Surface-Value Slurs | Letters | Chicago Reader

Surface-Value Slurs 

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To the editors:

Notwithstanding any level of sarcasm that may have been intended, your Hot Type item ("Buy American, Burn Asian") in the May 15 edition of the Reader is hurtful and potentially harmful to both the Japanese and Asian American communities.

For those who would take your column at surface value, it may serve to reinforce stereotypes that are demeaning and dehumanizing. For many in our community, portions of the column evoke memories of a time in the early part of this century when newspapers on the West Coast inflamed the public with myths of the "Yellow Peril" by depicting Japanese Americans as untrustworthy and unassimilable.

For many Japanese Americans, the use of stereotypes touches a very raw nerve. It has been our experience that whenever such slurs are directed, our community has paid a price for the emotional message as during World War II when virtually all Japanese Americans were removed from the West Coast and incarcerated because of their ancestry.

As you are acutely aware, the current friction in the trade relationship between the United States and Japan has added to a climate of anti-Asian sentiment in which Asian Americans have been victimized as a result of the racial xenophobia that has permeated much of the dialogue surrounding the U.S.-Japan relationship. The anxiety in our community concerning our vulnerability to various forms of abuse is at a level that we have not felt for decades. And the concern is real because hate crimes directed at Asian Americans have increased over the past ten years.

Our sensitivity causes us to react whenever stereotypes are used because we believe they are immoral since they may serve to stir latent prejudices against groups in our society.

William J. Yoshino

Midwest Director

Japanese American Citizens League

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