RABBIT RAMBLINGS: On hopeful and precarious developments

|

bioline_Chizu OmoriSince the last year has been so terrible, I haven’t written a regular column in a while.

Rather than complain about things, I decided to keep quiet. But we’ve had several positive and hopeful events, the first being the election of President Joe Biden and the very narrow victory of Democrats in Congress, which was the best news.

And I got both vaccination doses, which means that I am now freed from the fear of getting COVID-19. I know I have been relatively lucky and safe, and I know that many have had their lives upended by so much loss of every variety, from the death of loved ones to losing jobs and homes. Still, it has been a drag and a downer to be stuck in my home for so long, unable to see my family members and friends, unable to run around as I please, and seeing the country come close to falling apart. Unfortunately, our political situation remains precarious, what with the assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6, and the transformation of the Republican Party into the party of Trump. So, all is not totally well.

I am beginning to think that the most dangerous people in our country are young white males. It would appear that some of them are prone to getting guns and going out to kill people. Whatever their motives, they mean to do as much harm as possible. We are not safe in grocery stores, churches or schools, maybe not anywhere. And sometimes their targets are people of color. Had the shooters been Black, Latino or Muslim, the uproar and retaliation would have been huge. Outraged citizens would have damned whole communities as criminals.

But a white guy can be excused as “having a bad day,” and “at the end of his rope.” It’s as though his killing of eight people, the majority being Asian women, was an understandable situation given his state of mind. He was possibly on his way to other massage establishments to kill more people. How many would have to die to satisfy his rage?

It takes a massacre to bring some issues to the media’s attention. This particular crime even caught the attention of the president, and he quickly understood that he needed to make a statement. The fact that he and Vice President Kamala Harris spent 90 minutes with Asian American leaders in Atlanta indicated how seriously he took these issues.

Anti-Asian hostility and violence is an old, old story, one that hardly registered on the national radar. Now, we are in the spotlight and people are listening to us in ways that are new and dramatic. Coincidentally, a House Judiciary subcommittee held hearings March 18 on Asian American violence.

It was refreshing and gratifying to see congressmembers like Doris Matsui and Judy Chu, and then others like actor Daniel Dae Kim testifying. Many TV news outlets interviewed several prominent Asian Americans, and major newspapers printed articles examining the long history of hostility toward all Asians.

One aspect that seemed to be especially important was the fetishization of Asian women. Being an Asian American woman myself, I have been aware of this my entire adult life, and I know that it’s something that all of us have had to deal with. Many American men have interacted with Asian women in the various wars and occupations in Japan, Korea and Vietnam, and of course, in business, schooling and traveling. Plus, movies, TV and other media sources often depict Asian women in stereotypical ways.

These stereotypes are so easily projected onto American women of Asian descent, so we’re kind of stuck with this situation, maybe not as much in the Bay Area and California, but probably across the rest of the country. I was once talking to a class in Wisconsin and a student raised his hand. He asked me, “What does it feel like to be the only non-white person in this classroom?” This caught me by surprise. I had not noticed it. So, I took a quick look around, saw that the rest were white, and I remarked that living on the West Coast with its many racial and ethnic populations made this a situation I hardly ever encountered or considered. Now I understood that this was probably not true in vast areas of middle America. So, I was an exotic, unusual presence in that class, talking about the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. I should have made more of a lesson for the students out of that observation, but it was a big subject, and I wasn’t prepared to address it. It made me aware of the makeup of our country, of the regions that would regard me as a stranger from some far away place across an ocean. And I would have projected onto myself all the stereotypes, all the mysterious qualities of the “orient” both benevolent and maybe menacing. The yellow peril.

Yeah, that’s our lives. I know that I am a small, old, Asian American female, so I am vulnerable out there and that I need to be careful. But almost all of us have to live with some extra baggage, and now, I might look at some white males as potential killers. This would be unfair to most white men, but looking at the facts, you guys seem to be doing most of the mass shootings.

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

See the 2024 CAAMFest