Healing Our Wounds

Name: Yuko Shimura
Age: 24
Ethnicity: Japanese
Nationality: Japanese- American

PLAY ME

Story (transcript of audio):

My name is Yuko Christine Shimura and I was born and raised in Southern California by parents who immigrated from Japan. I’m bilingual in Japanese and English as I grew up speaking Japanese with my parents and English outside of my household. Language was a confusing concept for me as a kid—and sometimes even confusing for me today. There were some words that I knew only in Japanese, so it got a bit tricky in my elementary years as you can probably imagine. The earliest instance I can remember is when kids would make fun of me for using some grammar incorrectly (i.e. I would say “I buyed this shirt” rather than “I bought this shirt”). I felt embarrassed and stupid for not knowing common grammar. I was convinced I couldn’t assimilate myself to American culture. It wasn’t until I was close to my twenties that I realized that as a Japanese-American, I’m put in this odd middle between not being completely Japanese and not being completely American. I felt isolated due to this thought in the back of my mind for a while, but meeting many Asian Americans who suffered this thought in my university helped me realize that this is what makes us unique. We are able to be fully immersed in both, Asian and American cultures. This gave me motivation to be more proud of my upbringing and of my family. This was around the time when I was able to stand up for myself a bit more when faced with racism. I say a bit more, because racism will never be an easy topic to go through when facing it directly—or indirectly as well.

Another common instance I run into is people misspelling or mispronouncing my name. People have called me “Yoko”, “Yoku”, sometimes even “Uco” instead of “Yuko”. I’ve been asked why I don’t go by my English middle name, which is white-centric on its own by the way, but I grew to be proud of my Japanese name. People (specifically white folks) like to pretend they understand my culture or think they’re being friendly by saying things like “Yuko like Yoko Ono!” but they don’t realize that they’re generalizing my name with another Japanese woman—Yoko and Yuko don’t even sound the same.

I wouldn’t necessarily say that I have a rough experience living in the states, because I’ve run into situations like the above for 24 years. I also do want to mention that I was lucky growing up in an environment where there was more ethnic diversity compared to other areas of this country, and didn’t face harsher racist encounters that other POC may face. I’m continuing to unlearn internalized racism towards my ethnicity, and learn how to be a better ally for POC with those within and outside of my community.