The following is the summary of a breakout session that was part of the 2016 Annual Conference.
The theme of the session was the potential role that Japanese Americans could play in building bridges, especially in light of the tension stemming from the recent elections.
The room was set up in a giant U shape, with the middle of the room open. Each participant was given a box and a pen. The session began with a video titled "An Open World Begins with an Open Mind," which looked at people's prejudices based on others’ ethnicities .The individuals in the film expressed their prejudices against other groups, and then agreed to take a DNA test. In most of the DNA tests, it showed that the prejudiced person actually had roots and blood connections in the group they were biased against.
After the video was shown, each Conference participant was instructed to write one word that described some prejudice that they faced on one side of the box, and one word on how they resolved the issue on the other side of the box. The audience was called upon to present their boxes and stories, and then asked to place the box in the center of the room.
The session showed a wide range of experiences that each person faced in their lives. One person wrote “tease” on one side of the box and “share” on the other side. He explained that he was teased when he brought Japanese food to school for lunch, and that he resolved it by sharing the food with others. In this way, he was able to educate others about the food that he brought to school.
Several themes arose from the session. It is important to: share your story, approach people with hope and not fear, not fall for stereotypes, respond high and not low, break bread together, understand that people make false assumptions, work together, continue a dialogue, ease tensions, be more active, think of the positive, and reach out to others not in your group.
The session ended with everyone placing their box in the center of the room to build a wall, and then knocking the wall over.