Identity Crises for the Gold

Though deciding which team to cheer for during the Olympics may seem like a no-brainer to some, it can be more complex if your family is tied to multiple countries. One mixed-race writer shares his story.

Throughout my life, I’ve had to wrestle with my identity as a mixed-race Nikkei.

For the longest time I would find myself questioning who I was and if I was “enough” of a certain heritage to be accepted by the communities that I’d been raised with. Today, I’ve learned to feel accepted by the Japanese American community and have been attempting to feel more comfortable in the Mexican American community as well, though I would be lying if I told you that reaching this point of acceptance was an easy path. Unfortunately, there are still moments in my life when trivial questions pop into my head, as if I were testing myself once again on how Japanese American or Mexican American I truly am. This year, the Olympic Summer Games would bring up these doubts in my head once more, as it does every four years.

Hiro dons a Mexico jersey during the 2014 World Cup.

Sporting events in which nationality and ethnicity are linked to the support of a team has always been a difficult concept to me, as someone of mixed descent. I find myself constantly wondering who I should root for, and to be quite honest, I think about how I will defend myself when someone at a viewing party inevitably tells me “Hiro, I think you’re rooting for the wrong team.” It’s sad to say that I’ve grown used to the comment, and even if I go to parties in which no one would dare to tell me I’m not enough of one my ethnicities, I still spend a majority of the night preparing for this moment in which I am tested on being myself.

This fear may have stemmed from when I was a teenager wearing Mexico gear, walking into a pay-per-view screening of a boxing match between Canelo Alverez and Floyd “Money” Mayweather in 2013. I can remember like it was yesterday: I walked in ready to support Canelo and a stranger yelled “Hey Asian kid, I don’t think you’re Mexican enough to wear that. Root for your own people.” 

My own people. This is a question that many of us within the multiracial community often ask ourselves. Who are our people? I would like to remind those of us in the multiracial community that our people are whoever we so choose to say our people are, as it is not the job of others to define what qualities gives us permission to be a part of the cultural communities that we were raised with in our households. Alas, I can stand on my soapbox all I want, but I will still ask myself the question, “who do I root for during the Olympics?”

My own people. This is a question that many of us within the multiracial community often ask ourselves. Who are our people?

This year, before the Olympics were pushed back to 2021, I was excited to only root for Japan, as the games were being held in Tokyo, with some of the stadiums being fairly close to where my family lives in Chiba. With no guarantee that the games will occur in 2021 and the destination being changed if they are not held, I do not know if I will get this easy opportunity to decide on who I want to root for any time soon.

At the end of the day, if we do not get to see the Olympics until 2024, I have a system I set up for myself to choose who I will root for. As I watch each event, I am reminded of certain family members and their love for sports and competition. I remember that my bachan was always impressed by the gymnastics team, thus there is no team better than Japan. As my cousins, who are of Mexican descent, scream and cheer on for Mexico during the soccer events, I know who is going to win. When my brother is intently watching the screen during any track and field event, I am proud to be an American.

Hiro after Japan lost a game during the 2018 World Cup.

I find myself no longer wondering what identity I need to be enough of in order to show my support for a particular country. Instead, I linked the emotions of excitement and glee in the hearts of my family with who I will support. Afterall, the Olympic Games is a time to come together and have fun, not divide and separate.

Though if you were to ask me about the World Cup… that’s a different story. 日本、頑張ってください ¡Viva México!

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August 2020

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