Do Not Stand Out: Torrance Community Members Speak About Asian Discrimination in Their Community

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By BHIT YOON, Rafu Digital Team

The Japanese Consulate General sent out a notice to all Japanese Nationals living in the United States: “For Japanese nationals who are living in the US, you should pay close attention to your behavior so that you do not stand out.”  

This notice was in response to a hate crime in which a typed letter was sent to a Japanese owned business in Torrance.  The letter makes significant threats of violence stating, “go back to Japan…. We are going to bomb your store if you don’t listen and we know where you live.”  The business, which will remain unnamed for the sake of safety, has been open for nine years.  

This new threat is just one among many cases of discimination targeting Asian-Americans, many of which have been exacerbated by the spread of Covid-19.  3 out of 10 Americans report having witnessed some form of discrimination against Asians, while over 832 cases of discrimination, including assault and civil rights violations, have been reported in California over the past 3 months by the Stop APPI Hate reporting center.  According to the US Census Bureau, Asians make up 36.6% of the population of Torrance.  Of that population, over 35% are Nikkei

The Japanese have a saying, “出る釘は打たれる” or “The nail that sticks out gets hammered.”  Although similar to the American idiom “the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” the Japanese phrase seems to share the opposite message.  In a time of mass protests against police brutality and racial discrimination, members of the Torrance community had this to say about the recent events and the Japanese Consulate General’s message.

Nobuko

“We are in the Covid-19 Pandemic.  We don’t have freedom yet.  We work from home, and I only go out for groceries.  We only have limited activities.  I don’t think the discrimination has anything to do with our behavior.  We can’t do anything.  We don’t protest, we don’t demonstrate, not in Japan.  We don’t have that kind of culture.  Only one time, Anpo.” 

Akiko

“I thought the message was directly from Japanese Bureaucracy.  They don’t want us to get in trouble because they don’t want to deal with trouble.

I was surprised and disappointed that despite the bomb threat, it took the police 2 ½ hours to arrive at the store where the hate letter was posted. I don’t know the details of the circumstance but I would have hoped that the police would have reacted to a bomb threat much more quickly and their slow reaction made me wonder if they didn’t take it seriously because the victim was Asian.”

Ami

“I have never had any experience with discrimination.  I have worked for an optometrist for 30 years here.  I work hard and take pride in my work.  So I have never experienced any discrimination personally.  I found out about the business from people standing outside with placards.”

Miyuki 

“I heard that this shop owner continued to do business. I feel that it makes a strong statement, that he won’t be threatened.  I feel like that makes him stand out.  If he closes shop, that shows that people can make you obey with threats.  

The Consulate’s message is the complete opposite.  We do have to be safe and make safe choices, but I have mixed feelings about their message.  I guess it’s a cultural thing.”

Yoshiko

“I do not have a Japanese citizenship, so I did not get the message from the Consulate General.  I heard about it in a Line group.  I wasn’t even aware of that store.  

How am I supposed to handle this?  Do I have to guess [someone]is going to be racist and avoid them?  You can’t do that.  

What is the best way of handling this situation?  What can I do other than stay home and not be noticed?

This hate exists, I guess.  If it happens in Torrance, it’s everywhere.  To some people we’re not welcome.  What can you do?  It’s very disappointing.”

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