Between the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd and the coronavirus pandemic, the world has been in turmoil. Racism is on the minds of nearly everyone. It is hoped that something good will come of the attention being brought to important issues of racism. Conversations must be held, but ending racism will take much more than just talking. Action will be required.
As an American of Japanese heritage, I have experienced my share of racism, but not to the extent that many African Americans face on a regular basis. George Floyd is being remembered as one whose life was lost through the brutality of the police against black men. He was not a hero in the normal sense of the word, but people will remember his name for a long time. Unfortunately, there have been many others who have experienced a similar fate.
Hatred is the major part of racism. At the start of World War II, Japanese Americans and immigrants from Japan were immediately seen as the enemy. Because of hatred, the government removed 120,000 people of Japanese heritage on the West Coast from their homes and incarcerated them in camps. This was a result of racism against people who looked different than the mainstream population. No one came to their aid except Quakers and a few others who tried to support them, to no avail. After the war ended, and largely due to the patriotism and sacrifices of the young Japanese Americans who served in the U.S. military, mostly in the segregated 442nd Regimental Combat Team/100th Battalion, Japanese Americans were eventually able to gain respect as American citizens. Racism had caused much pain and suffering to them.
African Americans have endured racism and discrimination for far too long. Some black families have experienced racism for generations and have not been able to overcome it. Many African Americans have been able to rise above racism, hardship, poverty and discrimination to become top leaders in government, law, medicine, education, sports, acting, music, commerce and all fields of endeavor. Yet racism still continues to hold many back, especially if they are treated unfairly by the police and others in places of authority.
It is safe to assume that there may always be hateful, ignorant, and intolerant people in the world. There are those who feel they are superior to others. It will be difficult to eradicate hate and racism, but it should be possible to make the world better if enough good people are willing to do their part to improve race relations. It is gratifying to see so many white people, those of other ethnicities and especially young people joining black people in the peaceful protests to fight against racism.
Vandalism, violence, looting, destruction of property and harm to people should never be part of the equation. Those actions hurt too many innocent people. Conversations, negotiations and peaceful protests can help to bring about change.
Meaningful conversations at all levels of government and with the general public along with individual families are necessary, but talking alone will not end racism. Leaders should be more willing to make changes needed to improve race relations. Parents and educators need to teach children that racism is not acceptable. There has to be a change of attitude and love expressed in the fight against racism. Tolerance needs to be a bigger part of life.
The state of race relations in the United States is at a critical juncture. There is much divisiveness and hate. Conditions can and must improve. We can all do our part and make a difference whether it is by speaking out, protesting peacefully, meeting with people, donating to worthy causes, educating others, voting for good leaders or simply being more kind and accepting of everyone. Helping one person is a start.
Racism is a dangerous disease which must be curbed and contained.
Floyd Mori worked in Washington, D.C., as the national executive director/CEO of the Japanese American Citizens League, a civil rights organization. He was born and raised in Utah and currently lives in Salt Lake City. He has published a book of speeches and articles about the Japanese American experience and history, racism, and civil rights. www.thejapaneseamericanstory.com.