Reflections on Intermarriage

Photo: my paternal great-grandparents in Moose Jaw, date unknown. From left: George Chohei Endo, Tomie Endo, Dorothy Greenaway, Mel Greenaway.

It’s one of the most fascinating things I notice at Japanese Canadian events – there are inter-racial families everywhere! It’s easy for me to believe that within all racialized communities, Japanese Canadians have the highest rate of intermarriage. But I’m left wondering: why?

A few possibilities come to mind. Is there a subconscious desire to move away from that which got so many families interned during the war – Japanese heritage? In other words, is intermarriage a protection mechanism, a veering towards ethnic safety?

Or is it a subliminal drive towards whiteness, whiteness being perceived as beautiful, the result of inescapable and pervasive white supremacy? (I pose this possibility with the acknowledgement that intermarriages can of course be between members of different racialized communities.)

Or, perhaps Japanese Canadians are simply culturally adventurous, seeking to join families of differing ethnicities together?

Or a combination of these possibilities, or something else entirely…?

My dad (far left) with his brother and sister and his maternal grandparents in Toronto, 1965.

I also wonder at the effects of this “dilution” of Japaneseness on future generations. What will the generation after us look like? Will people continue to identify themselves as rokusei, nanasei, and beyond (sixth and seventh generation)? What effect will this have on identity? These are questions without answers. Nevertheless, I raise them with the belief that intermarriage is something beautiful. My sister and I are the result of intermarriage. My dad married into a Jewish American family, resulting in two Jewpanese children. Recently I connected with a group of other Jewpanese people spread throughout the world, and we meet monthly to share stories and engage with one another. Our conversations are rife with surprise connections, cultural blending, and the unique experience of being both Japanese and Jewish. That’s certainly something to celebrate.

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