Archive for the ‘Racism’ Category

on Racism

This is an excerpt from a chapter in my Teacher You Look Like a Horse book. This chapter covers how I made changes in children who came to class with vocabulary such as Jap and the N-word. By age five, they were well taught by adults. I will donate this book to any school district interested in knowing how one person handled racism in the classroom.


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As soon as I took a seat in the waiting room, a man looked at me and this is our conversation:

Man: Where were you born?

Me: Born and raised in Hawaii.

Man: Hawaii. Those people are the most negative.

Me: Negative?

Man: In Hawaii, what do you say to people when you leave?

Me: Aloha?

Man: What do you say when you meet someone?

Me: Aloha?

Man began to explain his views on how these two words were soooo native-like and I wasn’t even in a grass skirt with a bone through my nose.

I was called in for my appointment so I looked at him and said, “Aloha.”

I wish I had said the following:

  1. There’s another meaning of Aloha. We say Aloha when we want to say Butt Off, Idiot.
  2. I was born on one of those newly found planets.
  3. On a bed, on clean sheets.


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Under the rising sun

The enemy came

Wearing my face.


And so we all became the enemy.

The enemy on December 7th who wore my face is not me.

A Muslim  terrorist is not my neighbor from Syria.

That black man who robbed me at gun point is not the next black man I see.

We may dress as, or wear the same face of your enemy, but know this:

Cow 1 is not Cow 2.


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Do check out my story in the Sacramento Bee that came out today in the Forum Section.

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Protecting My Race

Protecting my Race

I rushed to the airport, late for early boarding. I made it, sat down and began working on the in-flight crossword puzzle while others boarded the plane. A man stopped by my seat and began to verbally attack me. I couldn’t understand what he was saying. His wife’s face showed such discomfort and she kept looking at her husband, I believe, wanting him to stop. I asked her,” What’s wrong with him?” She shook her head.

Then while in flight I realized what I had done. I had cut in line in front of him. He looked like a tourist going to Hawaii with wife and two young children. “OMG,” occurred in my mind. “Maybe he’s from the Midwest and I’m the first Japanese he’s encountered and  he’s going to think all Japanese are rude and they cut in line. And he’s going to have a story to tell about us.”

I knew I couldn’t let this happen. I had to do something to not let one person speak for the whole culture  so at the baggage claim area, I looked for him and this was our conversation.

Me: Are you the person who spoke to me on the plane?

He: Yes. (Wife looked very worried, he looked very stiff.)

Me: I owe you an apology. I was late for the flight and didn’t realize until after you spoke to me that I had cut in line. I’m very sorry. Thank you for letting me know.

He: That’s all right, Ma’am. I understand, Ma’am.

Me: I’m truly sorry. I hope you have a good visit.

He: That’s all right, Ma’am. That’s all right, Ma’am. Thank you, Ma’am.

I believe we all felt better. I know I did. I couldn’t let Cow 1 become all the Asian cows in his life.

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I am up to my ears with all this discussion on theorizing and intellectualizing on racism, it’s cause, it’s solution and etc. etc. etc. Why don’t we just do this: Each time we leave the house, be kind to few people. This morning a man saw me walking toward a door and he stood and waited so he could open it for me. A man at the front desk of the gym mentioned how sleepy he was because he didn’t have time to make himself a cup of coffee. I know he has no money, working his way through college so I gave him some cash and told him to run across the street for some coffee. You’d think I gave him a million dollars. Later in the day while exiting a place, I saw a man walking toward me so I waited with the door opened and asked if he were entering the building. He thanked me and said no…then as he walked away, he turned and thanked me again. You don’t need to know the color of skin nor age nor gender, right? But we all felt good in experiencing human kindness and this is what counts.

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Cow 1 is Not Cow 2*


I’m driving along the road and I see a cow.

A few miles down, I see another cow.

That Cow #2 is not the first cow I saw.


So I’m waiting in line

and a black man cuts in front of me. I’m

upset with him. The next day I see another black man.

Careful, careful, Cow 1 is not Cow 2.


A police officer shoots someone in the back.

Police officer 1 is not police officer 2.

Cow 1 is not Cow 2.


My ancestors bombed Pearl Harbor and I

became Cow #1. Yet, Cow 1 is not cow 2.

Such a simple, uncomplicated rule.


* Semanticist S.I. Hayakawa wrote this on the blackboard when I was

a young student at his feet.


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It will take more than signs bearing Love, or Black Lives Matter to fix what’s broken in our our country. I heard the mayor of Dallas advising us to use the right words and immediately he used the word “killer.” Previous to his interview, they gave the background of the man who shot the officers. He fought in Afghanistan, was taught to be a shooter, got awards for this. Yes, we taught and trained him to fight for our flag. He returned to the country who sent him off to war with our American flag on his uniform and finds his fellow citizens being shot by our law enforcers, the most current one because of a broken  light on his car. How can one process all this when this wheel has been turning and turning far too long?

I remember when I was stopped by a kind officer, reminding me that I was driving over the speed limit  or my safety check decal on my license showed renewal time. They were concerned about me, my safety. They didn’t punish me. But then I’m not black, am I?

I was in someone’s kitchen in Ohio once and the N word was part of the conversation. I asked, “Why am I here since I’m not white?”  I was told, “Oh, but you’re not black.”

I knew then that racism will always be with us because just as they would not be able to turn me into one of them, I would not be able to change their minds about color.Maybe a system that doesn’t involve feelings and personal beliefs will be the way to go. I don’t know.

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Norma Loudenslayer of Citrus Heights, CA posted this letter to the editor in the Sacramento Bee.

And I quote:

“Japan owes America the apology, not the other way around.”

“I vividly remember the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Thomas Lea Owsley from my hometown…went down on the USS Arizona.”

“I  commend President Harry Truman for having the guts to end what Japan started.”

I also commend FDR for the internment camps for the Americans with Japanese heritage.”

“It is easy for survivors of the bomb to cast blame, but those who would consider that America apologize are not looking at the full picture….”

This is why even the Japanese Americans lost their lives in war, to help preserve our Democracy so we can all express our views, conflicting or otherwise. And here are mine:

Under the rising sun,

The enemy came,

Wearing my face.
from my Kapoho: Memoirs of a Modern Pompeii

After Pearl Harbor, we too  lost something, we  lost our identity along with our dignity and honor. My ancestors, too, are buried, buried  in Hiroshima.

Masahiro Sasaki, survivor and brother of Sadako of the thousand cranes story, in his addresses before UN and in America faced a child who asked him, “Mr. Sasaki, which country dropped the atomic bomb?’

Mr. Sasaki answered, “ It’s been more than sixty years since the  bombs were dropped… So, I forgot who dropped the bomb.”

The adults looked puzzled but the child understood his response . Looking at  the boy, he said, “Children! Teach your parents!”

The survivors asked not to be called victims. As Mr. Sasaki explained, “To say ‘victim’ requires a victimizer, and the victimizer is led to blame; and that starts the cycle of blame. For example,if we say ‘victim of Hiroshima,’ the next sentence that comes up will involve Pearl Harbor and the blaming chain gets stuck all the way in the past. Then we are completely derailed from the lesson that war itself is humanity’s Pandora, and that nuclear weapons are something that came out of Pandora’s Box.”

(The above quotations are lifted  from To Hell and Back: The Last Train from Hiroshima by Charles Pellegrino)

How long do we wait to get ourselves unstuck from blame and political discourse  before we’re able to  use our knowledge and experiences to create a nuclear free world of peace?  We don’t need any apology or blame  to help create this world.We owe this to our children.




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In today’s front page of our paper, a story of how kids from a public school here were called Asian racist names during a basketball game.
This is not the first time these girls were taunted with racial slurs…being yelled “Soy Sauce!” Go Back to Fiji!”, “Small Eyes!”, “You’re Ugly!”
A Japanese father who was there told the Bee on-line, how his grandfather was interned, his father was in the Army during WWII so their children wouldn’t
be treated with such indignities.  I wrote the following to the authors of this story. Whether they will publish or not is a ?.

Dear Ms. Locke and Mr. Lindelof
My gratitude to you for the story in the Bee this morning.

Would be you be able to direct this to Letters to the Editor?

Do you think unkindness and inhumane behavior that have been so carefully or so carelessly taught in these youngsters can be unlearned?
When I was in high school, these students drove us Japanese girls to use scotch tape to make our eyes look bigger for  that ” Caucasian  double eyes look” to avoid
taunts of “Jap”  and “Slant Eyes”. I am saddened and furious that these youngsters have not gone away and are still here in El Dorado Hills.

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