SENIOR MOMENTS: Responses from Rafu Readers

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SHIGEKUNI-PHILBy PHIL SHIGEKUNI

In the three-plus years I have been writing my columns, I have gotten very few responses. What follows is an email I received after my May 24 column, “Donald Sterling and Prejudice in the JA Community,” and my response. I would welcome any further response from Rafu Shimpo readers.

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Hi Phil,

It’s been a while since I last wrote to you, but please know I always enjoy reading your column as I learn more and more. For a guy who reached a milestone (80) you sure have clear thinking, maybe there is hope for me as I close in on 70.

Regarding prejudices, I think that is inborn for all humans so none of us are free of prejudices. We tend to “favor” people who look and act like us, just like “birds of a feather flock together.” As long as we don’t feel any superiority against other ethnic groups I think that is acceptable. I think that feeling superior was the downfall of the Japanese empire when they began conquering other countries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

As a native of Hawaii, left there 43 years ago, I was interested in the comments from your Hawaiian AJA friends. I really don’t think Hawaii AJA people are much different from the mainland AJA as far as prejudices are concerned. In Hawaii I never witnessed or recognized any — although my memory is in decline — racist remarks from my friends or acquaintances. My father, however, was very racist — perhaps due to his experiences working in the sugar cane fields and being treated like a slave by the lunas (foremen). He had a pecking order, though, for the ethnic groups he did not like, topped by the haoles. In private he even looked down on the Okinawan people.

It is said Hawaii is the “melting pot of the world” but I never thought much about that. Hawaii never had many blacks or the poverty that we see here in L.A. and the big cities, so it was different. Also the focus back then was not about race. The people just try to get along with each other and the lifestyle and society did not make race such a big issue as compared to the mainland where blacks vs. whites confronted the issue overtly and many times with violence. It was a different world in Hawaii when I grew up, very detached from the “real” world.

Continued good health to you and keep on writing!

Aloha, David

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Hi, David. Good hearing from you again.

My point about Hawaiian AJAs is that on the Mainland, we JAs have experienced discrimination as minorities, particularly during and after WWII. Hawaiian AJAs make up a majority in many areas, and they tend to be similar to other majority groups in looking down on the minorities in their midst.

I have to admit, though, I have gotten my impressions about AJA Hawaiian prejudices from talking with a few people I know, including a haole friend who has spent some time in Hawaii.

Thanks for sharing about your dad’s prejudices. I shared about my prejudices, and how I think I got them from my close relatives, just as perhaps many of us, Hawaiian or Mainland, have acquired ours. I think it is important that we be aware of this so that if we choose, we do not need to continue with them, and for the sake of our children, not pass these prejudices on to them.

Aloha, Phil

Phil Shigekuni writes from San Fernando Valley and can be contacted at [email protected] The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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