Migration Paths - Second-Generation Neurological Responses to Migration | Glenn Ando

Migration Paths - Second-Generation Neurological Responses to Migration | Glenn Ando

Interview with Glenn Ando, nisei-han

By Stephanie Ando 

For listeners and readers, I am interviewing my father.

Family photographs of Glenn Ando, Masako Ando (mother), and Yakichi Ando (grandfather), circa 1970.

Please introduce yourself. 

My father's parents came over from Japan and had their family here.

My uncles, aunts and father were born in the United States. My mother came over from Japan. I identify as Japanese American. I'm what you would call two and a half, nisei-han. I'm the second generation on my mom's side and third generation on my dad's side, that's why it's two and a half.

Because you're my dad, I heard stories about you growing up. Can you take me through what a day in elementary school looked like for you? This is circa late 60s early 70s.

Growing up, this is gonna sound kind of weird, but growing up I identified as American. I tried not to identify as Japanese. When somebody said “you're Japanese,” I thought that meant somebody from Japan. Obviously, I was born here so I would say, “No, I'm not Japanese, I'm American.”

That's how I interpreted it when somebody said, “where are you from?”. The Vietnam War was just ending while I was getting into elementary school. I got teased a lot and I got bullied, especially by kids who had relatives or parents that were in the war.Even though I'm Japanese, they identified me as an Asian. 

Yeah, so I got teased, bullied, and then there were very few Asian people in class. I was probably one of three.

Can you tell us where this was geographically?

It was in San Jose, California in the years between 1971 to 1976.

Did elementary school look different than your middle school or high school experience?

Definitely, the early part of elementary school to me was the worst experience. From first to third grade, I did not do well at all -- academically, socially, everything.

Do you think it affected your relationship with your parents when you were younger?

The parents' relationship is different in culture from American. America has the nuclear family. Mom and dad, kids, and they're together. In Japan, you have a family but they don't discuss emotions with each other. They don't tell each other's problems or they don't try and work as a group to try and solve a problem.

So being that way, I basically grew up by myself being an only child. My mom didn't speak English very well. My dad wasn't home at night, so I grew up trying to learn everything by myself and teach myself how to do everything.

Did you tell them about the bullying at school?

I did at first but they had the mentality of you just have to put up with it. There's nothing we can do. At that time, had we probably made a stink, they would have gotten bullied in the community. That would be negative and everybody else would look and say, “well, you know you're not wanted here.”

What's the biggest difference between elementary and high school? Why do you think that changed?

The Vietnam War stopped. As time goes on, the emotions aren't as raw.

As I got into the upper part of elementary school, I started doing real well because I started socializing. I got a lot of good friends and I got to socialize a lot.In junior high school, I even got to socialize even more, because I extended out of the people that were together with me in elementary school.

Did you experience the same bullying as before?

No. I had a very good High school experience.

Have you ever experienced microaggressions? For example, people would say, “you're so smart because you're Asian.” 

There's that expectation because you're Asian, you're supposed to be good at math. Because you're Asian, you're not supposed to be outspoken.

Did you get any backlash if you were ever “outspoken?”

If you can imagine in all of High school and all of Middle school, I was probably the loudest Asian of all High school. 

In High school people start dating, so how was your dating experience in this climate?

I had to grow up quickly because I was an only child, alone when I was younger, and my mom didn't speak Japanese. I started doing a lot of the things that adults would do at home for my mother. For example, I would write checks when I was eight years old to the utility company.

I would do all these things that adults would be doing, because my mom would not understand what the forms were. Because of this, I very easily found a job in high school and balanced a full-time job. When I was a sophomore, I could go to work with permission from my mom and dad. Of course I was able to sign the form; I signed it myself.

Were they aware you were working? 

 Of course. I told them. They were supportive. My dad worked from age eleven and my mom at age ten. She had to do stuff in Japan during World War II. My mom did not know about the form. She immigrated from Japan, where she was taught Americans were the enemy. At around age thirteen or fourteen, she was taught to attack Americans in school by grabbing a stick or a spearwhen she saw an American. She's from Kyoto but was forced to leave the city after they sent all the children to the mountains. Cities were getting bombed, so they sent the children away in camps. Her brothers were drafted but fled to escape fighting in the war. My grandfather was loud and outspoken. My family there always thought that the secret police in Japan were going to takehim away and kill him.

How do you think that type of childhood affected the way she raised you?

Because he was outspoken and they were always fearing for their lives from their own secret police, she grew up not being confrontational. This is part of why she avoided government forms or any engagement with the government. She did not want to be on the radar. 

Family photographs of Glenn Ando, Masako Ando (mother), and Satoshi Ando (father)’s first time in Japan, circa 1969. 

Would you say you are more like your mother or father in regards to how you confront conflict? 

Because I saw that, I think I became the opposite of my mother. My father grew up and got everything taken from him because of Japanese incarceration camps. He had the mentality of, “well, you know what? The government can do to you what they want to do to you, you can't do nothing about it.” Some scholars say Japanese Americans had to live the American dream twice because of internment.

How do you think that affected how they were in the community? Do you think they tried to assimilate more?

They tried to be low-key, to not be noticed. They became hermits and didn't go out and socialize at all. They only spoke to our family and the Japanese community in Japantown. 

Did you grow up close to your Japanese identity? 

Yes. If you notice, in a lot of cultures, Portuguese, German, Italian, and Japanese included, we have a community in America.Immigrants that come over know each other's families, and their kids know each other's families. I was second generation with my mom, and my grandfather was the Japanese teacher for all the second generation kids within this Japanese community. My family was well known and I got to know all the other families. 

How does your relationship with the Japanese community change in different periods of your life?

When my grandpa was alive, I was always in Japantown, Church, all the festivities, I was helping out.

After he passed, and for a long period of my Pre-teen years, I would be in Japan town. I did judo there. I played baseball there. I had the boy scouts there. I took Japanese school there.

I was there again probably five days a week. I was very immersed in the Japanese community. Again, we go back to the dating thing. When I became a sophomore, I started working. 

I worked 30 hours a week and went to school full time. I didn't really have time to date. I really didn't date much from school, because I could not attend all of the school activities, like prom or pep rallies. I was working, but so I dated people I met at work.

This is surprising after you mentioned spending most of your time in Japantown. 

This sounds strange, when I was young at that time, I was not looking for an Asian girlfriend. I did not want an Asian girlfriend. I don't know why. Probably, again from the early part of elementary school, I didn't want to be identified as an Asian.

Family photographs of Glenn Ando’s aunts and cousins in Japan, circa 1969. 

What are some things that you say are very Japanese about yourself that you notice are different from your peers?

I think I am more Japanese in terms of empathizing more, and I reciprocate more. I would give gifts for things that normal people wouldn’t think should be thanked.

I got very good at math. That's not part of being Asian. But because I was Asian, I think the teachers gave me more freedom. They thought I knew math and would tell me I did not need to complete the same assignments. They trusted me more just because I was Asian, I think. They thought Asians were more trustworthy. That was the societal sentiment at the time.

Did you experience a certain level of racism from your teachers for these assumptions about you as a person? 

Because I was Asian, they would assume that I knew and was close to all the Asian kids in school. Which was not the case. My best friends in school were white. I was more friends with the football team than I was with the math club.

Did you experience any type of microaggressions being on the football team?

You get kid stuff. Let me just put it that way. I wouldn't say it was made out of malice but it was racial. You don't view it as bullying at that age. But just kids repeating what they had heard and not really taking the time to analyze what that could be to someone else.

Family photographs of Glenn Ando, Masako Ando (mother), and Satoshi Ando (father)’s first time in Japan, circa 1969. 

How did your relationship with your parents change from when you were younger to when you got older?

When I was younger, I was more open to my parents and I know how it changed. I used to tell my mom and dad a lot of stuff. My dad would always be dad, he wouldn't care. I would have to look for support from my mom. Because my mom was from Japan, some things she just didn't understand.

Like staying out past a certain hour, or not doing your homework when you got home, things of that nature. The common phrase coming out of my mouth was, “That's the way they do things here.”

Did she believe you or cared about assimilating in that fashion?

She’s stubborn.  She wants to keep the Japanese way. Well, they don't do it that way. That was always a common conflict that we had. Because of that conflict as I got older, I got to a point where I stopped telling her anything.

Given your marriage to a white woman and your childhood experience, how did you feel raising biracial children in the same place you grew up?

I don't know. I never thought of the racial context for you guys. I always thought that you could adapt, since we were already a pretty mixed racial society by the ‘90s. I thought you would do well socially because you're not limited to one culture, you have two cultures you can look at. Some people are just tunnel vision in one culture and must make an effort to learn outside the box.