Ohayo gozaimasu, my friends. It’s a traditional Japanese greeting, one which means “good morning.” The name is Hisako Masajuro-Toussaint. My family came to the City of San Diego, California, from the island of Kyushu, Japan, in the turbulent, shimmering summer of 1973. A year later, I enrolled at the local university to begin my higher education journey. It was a tough time for us, and the rest of the country.
While a lot of Americans were still struggling with the aftermath of legally mandated racial desegregation, the State of California largely took the progressive route…at least on paper. While considered more liberal and tolerant than their Southern and Midwestern counterparts, Californians nevertheless had a complex history when it comes to people of color.
In the 1960s, America’s Black men and Black women, led by Reverend Martin Luther King, revolutionary leader Malcolm X, social activist Rosa Parks and a few others fought against legal segregation and forever changed the fate of the world’s mightiest nation. I’m one of a few Asian immigrants who will acknowledge the hard work done for all people of color by Black Americans. Many of my fellow Asians are Whitewashed and don’t realize that without the Civil Rights Movement, we wouldn’t have been allowed to immigrate like we did.
A lot of my fellow Asians buy into the model minority myth, and foolishly think themselves exempt from the effects of White supremacy and racism. I’m old enough and smart enough to know better. Today, I’m a wife, a mother, and a successful businesswoman. My husband Antoine “Tony” Toussaint and I run our own restaurant, The Tropical. We recently opened a second location in Oakland, and we’re working on opening a third in Los Angeles.
My husband Tony and I have been busy. Our eldest daughter Megumi, born in 1982, works as a patrol officer for the San Diego Police Department. Our son James, born in 1987 is in graduate school at our alma mater, the University of California in San Diego. Our youngest son Gerald is currently in the City of Boston, spending part of the summer with his aunt, my sister-in-law Vanessa Toussaint.
As Gerald is about to start his freshman year at Chapman University in the fall, we need the extra income. Collegiate education is even more expensive now than in our halcyon days at UCSD. These are tough times, with that idiot Donald Trump trying to become President and the United States of America once more caught in the throes of blatant racism, but I’m confident we’ll pull through.
A nation divided, identity politics, open racism and virulent xenophobia, none of these things are new to me. Oh, and add to that the fact that my family came here from Japan in the 1970s. We emigrated to America at a time when quite a few White Americans were still salty about the Japanese Empire’s deeds in World War II. Never mind the fact that my father Nobuyuki Masajuro never served in the Japanese military and as a young man, he was one of a few Japanese citizens to oppose the war.
My beloved Otosan ( father ) was one of a few “prisoners of conscience” who chose to languish in prison rather than join the Japanese Empire’s foolish foray into the second World War. In the eyes of White Americans, we were Japanese newcomers and that was reason enough to view us with suspicion. Old wounds are never forgotten, even when supposedly healed. Welcome to my life.
“Kiki, did the government put your people in internment camps during World War II?” Those words came from my classmate Rebecca White, a plump young redhead who sat next to me in Intro to Business at the University of California’s San Diego campus. The year was 1974 and I was in summer school while everyone was enjoying the World Cup. I bristled at her words and unwanted familiarity, since I only allowed close friends and family members to call me Kiki.