Nikkei must speak out against police brutality

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bioline_Chizu OmoriThe other day, I received a petition in an e-mail asking me to tell PepsiCo, which makes Doritos,to stop buying the palm oil it uses to make the chips. “That sound when you bite down on Doritos … is the sound of rainforests being ‘crunched’ … for massive palm oil plantations ….” It seems that the orangutans in that area are being driven to extinction, the local people are kept in near slavery conditions as workers on those plantations and apparently, the business is polluting the Earth’s atmosphere with gigatons of greenhouse gases. Sure, I’d like to protect orangutans and save the rainforests, so I signed this petition, just like I’ve signed many others to save or protest something or other. 

I don’t eat Doritos, so this is an empty gesture, but I’m glad that some people care enough to mount a campaign to rescue endangered species and to help workers who are toiling away in servitude. But right now, I want to campaign to do something about matters closer to home, in fact, right in my neighborhood. As of this writing in early December, police cars and motorcycle cops are tearing down Telegraph Avenue in San Francisco’s East Bay, sirens are wailing and helicopters are hovering overhead, because people are protesting, and rightly so.

We need to stop the senseless killing of black and brown youth by the police. These problems have been around for a long time, but this year, they have finally caught the media’s attention. Once again, we are confronted with the seriousness and depth of feeling that Americans hold on matters of race and ethnicity. Some polls make it clear that there are Americans who support the NYPD’s fatal use of a chokehold on Eric Garner, who was black. 

I am really saddened by the fact that we’ve had such a backlash by the voting public against our president just because he is black. In some of the senate campaigns in this last election, Republican candidates were seemingly elected just because they were against anything Obama, forcing Democratic candidates to distance themselves from him. This is a disgraceful state of affairs, and now, the fault lines in our country over race are vividly stark and clear. 

How are we going to get rid of these deeply ingrained prejudices? I think that we as Asian Americans must be involved in fighting for fairness and justice for all Americans, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because we also know that we are also vulnerable when it comes to racist attitudes. When White America feels threatened by Asian countries, it does things like putting a bunch of us in concentration camps. This happened in my lifetime (I was one of those inmates), and there were a number of shootings in the camps where guards killed people and were not held accountable. It would not surprise me if we were made scapegoats again, should major conflicts arise between China and the U.S. Not too long ago, in 1982, American businesses were worried about the rise of the Japanese economy, particularly the auto industry, and some American autoworkers killed Vincent Chin just because he was Asian American. 

All of us persons of “color” have a stake in these issues and we need to make our voices heard. I will continue to be involved in seeing to it that the Topaz Museum, built to preserve the history of what had happened there, tells it right. The story of those incarcerated Japanese Americans must be presented in as truthful and accurate way as possible. The story is part of the large pattern of racism in America, which had such a profound effect in how our country developed, that it still has such a destructive impact on our lives. We face the new year having gone through a bad year and we have huge problems in our country. I want to save orangutans, sea turtles, cheetahs and our water situation, but first and foremost, I want to save our democratic ideals. We’ve got to address our racial issues head on. 

Chizu Omori, of Oakland, is co-producer of the award-winning film “Rabbit in the Moon.” She can be reached at chizuomori@gmail.com. The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly. 

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