Scott Fujita

When I first heard Scott Fujita was an NFL player, the first thing I had to do was to find out his story.  Of course.  I wanted to know if he was one of our people.

Fujita, as you may know, is white and was adopted by a Japanese American man and a white woman.

I was a little disappointed to find out Fujita was white. But then he started impressing me. Talking about his family’s history in the internment camps. Supporting GLBT issues. Speaking out against the Tebow ad.

The dude has got the social justice thing going on. Plus he seems pretty aware.

“When I got traded to Dallas (in 2005), Dat Nguyen was like, ‘Oh man, we got Fujita coming in!'” Fujita recalls of Nguyen, the former Cowboys linebacker who was the first Vietnamese-American to play in the NFL. “We had never met in person. So he comes into the training room to meet me and says, ‘Where is Fujita? No, that can’t be Fujita!'”

For a brief second, Fujita saw disappointment in Nguyen’s eyes.

“I know I am not delusional,” adds Fujita, whose agent, Don Yee, is Chinese-American. “I recognize the fact that I don’t have one single drop of Japanese blood in my body. But I’ve always felt half Japanese at heart.”

Fujita has always followed his heart. The married father of two twin daughters is an advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights and he and his wife believed so strongly in helping the city of New Orleans that Fujita was the first player to sign under head coach Sean Payton.

But what drives him the most is his grandmother’s fighting spirit. While Lillie doesn’t complain much, she may find herself groaning on Sunday watching a 6-5 white linebacker named Fujita desperately trying stop Peyton Manning. But that’s perfectly fine with her.

Source.

So what I take from this is that Fujita draws his identity from his connection to his history and his people.  And not to his chopsticks or his Asian art.

Glad to have him in the family.

.

(Side digression: It’s been my experience that people in mixed families usually learn more of the culture of color if their mom is a woman of color. Any thoughts?)

15 thoughts on “Scott Fujita

  1. On the side, yes I think mom’s take more time to teach kid’s certain things as a generalization only, though.

    My husband was also disappointed to find out Fujita was not Asian. He wants there to be as many Asian role models for our daughter as possible. I told my husband we shouldn’t judge people by their last names, either, though. Someone could have the last name Smith and be an Asian female married to a man with the last name Smith. I think my husband will be glad to read this story. :)

  2. When I first head about this I was thinking, ‘It’s interesting to see a (partially) interracial adoptee story from a different perspective.’ And then I started thinking… because of his inherent white privilege will he ever feel a need to reclaim or embrace his white heritage as so many other interracial adoptees of color feel? My guess is no, because living in a white society that culture is already strong and he will always be a part of it.
    I was also reading an article about where he mentions he get mobbed by reporters and people in Japan because he’s white but has a Japanese name. And I wonder about the thousands of other interracial adoptees who face discrimination because they are not in-tune with the culture of their birth country. It’s the complete opposite because of his white privilege.
    I have nothing against Fujita and I commend his open opinions on equality. I’m just thinking out loud here…
    Also in response to your side note, Fujita’s mother is white I believe and Father is Japanese. So that kind of counters your theory in this instance.

  3. Several points
    1) Yes_ almost always the kids I know who are half Japanese or half Chinese speak the language of the mom. If dad is Chinese and mom is Japanese, most kids speak Japanese only. If mom is Chinese and Dad is American. Same thing. Chinese only. If Mom is American and Dad is Chinese or Japanese, most kids speak only English. Sadly. I have tried to convince one of my Chinese friends that he needs to speak Chinese to his kids so they will know Chinese as well as Japanese. He never has. Maybe he doesn’t like a female telling him what to do. Probably not. Most men don’t. But I tried anyway.

    2) Appearance: I have several friends who are Chinese women married to American men. Almost all of the children look entirely Caucasian and you would never guess looking at them they are half Chinese. Most of them, because they have Chinese moms, do speak Chinese. So one cannot always tell by last name or by how someone looks.

    3) Names: In addition, some 100% Asian people have non Asian last names either due to marriage or due to grandad changing his name because someone told him to in 1920 or whatever. In some cases people born in Asia with Asian names will take on an American name here, and then have a married “American” name (I put that in quotes because what is really an American surname? – they are all from somewhere else- but I mean a non Asian surname)

  4. MA,
    1) Perhaps why we may often see a mother of color teach a biracial son/daughter their native language is because traditionally mothers stay home and spend time with the kids. I understand the issues of stereotyping here but I do believe this is there this common belief stemmed from.
    Also the comment about most men not listening to advice from a women bugs me a little. I wouldn’t take it so personally, there may be other reasons why he is unable to teach his son Chinese. Many immigrant families push their children to learn English and don’t really teach their native language because of this false idea that English = Success. Your friend may not be 1st, or even 2nd generation, but I believe this sentiment still exists in later generations as well.

    3) Don’t forget transracial adoptees! Fujita being one himself, and the reason this discussion started.

  5. Just adding my little opinion here that if Fujita identifies as Japanese American than shouldn’t his wishes that he be considered Japanese American be valued? I don’t think this is a case of him coveting or co-opting a culture since he was clearly brought up in a biracial family.

    You would never know by my maiden or married last names that I am Filipina American, nor would you even know by looking at me that I am Filipina American, but that is what I identify as. And I don’t take too kindly to people asserting that I’m not based on what I look like.

    I guess my point is that we have stereotypes about what someone with an “ethnic” last name (whatever that means) will look like or act like and those stereotypes can always be proven wrong.

    Also, my mother refused to speak to me in Tagalog despite repeated requests on my part. Obviously she doesn’t represent the whole of femalehood/motherhood but I’m not sure that children are always raised in the culture of their mothers.

  6. Js718
    Sorry about the man thing. He is a very good natured man, and laughs sheepishly when I suggest this. He is 1st generation. Most of my friends are first generation. They highly value learning the language and culture as well as academics. I do think it is partly due to moms being with kids all the time. I do, however, have one mandarin speaking friend with a Cantonese and Mandarin speaking husband who insists on speaking Cantonese to his kids so they will learn both. Which I think is a good idea because Cantonese is very difficult to learn to speak correctly if you don’t learn it young. He feels it is important to preserve this traditional language.

    I am very big on teaching to my kid because my dad thought it was not important to teach to me- so I had to learn later. Sat around not knowing what relatives were talking about. I am giving my kid what I missed, and although she grumbles somewhat now-hopefully some day she will appreciate it. (my lightbulb moment- maybe this is why I have the argument about dads not wanting to teach to kids and not wanting women to tell them what to do… my dad- both! )

    Melanie: Honestly, I think it is great he supports the Japanese culture, but he is not really Japanese just because he is adopted by a Japanese parent. If a Japanese child were adopted by a white dad would that make her white? Of course not. So- same here…. Still great for him to feel and support- but to identify? don’t think appropriate.

  7. (Side digression: It’s been my experience that people in mixed families usually learn more of the culture of color if their mom is a woman of color. Any thoughts?)

    After 18, Family Influence Still Key to One’s Ethnic Identity:

    The results also suggest that the relationship between the family’s influence and ethnic identity is more pronounced for females than males. This is consistent with previous research suggesting that parents tend to focus on passing on cultural traditions to daughters more than sons.

    Sort of related?

  8. I have mixed feelings about how I feel about Scott Fujita which don’t so much have to do with him but with the contrast to people without white privilege.

    In any event, I wonder how his identity will change throughout the years. Has he established any relationship with his birthparents? Is he curious about his ethnicity and heritage?

    My thought is that Fujita is culturally Japanese American. (Fujita and others continually say “Japanese,” which I would disagree with. How can you be culturally Japanese if you were raised in the U.S.?) Should he claim a Japanese identity? Not for me to say. I haven’t read anything where he says he is Japanese. Just that he feels Japanese.

    I think his paternal grandparents must have been around a lot when he was growing up.

  9. Usually, I agree that people should be allowed to identify how they choose to identify, but how can someone whose white privilege will never, ever go away identify as Asian?

    I sort of feel where he is coming from, because I also have a Japanese name (my middle name, not my last), but am not ethnically Japanese. However, I spent most of my life in Japan and was named after a Japanese woman that my parents are really close to. But I don’t identify as Japanese or half-Japanese or anything. I mean, I differ from Fujita in that I’m not white, so it may be that I don’t have the luxury of choosing to identify in any which-way, but I just don’t really understand how he can feel half-Japanese when he will never know what it’s like….to be a Japanese-American.

  10. @MA

    I find it odd that when you talk about Asian and caucasian intermarriages, you refer to the couple as “chinese and american” or “japanese and american”. I didn’t realize “american” was an ethnicity. I’m ethniccally chinese with american nationality. And if I marry a Latino-american man, which one of us gets to be the “american” in this couple?

    A lot of foreign, or first generation Asian-Americans like to refer to whites as “american” and all other ethnicities by the ethnicity rather than nationality ie (african americans are “black”, Japanese-Americans are “japanese”, and “mexican americans” as “mexican”.) That bugs me a lot. I always remind these people that I’M american too.

    Maybe my opinion on this is why I feel Fujita is right to claim to be half-japanese at heart. He is culturally Japanese-American, so why can’t he think of himself as Japanese? I feel it’s the same as me considering myself more “american” than Chinese.

  11. For someone like myself, “American” is the only ethnicity. I didn’t know what my actual ethnicities were until I was in my late 30s. And that includes about half of Europe. :)

    But I don’t feel a particular connection to whiteness so far as that goes. I spent more of my childhood in Japan and France than I did here in the US. Granted we were isolated somewhat because we were an American military family.

    I’m not sure what the strongest influences are on my children. My wife is Jewish and we live in a particularly Mexican community and are involved with it. So my kids are a mix of being Korean, American media, Mexican culture, Jewish culture and whatever the hell I am. Also some measure of local Chinese culture.

  12. A lot of foreign, or first generation Asian-Americans like to refer to whites as “american” and all other ethnicities by the ethnicity rather than nationality ie (african americans are “black”, Japanese-Americans are “japanese”, and “mexican americans” as “mexican”.) That bugs me a lot. I always remind these people that I’M american too.

    Yeah, I find this really annoying, except I’m Canadian, and they use “Canadian” to mean “white”. Maybe that’s why when I describe myself as Canadian to them, they think I’m a banana.

  13. “When I got traded to Dallas (in 2005), Dat Nguyen was like, ‘Oh man, we got Fujita coming in!’” Fujita recalls of Nguyen, the former Cowboys linebacker who was the first Vietnamese-American to play in the NFL. “We had never met in person. So he comes into the training room to meet me and says, ‘Where is Fujita? No, that can’t be Fujita!’”

    Dat Nguyen was a jokester, and Scott Fujita should not taken aback by his reaction.

    Scott Fujita is one great man and fine person regardless of his race.

    All I know is, Scott Fujita has got one big heart and one great human being.

    But it was hilarious that Dat pretended to show disappointment, when in fact he was not. I’m sure Dat Nguyen showed awe and admiration for Scott Fujita than anything.

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