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: American Dilemmas :

an excerpt by J. A. Hijiya


When I was growing up in Spokane, Washington, I learned there were three kinds of people: nihonjins, hakujins, and kurombos. Nihonjins means “Japanese people,” ones from Nihon, also called Nippon. Hakujins means “white people.” In Japan they’re called gaijins, “foreign people,” but it would be presumptuous to call them that in America. Kurombos means “blacks”—the suffix implying "people" is meaningfully omitted. The Japanese are not the most egalitarian of peoples.

Japanese, whites, blacks—these, then, were the three races of Spokane. I guess there would be four if you included my Boy Scout buddy Joe McCormack, a direct descendant of Chief Joseph of the Nez Percé; but there weren't enough Indians in the city for the Japanese to need a name for them.



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