not been a priority yet and they have a transracially adopted child in their family, i hope that it will become a priority asap.
here are just a few reasons why therapy/healing inner work is important when raising transracially adopted children:
1. your child has most likely experienced loss of some sort (even in an open adoption) and will probably need to process that loss with you eventually and you will have to be able to hold space without centering yourself and your feelings.
2. your child may at some point reject you for a myriad of reasons both connected to and not related to their adoption, and once again, you need to be able to hold space and not center your feelings.
3. you may face rejection or ridicule from community or even family members for adopting a bipoc child and you need to be able to process that away from your child with a skilled adult.
4. having children in any way, shape, or form is earth-shaking, and whether raising a transracially adopted child alone or in a partnership, you have to be grounded as much as possible and that means doing the work beforehand and if possible, throughout, as needed.
5. you will probably find yourself in situations you do not understand or navigate clumsily because you are white and your child is not. you hold the power not only because you are the adult but also because you are white and your child is not— that’s a lot to unpack. you need to be able to do your own activated anti-racism work on an ongoing basis and be in a place of wholeness so that you don’t take these situations personally i.e. don’t act out white fragility and gas lighting on your child or bipoc community members who may be connected to your child.
6. working on healing yourself is not only an act of love for yourself, but for your child. cont in comments
I have searing memories of being racially taunted aka harassed and bullied by white peers and their parents (yes) for being asian and mixed race asian. i was born on july 4th so the irony is thick.
i recently devoured the series pen15 and one episode in particular made me weep for two reasons: for the power of finally seeing a show with a main character like me at the age of 38 and for the way she was forced to be complicit in her own bullying. i remember multiple times being surrounded by white “friends” who chanted over and over again, “chinese, japanese, dirty knees, look at these,” while hysterically laughing at me. i participated because it was survival. i participated because the pain inside my chest and the sting behind my eyes had to get covered up somehow, so i laughed and i joined the chant every time. i laughed off every racial slur and every time i was told i couldn’t be played with because of what i was. i never said anything back.
while these are little snippets of the racism i experienced as a child, i have never feared for my life or safety because of how i look. being japanese and mixed with white means that i have many privileges... i think a lot about how to mindfully be in spaces and step back. how best to amplify and not co-opt. i have made mistakes and i will continue to make mistakes. what i appreciate about so many of the asian women in my life is that we are deep in dialogues about our privileges and how to spend it while simultaneously being empowered as asian women. we call one another in and we have honest and raw conversations. these are some of the relationships that inspire and fuel me each day, but are particularly making me full of pride to be asian american today. #aapiheritagemonth
image description: [yup, another photo from that epic visit with a few of the asian folx i adore in the world. the rest of you, you know who you are. i love you! a group of asian women standing against a light colored wall in portland. some are kneeling and squatting on the ground and others are standing up.]
It’s asian and pacific islander heritage month #aapiheritagemonth and i want to share a bit more about my asian identity in the context of being transracially adopted. #littlekotoadopteestories
my birth parents died when i was 8 and 10 years old so i have a strong rooting in my heritages and yet— when i joined the white family who started raising me at 10 years old, so began the long and arduous journey to hang on to my sense of cultural self.
when i have had the opportunity to speak with prospective or adoptive white caregivers, i always emphasize the need to have close relationships with people who share the ethnic and racial identity of their children— who will be present in their children’s lives. i have received many excuses over the years as to why this is hard... but they go to festivals and eat the food and bought their children the traditional garments from their birth culture, so the children do have cultural connections... not good enough.
what is hard is not having the grounding in human relationships with people who look in your eyes and reflect back your right to take up space and be in the world. what is hard is being raised in the context of whiteness always being the default and your presence being the constant outlier. what is hard is having cultural connections that are superficial tokens like food and clothing because the relational cultural connections are not present or prioritized.
i am not the first transracial adoptee to say these things and i certainly won’t be the last. if the relationships with people who represent the children’s ethnic heritage don’t already exist, white adoptive caregivers must get uncomfortable and urgently create and nurture those relationships. love is never enough and the people whom you surround your children with matter the most because it’s not a just month, but every day of our lives.
image description: [japanese american mixed mama celebrating her child’s third birthday, smiling, holding a purple cupcake with three candles.]
Sustainability is so often about relationships for me: the individuals who inspire me to be active about self-care and keep me accountable to my commitments to be my best self in order to show up thriving for my family, community and the earth. one of the main people who encourages me, lifts me up, and inspires me to tap into my power is this phenomenal human pictured here, my chosen family and beloved friend, @miss_rose_v
sometimes we get lucky and meet people who feel familiar, like kindred spirits. i have no doubt that candice and i have crossed paths in previous lifetimes. candice is someone who always makes time for me, has taught me an immeasurable amount about being a conscious parent, and is one of my greatest role models. it is an honor to be able to love her, her family, and to raise our children together.
candice is a naturally gifted healer and for people who have the privilege of being in her presence, that fact becomes immediately evident in how she engages so fully with whomever she is with.
as part of formalizing her healing and therapy practice she is going back to school and embarking on a trip to peru this summer. the trip to peru is the opportunity of a life time for her to offer her yoga teaching and practice under two seasoned teachers. i have shared her go fund me fundraiser in my stories and ask for people to give generously.
this is a chance to contribute to the healing of marginalized communities by investing in a healer who has deep roots in the bay area and has already been doing vital work for youth and adults in our public schools as a former educator. this is also an opportunity to invest in black joy, which is in and of itself an act of healing.
image description: [a japanese american mixed mama standing next to her black and mexican mama friend, their heads are touching and they are smiling. they are standing outside of the grandlake theater after watching avengers endgame.]
Oakland grand lake theater dirty mirror selfie because this is still one of the best spots to watch movies like the avengers. #ootdinfluencedby @lifewithwynterandnova and @good_on_paper who inspired me to invest in these sandalias and sailor pants because it makes such a difference to see clothing on people who look like you. shout out again to @mombasics for starting this hashtag and continuing to be my sister and my mirror.
#buyfrombipoc #buyfrombipocchallenge image description: [a japanese american mixed mama in the grand lake theater wearing white sailor pants, a printed top from @gravelandgoldsf with sandalias from @shopsunchild and a necklace by @heymoondesigns. the mirror is old and marked up and scuffed and the rug is red and gold with old red sofas in the background.]
@ajabarber wrote a must read grid post (all of her posts are frankly required reading) on the topic of being careful about whom we are lifting up and celebrating as leaders in the sustainable and ethical fashion movement. @mombasics also just started a hashtag #ootdinfluencedby to bring focus to the everyday people in the sustainable, ethical, and slow fashion communities who so often influence our fashion and sustainable life choices more than the paid and sponsored influencers ever do.
for #fashionrevolutionweek i want to express two thoughts connected to the conversations @ajabarber and @mombasics have initiated.
the first is i want to spread gratitude to the people who are my influencers: the folx of color who have been leaders in sustainable fashion for years, calling for the decolonization of the fashion industry, holding the industry accountable. it is not glamorous work and it is so often labor that goes unrewarded and gets labeled as “divisive” and “bullying.” to all the bipoc who are part of these communities sharing so deeply and vulnerably all while posting amazing #ootd, you keep me here and are the mirror i so often didn’t have. i am also grateful to my white friends in this space who are disrupting white supremacy through tangible actions.
the second thought i want to share is this: if a white influencer is not in some way, shape, or form talking about and being an active part of dismantling white supremacy through disrupting mainstream notions of acceptable racial representation, body size, gender, ability, beauty, and who gets to take up space— then i personally question their vision of sustainability since it clearly does not include all of us.
image description: [a color photo of some of my personal favorite fashion and life influencers. 8 asian american and asian canadian women standing in a slow fashion boutique in portland. they are standing in a semi circle with their arms around one another facing the camera and smiling.]
Mini-series continued: another faq connected to these conversations about the cultural appropriation of the kimono is...
what about non-japanese heritage bipoc wearing traditional japanese garments?
i have received several dm’s from non-japanese heritage bipoc about wearing yukata, haori, and kimono. my honest answer is i don’t know, i think each person needs to come to their own decision that feels right. i can share right now that it feels very different in my heart when i see a person of color wearing for instance, a yukata, than when i see a white person wearing a yukata, because of how race and power are inextricably linked.
i do think that bipoc can participate in cultural appropriation (i’ve done it and learned some important lessons), and there are nuances based on power, privilege, proximity to whiteness, and historical and present day relationships between the person’s own origin cultures and japanese culture.
for me personally, i care more about white people doing the work to be mindful about cultural appropriation because they are the dominant group at a global level. white people benefit from institutional racism and white privilege, period.
i will share one instance of what i feel is inter-cultural celebration: the wafrica kimono collection by tokyo-based cameroonian designer, serge mouangue in collaboration with kururi, a japanese kimono designer.
if you spend time in japan you will most likely learn or see that there are many people living particularly in tokyo, who are originally from west african countries. to me, this collection and collaboration is not cultural appropriation because of the power dynamic between japan and west african countries and the people who have immigrated from west african countries to live in japan and japanese heritage people in japan.
mouangue calls it, “a third aesthetic” and frankly, it takes my breath away.
image description: [4 color photos of african and japanese models wearing the vibrant wafrica kimonos , photos taken by serge mouangue.]