“White Folk” Is Not Racist, It’s Establishing Boundaries

In response to my Instagram post a couple months back where I announced my new work standards and used the term "white folk" (and someone called me a racist):

The primary point of establishing racial boundaries is an attempt to reach mutual respect; the fact is socially, economically, politically, and historically, white people and POC are not the same. We are not equal to white folk. Even though the school system/society has told you to “not see color, then you won’t come off racist,” colorblindness is a form of (negative) white-washing. To assume and lump me (or any POC) into the same social place as a white person would be to deny the inequality that is still strongly present today.

That is not to say, as an Japanese-American, that I do not have similar privileges as white folk. Various Asian groups have Historically benefitted from being in allyship with White groups that other POC groups did not. In fact, Japanese people in specific are responsible for some of the oppression of other Asian and POC groups (I’ve only scratched the surface of this, will write a separate post in the future).

This experience and becoming aware of how it affected me throughout my life made me realize how not alone I was. I heard it from other POC, black, multi-racial, brown, Indigenous folks. We’re not alone in that these actions were mostly brought on by white folk, therefore the boundary is necessary. We’re not alone in knowing how we’ve had to survive in a White dominated world.

So white folk, please don’t try to relate to POC completely. If you do find yourself relating to POC, understand that the feeling may be similar (empathy) but the experiences will likely be very different (respect). Acknowledge that we are different from each other and that we are all individuals (in your mind). Keep in mind that if you are white, POC don’t want to be reminded by you that we are oppressed by your people. If you happen to be a white person which a POC opens up to about their oppression, it’s a very vulnerable thing to do, so listen! (And don’t give us more weight with ANY white guilt, it does no good)

Power Struggles in White Spaces (part 1: realization)

One of the biggest reasons I became an independent tattooer is because I faced unfair power dynamics that were taken advantage of, over and over again.

I didn't realize this until I had time away from shop employment/contract and time to process my experiences. Most of my life I was told it was never about race, "never use the race card" because I saw how people reacted (victim-blaming/defensiveness), and racism is dead because school taught me so. So of course, I didn't even realize I was a part of a minority group and that it had everything to do with race+oppression.

I had no idea the term 'Asian-American' applied to me because I was never told being Asian was okay (the opposite, rather), and I was constantly surrounded by [white] people unlike me and they were unable to understand my experiences of not appearing white normative. No wonder I felt totally alone and confused as to why I was easily cut-out of social spaces.

It is common and easy for POC to be cut out of white-dominated spaced because as humxns, we will always side with what we know and trust (for survival): our own kind, or whoever we relate to the closest. This is how abusers continue to be protected by their communities.

While POC-kids are told that we can co-exist and that we are the same (to 'get along'), we are not taught the social differences, visible differences (and discrimination that comes with them), and the real history+struggles of freedom for marginalized groups/POC. Instead, we are taught a heroic white history of domination and violence.

So, I thought I was white and that I belonged in white spaces. I was/am white-washed and am currently working towards decolonizing myself. This includes unlearning the [internalized] racism I was taught by my white surroundings. I am also doing my research in the real history of various marginalized groups, not the kind from grade school textbooks.

We can always learn, we can always grow, and both will contribute to healing.

Things I'd like to write/discuss in the future regarding Power Struggles in White Spaces:
-Asian/light-skinned privileges (and privilege in general)
-my experience in specific settings where it became abusive/hostile (and the emotional baggage that comes with it)
-power dynamics and things to be aware of when dealing with conflict between people who benefit from society on different levels
-intersectionality of allyship and discrimination

Introduction: Name

Hello! My full name is Ayako Junko Osaki. Junko is my artist alias and most people call me Jun for short. A little background history to my name: I was named after my mom's best friend. My name in Japanese is made of two characters, "Aya" and "Ko." The "Aya" part is an uncommon character in Japanese language and can also be pronounced "Jun." When I was little in pre-school, my name would be mistaken for "Junko", which is where my name came from. When I became a U.S. citizen at age 20 I legally added a middle name to avoid lawful confusion in the future.

The reason I decided to go by a different name is because by the time I was a teenager learning social norms and introducing myself, everyone was mis-pronouncing it differently that I had forgotten how to pronounce it myself. The colonization of my name pushed me to preserve it amongst myself and my loved ones, and instead took a different name in hopes that others would be able to remember me more easily. (The only time that someone mispronounced "Junko" was when someone said "JUNK-oh, whats that, your punk rock name?" to which I responded with the correct pronunciation.)

My perspective has since changed. I think if I was a little stronger human when I was that age, I would fight to make my name be pronounced correctly. It still makes most people uncomfortable to mispronounce it, thus resulting in a lack of patience and a dismissal/avoidance in using my name at all (which is fucked up, I don't recommend it). Here's the thing: humxns make mistakes all the time and mispronouncing things happens ALL THE TIME! And it's okay, just strive to find out the correct pronunciation and practice.
And for my first blog post, I've reached my three paragraph limit just on the history of my name. To pass on the knowledge, here is how to pronounce my full name: Ah-yah-co Joon-co Oh-sah-key. I still prefer to be called Jun from most people though. I encourage any recipients to share/inspire/join the discussion: What's your name?

EDIT: I had been previously spelling my name as "June," which is incorrect in Japanese language. It would be pronounced as "joo-neh" instead of "joon," thus Jun is correct. To add the 'e' would be to colonize my name.