Californian Me

Mariko Matoba


When I was growing up, people thought my sister and I were adopted. Mostly because my mom is blonde with blue eyes, and my sister and I are both darker in complexion with brown hair and eyes.

Now that I am older, people take more into context than just looks, they see the way we have the same smile, or mannerisms.

They see me as a white girl with dark features.

Every year since I was 13, I have dyed my hair a slightly lighter hue of brown. My eyes seem to get lighter too, and I don't tan to an almost black shade every summer.

I am turning into a white girl. No, I am a white girl.

Being half Japanese and half German has never been easy. But it hasn't ever really been hard, that is, not until today.

Writing on what it is like to be an Asian woman in today's society has thrown me through a loop. I am an Asian woman, the light bulb started flashing, I think it blinded me. Yes, I am in fact a woman of color, but I don't consider myself a woman of color, I have never dealt with the negative aspects of being a woman of color. To me, being a woman of color is just a part of me that is sometimes beneficial but usually not a part I acknowledge or deal with.

When I get applications with those pesky boxes about ethnicity, I always decline to answer. That is unless it's going to do me some good, like get me a scholarship. Then I'm Asian. But I'm never German.

Sure I've had racial slurs thrown my direction, but usually they are in good humor, people calling me an "axis power love child" or something similar, which I think is not only totally hilarious, but also totally correct.

My father is a non-practicing Buddhist, but I know nothing about the religion other than which I learned in school.

The closest thing to a cultural event I have ever participated in was making a thousand cranes for my grandparent's 50th wedding anniversary and walking around an Obon festival.

Being half Asian has helped qualify me for scholarships and programs that cater to minorities. But as someone who has never felt the downside of being a minority, it always feels like lying.

Sure my grandparents and two of my uncles were interned during World War II, but my father wasn't, and the effects of that tragedy have not really touched or influenced my life.

It isn't as though my parents taught me to be a white girl, it isn't that they somehow influenced me to not be Asian, or even that growing up in white suburbia made me white. It's just that I've never related to Japanese culture, or Asian ideals.

I've never been to Japan, and honestly? I'm not ready to go.

I did go to Germany this past summer, and I didn't fit in there. I don't speak German either, and I don't have blonde hair.

That basically leaves me at Californian, which is quite okay by me. Defining myself as Asian or German or even American seems so unnatural. I am just me, Californian Mariko Matoba, and that will never change.