I’m a first-generation immigrant from Japan who grew up right here in the Bay Area. When I first arrived, I couldn’t speak or read English. In fact, I couldn’t even read my own language yet since we had moved right before I was to begin pre-school. Having been so young was an advantage, though, because I absorbed the new language quickly and had no problems in American classrooms by the time I got to kindergarten. The classroom looked very different back then compared to the average Miller classroom now. I was the only Japanese in my grade throughout elementary school, and I believe there were only two or three other Asian students in my whole grade overall.
I did, however, get to make Japanese friends and keep up my language. Unlike most of my friends in American school, I went to school 6 days a week up until my freshman year. Every Saturday (plus classes daily for two full weeks every summer!), I attended the San Francisco Japanese School. This was not a language school where you learned a foreign language; it was actually an extracurricular school, with instruction in all academic subjects, for Japanese nationals. Thanks to my parents, I was able to grow up bilingual as well as bicultural.
Concerning race issues, as a child I stopped bringing Japanese lunches to American school after some kids made rude comments about seaweed being gross. I also had several instances of people making racist remarks during junior high. However, while racism still has a long way to go, especially in the current atmosphere of anti-Asian sentiment, many things have improved. For instance, I never could have imagined decades ago that I would see a non-Japanese student eating onigiri (rice ball) for lunch at school, or that sushi or anime would become so popular.
I am proud of my Japanese heritage, more than I was able to be as a child, and it is due in part to people around the world appreciating what Japanese culture has to offer. There may be setbacks, but I want to believe that the world is making progress in accepting and appreciating differences.