We are neither “Japs” nor “Yellow monkeys”.
- 1 Racism in Modern America
- 2 History of Racism in Modern America
- 3 National Changes Due to Judicial Rulings
- 4 As a Reminder for All
- 5 In Conclusion…
- 6 Recommend
- 7 Learn Japanese Online with BondLingo
- 8 Study in Japan?
Racism in Modern America
The issue of race, prejudice, and discrimination is and has become a heated debate in the United States of America. At the time, when President Donald J. Trump began his campaign for presidency for the US elections, he also brought sexism and race in his campaign speeches. This resulted in the revival of a deep and dark past of the United States, that to this day, many Americans are still trying to cope and move forward. And that is racism and prejudice.
History of Racism in Modern America
It was not long ago that in America, that racism and segregation was a norm, especially in the Southern states or the Deep South such as Alabama, Louisiana, and Georgia. Here “Jim Crow” laws were in place to racially segregate men and women of color, especially African and African-Americans. Such racial segregation included places such as restaurants, churches, schools, and even drinking fountains. They were used and explained as “separate but equal” facilities.
National Changes Due to Judicial Rulings
Such racial segregation continued after the American Civil War to the mid-1950s. Social changes occurred nationally, in which the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled in the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954), that “separate but equal” facilities are unequal and violated the constitutional rights, which in turn was unconstitutional. SCOTUS continued to challenge and strike down Jim Crow laws and other related racial segregation laws, in turn, resulted in the Civil Rights movement. As of now, the United States citizens currently appreciate the liberty and equality to all gender and races, but with the 2016 presidential elections, the wound was reopened once again, with political fire worsening the situation.
As a Reminder for All
With that understanding, what about my personal experience as a first-generation or issei (一世) Japanese-American living in the United States? Fortunately, rarely have I had issues with such racism and racial targeting during my years growing up and being educated in the American education system. I lived in the state of California, in the area of Silicon Valley, where tech giants such as Apple, Cisco, and Intel are nearby. The Silicon Valley region has been particularly liberal and welcoming, no matter the religion, sexuality, and race. Since many tech-related corporations were located there, it was not uncommon to see many different backgrounds of people in one city or location. One could say it thrived with multiculturalism, with younger generations going out to eat authentic foreign cuisines and posting or sharing it on social media.
Although it seems all right, mind you in the previous paragraph I stated rarely. In my 18 years of being born and raised in Silicon Valley, such as racism or hate being projected directly at me occurred only twice. Mind you, for those who are visiting California, or the West Coast of the United States, it is one of the most liberal and friendliest states for tourists and foreigners who are migrating to the United States.
We are neither “Japs” nor “Yellow monkeys”. My Personal Experience
The first time I experienced racism is when I was still 10 years old and was at the YMCA. At the time, and for a long while, I swam there as part of the swim team. It was a long day and I was excited to go home. I was in the men’s locker room shower at the shower stalls. I had a fellow teammate who was also a first-generation Japanese American. Since we spoke both Japanese and English fluently, we spoke in a mix of both languages while cleaning up and trying to remove the awful smell of chlorine. It was a normal routine, as usual, an old man came in to use the showers. He seemed very old and was walking slowly so that he did not slip on the floor. Then he seemed to freeze when me and my friend starting to speak a mix of Japanese and English. The old man asked about our ethnicity in the lines of “Are you Japanese?” When we both stated that we were Japanese, he exploded in fury and anger out of nowhere. Remind you that we were 10 years old; naive and not understanding the reality of racism. He burst and anger and pain, calling us “Japs” and “Yellow monkeys”. At the time we didn’t know what it meant at the time and was confused with fear. We immediately ran from the shower room, while he continued to yell and curse at us. Later I found out from the YMCA staff that, he may have been a US veteran who fought in the Pacific War since a group of US veterans always came to exercise at the YMCA on the same day as my friend’s and I had swimming lessons.
My Personal Experience (Part 2)
The second and last time I experienced such racism and vulgarity towards me was when I was in middle school and I was in my US history class. The class was learning about Modern US history and was teaching about the Pacific War and the American reaction to the Japanese invasion and attack of Pearl Harbor. Everything was fine, when the teacher talked about the derogatory terms that were developed during the war, and how American’s were anti-Japanese and how Japanese immigrants and Japanese-American communities were forced into concentration camps during the war. The derogatory words such as ”Japs” and “Yellow monkey” were in that history lesson.
I had flashbacks about the events that occurred when I was 10 years old and was shell shocked what that meant. What I did not know was how kids thought that it was alright to call me “a Jap”. Such name callings became a burden until one of the students who called me that term was caught by the teacher and was called into the principal’s office and I was dragged along to explain what has happened. The principal was furious and yelled somewhat at the student for being racist. She was later suspended as punishment. After the news was spread, most slowly stopped calling me that racial slur and all was normal for the rest of the school year. But still, that event created a scar, in which I cringe with disgust to this day.
Although my experience was not as traumatic or violent as some of those who experienced full-on racism, it was still difficult to manage, knowing what it meant after that faithful history lesson. Even in university, I heard some people use the term “Jap”, but it is used to abbreviate the word “Japanese”. Some of my colleagues respectfully try to not use that word on purpose, since it is synonymous to racism in the US.
Life still is great in California, and it is rare to be subjected to such vulgarity in a community that is becoming global in Silicon Valley. However, it does not mean it is a Utopia and free from such darkness. I am just lucky I was born and raised in a region where being foreign is accepted and is “cool and trendy”. But many Americans outside of the West Coast struggle day today out of fear being racially targeted, and perhaps murdered just because of their skin color, and now these days religion.
America is still struggling to cope with its dark past, and with the current president inciting and rubbing salt in old wounds is not helping the situation at all. Fear’s in one’s background is growing and cracks are showing in the unity of the Union. Only now, the dialog has started to amend past mistakes and move forward humanity, so to prevent a repetition in history. I hope such dialog will continue, in order for the United States to become a more perfect Union.