RABBIT RAMBLINGS: Reuniting and continuing the fight

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bioline_Chizu OmoriAs we slowly come out from the pandemic lockdown, I’m sure that everybody is heaving a big sigh of relief and doing things that were forbidden for so long. And looking back at that period when one couldn’t travel, have gatherings or run around doing ordinary things, what could we do? Well, we learned to hold Zoom meetings, “see” friends and family on our computer screens, have events and spend more time writing e-mails and making phone calls.

The miracle of Zoom was that we could hold meetings to include people from everywhere. We could maintain communications with everyone who wanted to participate.

Tsuru For Solidarity had to postpone going to Washington, D.C. to protest government immigration policies separating families and messing up the asylum program. We used our own incarceration history as an example of our government totally ignoring our laws and principles to persecute a racial minority during World War II. Our slogans were “Stop Repeating History,” and “Never Again Is Now.” Our community was speaking out, using our moral authority to protect other minority groups, to combat racism, and I believe, protect Democracy. Surprisingly, we were heard. The media showed up and recorded our activities.

Well, we couldn’t travel, and yet, we accomplished a great deal. We had various local rallies at detention centers, jails and other venues, using our folded tsuru (cranes) as symbols of our organization and our calling attention to the issues. The giant tsuru were particularly dramatic; a big shout out to everyone who made them and built the items to mount and display them.

And look at all the virtual pilgrimages, those that have already happened or will take place in the next couple of months. These events reach out far and wide, and most of them are rich events involving many characters and planners, telling our stories and informing the world about our history. I never thought our incarceration story would gain such attention and play a role in informing the current state of racial issues. It is so gratifying to see so many younger people getting involved and dedicating so much passion to all of these activities.

Something else that grabs my attention is that Japanese Americans are getting involved in the issue of Black reparations. Back in the days of the redress campaign, I remember how many members of Congress didn’t want to support redress because they felt that it would open doors for other groups to start considering their histories and to demand redress. I myself feel that our winning redress was a major precedent. It forced Americans to confront at least one part of our racist past and to own up to the reality that people were greatly wronged, and they deserve a hearing and a reckoning.

In looking at other parts of our racist history, it turns out that our past is so bloody and cruel that it is difficult to face. Learning the details is hard, but necessary, and has shaped what this country is today. Another part of our history is that there have always been people who knew and cared deeply about these situations, who protested the institution of slavery and who believed in the fine sentiments expressed in our founding documents. It is a simple idea of being fair. We would never have come as far as we have without large segments of the population working and contributing in many ways to the struggle against racism. Many white people risked and lost their lives in these conflicts.

I think if we totaled up all the non-whites in this country and the individuals in the white part of the population who truly believe in justice and equal rights, we would constitute a majority. That’s what Helen Zia said in her remarks about the rise of anti-Asian hate April 8 at a University of California, Berkeley Center for Race & Gender event. We truly are the majority and we need to flex our muscles, use our voices, and harness the power that can come from our coming together. Can we make a multicultural, multiracial and multiethnic country work for the benefit of all? I believe we must try, because we are all in it together.

Chizu Omori, of Oakland, Calif. 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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