I originally wrote this way back when I was still toying with the idea of starting a blog, after a particularly frustrating incident left me needing to vent. That was over two years ago, so the writing is a little amateurish compared to my more recent stuff. Next post, I'll tell the story that inspired it.
When most Japanese people I meet find out that I'm interested in the language and the culture, they're delighted. They're flattered that I'm trying to participate and pleased that I'm trying to understand. They're forgiving when I make mistakes and wonderfully supportive of everything I'm trying to do. This has overwhelmingly been my experience, and I'm grateful to all the people who have helped me, been my friends, and invited me through the door.
Some aren't like this.
Some are of a very different opinion. Because I'm not Japanese I can never understand Japanese culture. Sometimes I screw things up when I talk, therefore I don't speak Japanese at all. My goals are messed up, or else they're a waste of time because I could never possibly achieve them as an outsider. I'm just a sad hanger-on, a skinny obsessive little weeaboo, and would I just knock it off and go wallow in my own ignorance with my little white friends who, like me, also speak only one language but fetishize Asian girls and sit alone in our rooms by ourselves all the time.
And it pisses me right off. When I encounter stuff like this elsewhere in my life, I can pretty much let it be. Because I've made a point of surrounding myself with people who like me, and will call me out if they think I'm wrong but mostly just make me feel good about myself. Anybody who tries to go against that, I don't need. But this is a little different. A handful of magic words can make my blood boil. "You can't X." "You don't know what you're talking about." "Your Japanese doesn't make any sense." I can and I'm going to. I've been looking into the topic for YEARS of my life now and I've earned the right to put forth an informed opinion. It does make sense and you goddamn know it, it's just not perfect. It's the attitude, the condescension. It's the dismissiveness.
As soon as I can, I'm going to move back to Japan and then I'm going to live there for the rest of my life. I decided that a very long, long time ago. This is the primo goal I'm working towards at all times, to which all others are subordinate. So when someone tries to tell me that all the energy I'm putting towards this – the hours of study I put in each day, all the work I do, both as Japanese Club Vice President and on my own time, trying to make sure the Japanese students on campus are taken care of and feel comfortable and welcome, without agenda, simply because I love Japanese people – is basically worthless, I get angry, because they're making me feel like my identity is being invalidated. Not as some loser white guy trying to 'be Japanese,' but as a proud Canadian who has decided to make Japan his home.
What really gets me is the double standard they apply, a sort of Japanese exceptionalism wherein it's totally possible for them to grasp Canadian culture (and yes, there is such thing as Canadian culture, but we're not going to talk about that right now), but I can't do the reverse, and when I point this out they just wave it off as me just plain not understanding. Can you imagine if I went around telling foreigners in Canada that they'll never be able to learn English? People would think I was a complete asshole! That's not really material, though. And I've done some things in the past that people had every right to get angry about, and from time to time I still do. But I think that's a separate issue, too, and when that stuff happens it's usually an honest mistake, or at least not because I'm trying to make waves.
I really believe that the good I do outweighs the bad, and that I take more flak than I deserve. The only thing I can think to do is refuse to give in. Try to show how I earnest I really am, that I mean business, and maybe, every once in a while, get somebody to rethink their view of me. I don't expect to change many minds, but I really shouldn't let the naysayers upset me, either. Keep studying Japanese, keep trying to learn about the country, and keep making Japanese friends. Then surround myself with the ones who get me.