Updated: Feb 22, 2021
By Seiki "Stan" Hirota
Originally published June 6, 2020 on LinkedIn
For those like myself that come from a homogeneous country like Japan, we probably do not have the right to say that we fully understand what is currently happening in the US. I have been struggling with this question for the past week, “what can a Japanese person like myself do in the face of the current problem?” Although I do not understand all the sufferings that are going on, at least I can share my experience to provide one perspective. From what I experienced recently, there is definitely a consciousness of discrimination in the depth of some American people, and the U.S. has many minorities that have been hurt for many years by their unconscious behavior.
After the U.S. declared a national emergency for the Coronavirus outbreak, I was trying to get a workout in and was running around my neighborhood in downtown Dallas. I suddenly found myself being closed in on my side by a pickup truck. The passenger in the truck lowered the window and yelled, “you Chinese virus, look what you’ve done to my country, you’ve completely ruined it, I’ll kill you, I’ll kill you.” I froze with terror for a minute but ran as fast as I can to get away. After this experience, my awareness and perspective on the current issue changed.
For me, the first time I came to the U.S. was when I was in grade 3 of elementary school, at the age of 9. My memory instantly came back of an incident that was very similar that happened 45 years ago. I remembered a time when I was bullied and was yelled, “hey chink, where do you think this is, go back home, you don’t belong here.” This was when I was 9 years old, 45 years ago. With the recent experience, I now really get it. The U.S. has not changed a bit in 45 years. The same thing still happens today, and although this is a shocking reality, this is what must change.
Coming from abroad, everyone admires the U.S. because the U.S. is the global symbol of freedom, equal opportunity and American Dream. There is definitely a gap between this positive imagery and the reality, and people of all races are now stopping, standing up, and publicly sharing their experiences to help the entire cause. Change is always difficult, but change is always necessary. It maybe slow, but it needs to happen by influencing people one by one. Many are currently protesting for others to listen, for people to talk about their experiences, and to change one by one. Minorities know from the bottom of their hearts that violence does not work, how violence makes the others feel, and how violence just separates people. If there is a choice, no one wants to use violence.
A friend commented that we are experiencing a colossal awakening, and we will all be better for it. The two things that will save us are perspective and grace. Countless injustice continues to happen in the history and there was so much sacrifice to get to this point. We cannot afford anymore sacrifice. It is increasingly becoming critical to take responsible actions in order to contribute to the betterment of the society. This is a complex issue and there is no simple answer, but there are individuals and organizations that are working desperately to find the answers. We can start from listening, having real conversations and start supporting all the movement and the businesses that contribute positively for the necessary change.