Can we alleviate discrimination with imagination?
I first thought to write about a book I recently got indulged in, which is a book called "Hidden Figures" , a true story about African American women whom contributed to NASA during the Cold War, and just now, protest against Anti-Black Racism is held not only in US but also in other countries so I decided to write about "discrimination" not just Anti-Black Racism, deriving from thoughts about the book I have read. Well this is a post written by a naive anonymous 24-year-old so I'm sure this post will expose some immatureness, but making myself believe that exposing some immatureness is a step to be a mature adult, I'll go on.
Ways to react to discrimination
First about how African Americans confront discrimiation from the book I originally wanted to write notes about. "Hidden Figures" is a story about talented African American woman engineers whom hugely contributed to NASA during the Cold War.
I didn't go and look up if the author intended or not but I personally think that there are two meanings put in the word "Figures" in the title. One is the figures meaning numbers from all the calculation they made to launch a rocket and to make it reach the moon and come back safely. Another is the figures meaning people, since they were "hidden" or in the shadows because of a very difficult situation for women to get whatever job they wanted to and racism which often blocked their way. Despite of the two handicaps they had, sex and race, they made the people around them approve themselves with their own talents and nobly accomplished their feats. They are just glorious.
What I've thought here is that African American have the generousity to quietly make others appove themselves with their talents rather than reacting on anger or hatred even if they suffer wrong. I've got the same impression from Nelson Mandela watching the rugby movie "Invictus". Every time I encounter such spirits of them, I feel very sublime.
On the otherhand, some of those protests happening in US becoming violent could be taken as African American reacting to racism in the form of violence. First, I thought that the pain and suffering accumulated in their hearts so much that they can't help reacting like that, and I felt sad. And after watching some people sidestepping the protest against racism to a means to get rid of their own stress, I felt sad in a different way. Some must have acted violent because they're having a hard life, and they are very avxious and stressful due to COVID-19 and actually some of them were piggybackers stealing what they want, like Apple products and luxury goods.
Then the brother of George Floyd, the victim of the case causing all the protests, spoke up.
"If I’m not over here wilding out, if I’m not over here blowing up stuff, if I’m not over here messing up my community, then what are y’all doing?"
”That’s not bringing my brother back at all”
"Let's do this in another way"
He was the only one who could say it effectively than anyone else on earth. And his action actually changed the form of the protest movements. If people imagined how the closest to the victim felt, and what will be the consequence of violated demonstration would be, they wouldn't have become violent. Since people were lacking of such imagination, he, Terrence Floyd brother of George Floyd, stood up and appeled to people, prompting people to imagine.
What I have felt living in US, a melting pot of races
For a moment I'll look back on days I lived in US when I was a kid. Where I lived was a real "Country side" making you feel like there are more of animals such as horses, deers, squirrels, rabbits and bears. Obviously there were few foreigners, not to mention Japanese. Neverthless, we never suffered discrimination. People were very kind and we never had our heart broken.
※Well, it might have been so because people willing to become friends with a Japanese family are originally open-minded and nice, or our language ability wasn't enough to catch a discrminatory nuance even if somebody told said it, of course.
I was never teased because I was Japanese, but surrounded by friends who had flawless white skin, blue or green eyes, and brown or blonde hair, I felt a sense of inferiority on my own accord. However, none of the above was something I could obtain as a Japanese. So at least I wanted to make my straight hair go curling like my friends. Every night, I braided my half-wet hair after bathing and went straight to bed so that my hair would curl when I undo the braids next morning.
But one day, speaking with a friend, I confessed "I don't have beautiful hair colors or eye colors like you, so I envy you all" and my friend said to me, "Oh, I rather envy you, Ayaka. You're lucky to have black hair and black eyes. You are special in your own way!" The words really struck my heart. She appreciated the difference as a virtue. From the following day, I went to school without braiding my hair at nights , proudly flattering my straight hair just as it is.
Also in other scenes, all my friends appreciated the difference of US or American and Japan or Japanese by saying "Cool!" rather than "Weird".
Thanks to such attitudes of our surroundings, my family and I spent our two years in US comfortably and happliy.
Since US is a multi-cultual nation, it is impossible to bring people together by a skin color or other visible features. So, it's necessary to bring people together by national spirit. US citizens are strongly aware that they are US citizens compared to other countries' citizens. So many Stars and Stripes are seen on the street. We were surprised at the number of the flags on the first day we arrived. My brother and I were counting the flags we saw. At the school we went, Stars and Stripes were hanging in each classroom and every morning we all said the words of "pledge of allegiance" toward the flag, hands on our chest. (Since I said it every day for two years, I can still recite it!)
Like so, US is a country strongly united with national spirit and that's why people are sensitive to a idea of categorizing people with visible or congenital features such as races, in other words non-spiritual factors. This must be "US citizens' nature". When trying to bring people together with elements such as races, the country would be impossible to be united and collapse.
In the murder case, "white man killed black man" part must have been pointed out immediately and lead to protest demonstrations because of such"US citizens' nature". Though what the police officer had done is an unforgivable act one way or another, "abuse of police officer's authority" part could have been pointed out first instead of racism part. The white police might have acted the same way even if the guy was not black, and white, just like himself. However, racism was the part people pointed out first.
Of course, African American protested largely because of the wrong suffer they, their family, and their ancestors were forced, but the reason all Americans, not only Arican American stood up and reacted was largely because of the "US citizens' nature", a nature disliking the idea of deciding people's superiority and inferiority of people with congenital factors like race, and potential fear of such idea.
An island country Japan, quite the opposite of multi-ethnic state
In contrast to the United States, Japan, an island country, has few type of skin colors. People look basically the same speaking of skin colors and other visible features. In a tide of people getting used to being the "same" as others, and everyone trying to be "normal", a little odd ones tend to be held up for ridicule. Though I think there's not so much of it now that there are more foreigners, foreigners in Japan used to feel uncomfortable stared at, and whispered "Gaijin, Gaijin (meaning foreigners in Japanese)". Biracial celebrities sometimes tell a story of being bullied in their childhood.
Such behaviors might be seen because Japanese people have poor opportunities to putting themselves in the shoes of someone who is different from themselves.
Though skin colors do not differ, Japanese also differ one by one. We all have differnt genders, upbringings, and characters. If you put yourself in the shoes of someone who has specially "different" from you, you would understand the hardships that comes with that person and might be able to forgive what you've been frustrated with and be more kind to him/her. It might even broaden your horizon and find out something new.
Discrimination is unforgivable by no means, but nobody's perfect and everyone carries some little sprout of discrimination. We can't help judging by prejudice and thinking with preconceptions. Same with me, obviously and I'm asamed to say this but there were times when I used to think that I don't like the person before seeing the whole part of him/her. It might be impossible to eradicate the seeds of discrimination from our heart, as long as we are human beings, but for this very reason, it is definitely important to "be aware of" the "possibility to be biased, to think with prejudice".When you think something is right, someone might take it as completely wrong. Just thinking the possibility makes you humble. Even the idea that the majority say is right, is an idea made within a framework decided by someone who started it, and others might be just tuning in unthinkingly.
Of course this post is also based on personal experience and idea (of an anonymous immature girl). So, I don't want you to take this post for granted. If you think for yourself and "imagine", I would be happy.
Now, when the various stresses associated with the spread of COVID19 easily makes you overwhelmed, each one's "kindness" and "generosity" to those around them is a significant issue. All I want to be is a kind generous person.