VOX POPULI: There Is No Such Thing as Well-Intentioned Racism

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By JAMIE MORISHIMA

Far too often, people have used good intentions to excuse themselves from acts of racial discrimination. In today’s society, we have a hard time determining what should and should not be considered racism. Explicit racial discrimination is easy to point out; however, when it comes to implicit discrimination, it is more ambiguous.

This is not to say that implicit discrimination is any less harmful to the victim or victims affected. However, it does allow perpetrators of this form of discrimination to commit these racial injustices practically unscathed.

I am no exception to this. For most of my life, I prided myself on being an open and well-educated individual when it came to topics of race. However, it was evident in the inconsistencies of my behaviors and actions that I was far from being a champion for racial justice.

My experience with understanding this hypocrisy is how I am able to actively overcome it. I provide a personal account, to allow others to see how actions and behaviors cannot be justified regardless of good intentions.

There have been multiple times where I have been walking on the street alone and decided to move to the other side of the street because a person of color was headed toward my direction. At the time, I justified my decision because it felt as if it was the rational and responsible thing to do. I was always warned to be cautious and to avoid situations of threat, especially because I am perceived as an easy target.

As a petite woman of Japanese descent, I struggled with my own racial discriminations as being stereotyped as foreign, meek, and/or easily taken advantage of. This was one of the instances where I let this insecurity get the best of me, and allowed me to act in ways contrary to my beliefs.

An African American fellow student explained to me this same situation from his own experience. He expressed the frustration and pain he felt about the racial prejudices and stereotypes that affect his daily life. After hearing his testimony, I felt utterly disappointed knowing that the person who caused him harm could have very much been me. I personally may not have believed I was doing anything damaging, but that is not the case for the people I victimized.

I also thought about the anger I feel when I am automatically limited to my stereotype. There is no way for me to justify how I can perpetuate someone else’s stereotype, while I detest my own.

Ever since then, I have been working on aligning my beliefs with my behaviors. Many people may believe that in order to overcome racial bias, they must risk their safety, their comfort, their privilege. But I have come to realize I am not sacrificing anything. Racial stereotypes are based on lies and gross misrepresentations. This anxiety that I felt was based on irrational fear. By not acting on them, I learned to understand there is no perceived threat.

It is not a quick or easy task to overturn deep-rooted societal perceptions and beliefs, but it is the best way to stop or impede them from continuing. In the case for racial justice, it is not enough to just be well-intentioned because behaviors and actions speak to true character. Just as I learned to check my own biases, you as well can do the same.

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Jamie Morishima was born and raised in Mission Viejo. She graduated from Tesoro High School. Before transferring to UC Berkeley in the fall of 2017, she attended Boston University. She is currently studying sociology with a minor in human rights and will be graduating this upcoming May. The Rafu Shimpo’s management and staff continually strive to maintain high editorial standards for professionalism as well as accurate and balanced news coverage. The inclusion of a particular piece, including columns and op-ed submissions by contributing writers in print and/or digitally, does not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the owners, management, individual staff members, and editors. The Rafu Shimpo welcomes responses to any article published in print or digitally. Responses may be sent to author directly or emailed to [email protected]

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