What a year this is turning out to be. There is so much uncertainty that I feel at a loss for words to address the situation that our country is in. One thing is becoming clear: Americans are alarmed, taking to the streets and speaking up in surprising ways. And we Asian Americans are also standing up this year in big numbers. The fact that this is the 75th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066 in 1942 by President Franklin Roosevelt, which put us into concentration camps, has been a big factor. The observance and commemoration of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 is also important.
But what concerns me most are the issues connected to this country’s history of racism from the beginning, from the formation of the United States. It seems to me that current historians are much more aware — than some of there predecessors were — of white America’s racist attitudes, which were built into the fabric of our history for so long that, for large periods of time, they did not receive much attention — it was the way things were. But perhaps we are beginning to have the talk, the conversation and dialogue that we really need to get some fresh air and honesty into the public discourse. I greatly admire the writers, journalists, creative artists and everyone who is working to force the public to confront these issues.
For instance, a museum on the numerous lynchings of black Americans is now being built with an added effort to place markers at every place a lynching took place. Movies are being made and released that deal with various aspects of racial problems. A film like “Get Out” becomes a big hit and makes real waves in the public arena.
So, I place the historical acts perpetrated on Americans of Asian ancestry into the continuum of racism against non-whites throughout the development of our country. White America hasn’t had to think about these issues because as the majority group it dominated the history that was written. At the beginning of our country’s founding, the ideal of equality and justice were thrilling to contemplate, but obviously, these ideas were not considered to be applicable or available to everyone. So, we’ve lived for a long time mouthing these platitudes without having to deal with the obvious injustices that went on all around us, all the time.
When one thinks of the damage that has been done in the name of white supremacy, think of what our country could have been if those energy and resources hadn’t been used to keep black people down. Think of how powerful our economy and country could have been if all the energy, creativity and just plain labor of all non-whites could have been utilized for building our country.
And now, white America is beginning to realize that it will be a minority group in the near future, and so resentment and fear are rising. The number of hate groups is metastasizing and with our gun-happy culture, it is beginning to look scary. The New York Times has added a feature called “This Week in Hate,” and it highlights hate crimes and harassment since the election of Trump. The number of these incidents is growing, a clear marker of our current situation.
Asian Americans have to step forward to confront these issues in our society and accept the fight for equality for all is our fight too. We weren’t around during slavery, but as Americans, American history is now our history too, and we can’t shrink away from the issues that confront us. Many of our leaders have stepped forward to fight the fight. I am pleased that it was U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson in Hawai’i, who is of Native Hawaiian descent, and Attorney General of Hawai’i Douglas Chin, who opposed the travel ban, and that other attorneys general are challenging the travel bans imposed by way of executive orders, by Trump. And hats off to Congressman Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) who is just being an upstanding guy in his condemnation of our president. Let’s all get into this struggle.
Chizu Omori, of Oakland, is co-producer of the award-winning film “Rabbit in the Moon.” She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.