A New York Times writer tweeted “Immigrants: They get the job done,” referring to Mirai Nagasu’s historic Olympic Triple Axel performance. Mirai was born in California and is an American citizen…a Nisei (2nd generation) Japanese American. Now I understand that the writer may have felt that she was honestly celebrating Mirai's Olympic accomplishment, but in fact, the ignorance of her words tell a different story that the Nisei faced decades ago.
Many Nisei soldiers fought and died for a country that put their families in prison, for the crime of being of Japanese ancestry. They fought so that never again would people would judge them by their appearance alone, but rather for being loyal Americans. When I hear things like this I know that the “Go For Broke Spirit” has a long way to go to educate others that being American is not just about the color of one's skin, but the integrity and faith in your heart of being American citizens—something these Nisei heroes fought for in WWII. I do not think that this writer would have made the same tweet for a skater that had blonde hair and blue eyes, even if she knew the skater's parents were first generation immigrants from a predominately Caucasian country.
As a J.A. kid growing up I always cringed when asked were I was from, now I embrace the question as I also ask “Where are you from?” Some don't understand that … as evidenced by the perplexed look on their faces when I ask them. In these 2018 Olympics, I hope that the emergence of Nathan Chen, Chloe Kim, Maia and Alex Shibutani, and Mirai Nagasu will help enlighten America that when born in the USA, we are all American and that there is diversity in every immigrant who has lived here in the United States we call home.
I want to applaud Chrissy Teigen who immediately spoke up and set the record straight on this controversy. Chrissy Teigen is not Japanese American but she is Asian American, and she definitely feels the kind of struggles the Nisei had to endure years ago. I am sure that the Japanese American community is very thankful that she stood up and provided a voice for all Asians. Chrissy tweeted "It’s called perpetual otherism or perpetual foreigner syndrome. No one is ashamed of the word immigrant but it’s tiring being treated as foreigners all the time.” I remember when California-born Jeremy Lin had his breakout season in 2012 and “Linsanity” was the rage. He was being asked how Chinese players in the homeland were doing? I doubt Kobe Bryant was ever asked how basketball in the homeland was doing? The Nisei have always been one of the most silent minorities about their injustices of the past, but I am hopeful that the new generation will step up to make sure that these injustices never happen again. The “Go For Broke Spirit” is not just about Japanese Americans but all immigrants who have built and will continue to create this great nation.